Matt Arey has been flipping and pitching lures on the waters of North Carolina for over two decades. He started doing it professionally around the country nine years ago. Rack and Reel Outfitters.Arey, 30, is a professional on the FLW Majors Tour where he’s averaged nearly $35,000 in sanctioned earnings each year since 2006. AHuntersTales connected with the Shelby, N.C., native recently to chat about the outdoors as part of an AHT 8. For him, that’s more than just fishing. Like a lot of professional anglers we talk with, hunting is as much of a passion for Arey as fishing. When he’s not fishing, he co-owns a guide service called
1) Ok, truth be told … do you like fishing or hunting better? Why?
My favorite would have to be hunting, hands down. First of all, fishing has been my full time job during the past five years; hunting is a way for me to relax and enjoy God’s creation, while also giving me a break from life on the road. I bow hunt almost exclusively now and enjoy seeing wildlife up close and personal in their natural state. I am amazed at the sights and sounds that a person can witness from a deer stand or duck blind. If I could figure out a way to make a living hunting, I would be happy to make that transition.
2) What gets you excited about the future of the outdoors?
Hunting and fishing conservation improvements over the last few years with extremely active groups definitely excite me. For example, groups such as Ducks Unlimited and FishAmerica Foundation are always working hard to enhance duck and fish populations while restoring habitat and improving water quality.
3) What’s your fishing “must have”? How about when you’re hunting?
The two things I must have when I am on the water are my Evinrude E-TEC and my Costa Del Mar sunglasses. The success of my career is largely dependent on the reliability of my equipment, and I surround myself with the best products available.
Since I love to bow hunt, the number one piece of equipment for me in the woods is my range finder.
4) What is your first memory in the outdoors?
One of my very first memories in the outdoors is going on my first deer hunting trip down in Council, N.C. with my dad at the age of 9. We were deer hunting with dogs, and there was a small doe that was chased out of the brush toward our location. I shot twice with my youth 20 gauge pump that dad had given to me right before the hunt and missed. The club we were hunting with would hold a “trial” for those hunters who were rumored to have missed a deer during the hunt that day.
If you were indeed “found guilty” of missing a deer, they would punish you by cutting off a piece of your shirttail and then hanging it on a line that was full of shirttails from over the years (as a joke of course). Well, long story short, part of my shirt became a victim and joined the rest of the bad shots that hung on the line, and as far as I know, it is still hanging there to this day.
5) You guide fishing and hunting too, right? What’s your favorite memory that includes someone else in the lead role with you guiding?
This probably involves a young boy and his father on a trip I took to Lake Wylie (near Charlotte) one day. Neither one of them had ever caught a bass over 3 lbs. The very first thing that morning they had doubles on, and both fish ended up surpassing (in weight) their personal records. I have taken quite a few trips with father-son duos and I have never seen as big a grin as the ones that came across their faces when both of those fish came into the boat that day.
6) We hear from people all the time that want to “make a living” in the outdoors. What is your advice to them?
My advice would be to take it slow and keep an open mind. If your goal is competitive fishing, don’t bite off more than you can chew. Start out fishing local events to gain experience and see how you stack up and go from there. Whether I am guiding or fishing a Tour event, there is always room to learn more. Always remember that every day in the woods or on the water is a learning experience no matter how knowledgeable you think you are.
7) Every pro angler has a morning launch story that involves getting to a spot they wanted. Tell us your favorite!
At the FLW Tour event on Beaver Lake, my wife surprised me for my 30th birthday, by flying to Arkansas and showing up to weigh-in. To top off the surprise, I was fortunate to have a good two days of fishing and make the top 20 cut. After day 3, I was sitting in third place and eager to start the final day of fishing.
I arrived to my first spot, went to get a couple of jerk bait rods out of my rod box and panic immediately set in. It was locked! I keep my truck and compartment keys on the same key ring, so normally my truck keys are always in the boat. My wife helped me launch the boat that morning and took my truck with her so she would not be without a vehicle at the tournament. She was headed to Rogers for the day and I knew I could not call her.
I debated on what to do and was hesitant to pry open the box, for fear of damaging my boat. After weighing my options and thinking about the opportunity to win $125,000, my mind was made up. Using a flat-head screwdriver and a lot of elbow grease, I was able to break the box open, while ripping through the gel coat and throwing fiberglass everywhere. It was instant relief to finally pull a rod out, but I was angry at myself for such a bone head move on such an important day.
8) Do you need an AHT deal for your boat? How about your truck?
As most pro anglers would tell you, sponsorship opportunities are few and far between, and my ears are always open. This doesn’t mean I have to put a picture of Kurt’s Tail on my truck or boat does it? … Oh wait, this is T-a-l-e-s, not Tails!
It was great to talk to you Kurt, Happy Hunting! Now it is off to Kentucky for me to chase some Christian County whitetails.
Thanks for the time, Matt. We look forward to seeing how you’re doing on the FLW Tour for many years to come. And keep us posted on your success in the woods. You’re welcome to share stories for the AHT readers anytime!