Meet Matty Wong: Elite Bass Fisher and All-Around Waterman‘Ohana Member and professional bass Angler, Matty Wong was born and raised by the water. As someone who grew up in Pālolo Valley on O‘ahu, he’s been a waterman his whole life. Fishing, surfing, and paddling since he was old enough to swim. These days, Matty is the 2021 Bass Nation National Champion and the first person from Hawai‘i to qualify for the Bassmaster Elite Pro Tour. We caught up with him between training sessions and competition prep.
Q: What (or who) inspired you to start fishing?
A: I fell in love with fishing when I was probably two years old—barely old enough to walk. My dad would take me to Lake Wilson and we’d catch tilapia with a little bamboo pole. I loved it. That’s kind of where the passion began. Surfing has been a huge part of my life as well. I surfed competitively for a few years when I was younger… but that’s another story. With fishing, I was hooked from a very young age. I always needed to be on the water. Now, whenever I’m on a trip it’s like alright, just one more cast. But you never really have a last cast.
Q: How does your upbringing in Hawai‘i influence you and your approach to fishing?
A: I was raised by water, you know? The ocean was my playground. I would always recreate there, whether it was fishing, surfing, freediving—it was always part of my life. Through diving, I learned the mannerisms of fish. I learned that fish have their own personalities and depending on the species, you can pattern them. Spending hours in the ocean has helped me tremendously when it comes to the fishing game because I understand how to think like a fish... Or at least I like to think so.
Q: What do you love most about bass fishing?
A: All the things that I’ve always enjoyed all lined up to become this passion. I love bass fishing because it’s difficult. As much as fish are pattern-able and easy to predict, there are still so many variables out there that play into the puzzle—the weather, the current, the location. And every single day that puzzle changes. The only constant in bass fishing is change. I also love that it’s not a sport of brute strength and brawn. There are some incredible female anglers out there too! It’s a sport of patience and mental fortitude. I believe Kelly Slater once said surfing is 60% mental, 40% physical. In a way, fishing is similar to that.
Q: Can you tell us a little more about the Elite Pro Tour that you’re competing in this year?
A: Sure! The Elite Pro Tour consists of 94 of the world’s highest-ranked professional bass fishermen. I qualified by winning the Bass Nation Championship, which starts off with about 25,000 people nationwide and ends with one champion. During the Elite Tour, you travel across the United States and fish in nine different events. It’s the highest level of competitive bass fishing out there. I’m crazy stoked and humbled to be part of it.
Q: You're the first person from Hawai‘i to ever fish on the Elite Series. What does that representation mean to you and your community?
A: It means everything. I’m the first Asian-American, Hawai'i-born kid to do it. I love being able to put my home lake on the map. I’m extremely proud of where I’m from. Hawai‘i is so special and unique, and I’ve been given the opportunity to represent a very unrepresented community. I think Hawai‘i gets overlooked half the time because it’s a small island in the middle of the Pacific. But we have some of the most talented musicians, some of the most talented artists and athletes, you know? So it’s always amazing when I get a chance to represent where I’m from, the culture, the people, everything. I’m so grateful.
Q: Speaking of humility, you were raised on the principles of aloha. How do you take those lessons into the fishing world?
A: Aloha is not just a term, it’s a lifestyle. It’s authenticity. It’s humility. Helping others when they’re in need, just being a good person, you know? I think the aloha spirit is infectious. People gravitate towards that kindness. Living aloha is about letting your actions speak louder than words. Moving mountains silently. ‘No grumble, be humble.’ That’s one of our slogans in Hawai‘i.
Q: What would you say is the most important life lesson that fishing has taught you?
A: I was a very active kid, constantly moving and grooving. I always had to be playing a sport or doing something. Fishing taught me patience. Because in fishing, the days can get long. If you’re not able to be patient then you’re not going to be successful. I think the same is true for life.
Q: Okay, last question. What’s your favorite OluKai style?
A: My number one is the Ulele slipper. Well, I call it ‘slipper’ but you might say ‘sandal’. Talk to anyone from Hawai‘i and they’re always going to say slipper. It’s just in my DNA. Then my favorite boat shoe is definitely the Moku Pae. Oh, and for lounging—Kīpuka Hulu. It’s so nice and warm. I've turned that slipper into an everyday deal. That’s how much I love it.
Feeling inspired to try your hand at bass fishing? Matty shared some of his favorite tips and tricks on his YouTube channel, @Capturefish. And don’t forget to follow him on social (@Matty_Wong ) for updates on his competitive fishing journey.