Name: Matt Hevener
Partner: Chuck Schroeder
Boat: 2004 Pantera IV
Table Rock: 9.27
Bull Shoals: 0.00
White River: 5.04
Despite traveling nearly 2,000 miles to fish the Bass Cat National Team Championship in Arkansas, the California team of Matt Hevener and Chuck Schroeder seemed to be in familiar territory when the event blasted off, starting the five-round tournament with a 9.27 pound limit at Table Rock. That had them in second place, less than a pound out of the lead, and while they couldn’t match that success at any of the four other venues, they settled in to a respectable fourth place finish after the scales closed on Day Two.
A week later, Hevener said he was “still buzzing. I could’ve kept on fishing.”
The pair divided their practice period between Bull Shoals and Table Rock., The former lake produced quality fish on steep bluffs, while they struggled on the latter, but when the first tournament morning dawned, the conditions played right into their ends.
“It was raining, just perfect for the fish to be right up on the bank,” Schroeder recalled. “We started pounding the bank with reaction baits and we had a limit in a half hour on a crankbait before the bite tapered off. It played right into our hands.”
The key crankbait was an Ozarks staple, “an old school Wiggle Wart.”
They tried to find deepwater structure at Taneycomo, and only in the last 20 minutes or so did they turn to the grass, where Hevener caught two fish on a chatterbait. “That lake was the biggest puzzler for me,” Schroeder said. In hindsight it shouldn’t have been.”
They reported that the White River reminded them of the upper end of the Sacramento River, and indeed they were able to get back on track with the second best catch at that round, but another blank at Norfork foreclosed the possibility that they’d take the title back to the west coast with them. They’d located a group of fish on a deep point in 22 to 26 feet of water, but despite using a Crosstail Shad, a worm that Schroeder said “they just can’t stay off of on reservoirs in California,” they came up empty. Then they switched to a Lucky Craft Staysee jerkbait, convinced that would be the ticket. Schroeder’s lure got hammered, but their excitement quickly dissipated when it turned out to be a big walleye.
Despite the disappointment of falling short, Schroeder called the event “the opportunity of a lifetime for a bass fisherman.” In fact, although he owns another brand of boat, he was “so impressed with how hands-on Rick is” that when it comes time to look again Cats will be at the top of the list. “That’s huge when you’re investing that kind of money, and they’re nice-looking, fast, and built to last.
The pair got the royal treatment in Mountain Home from start to finish.
“Everything was first class,” Hevener said. “From Rick picking us up at the airport to him taking us to the best barbecue joint I’ve ever eaten at in my life. They even set us up with a new truck and a new boat to use.” He’s thrilled with his 2004 Pantera IV, a boat which was originally sold through his local dealer Boatmasters. “When it popped up, it was an easy decision. I’ve had it for a year and I absolutely love the size of the front deck. It makes it easy to fish two off the front. And now that I’ve taken the tour, I really understand how well it’s put together. It’s bulletproof.”