Matt Xenos: Wired for Success
By Greg McCain
A chance encounter in the turkey woods proved life-changing for crappie fisherman, guide, and YouTuber Matt Xenos.
After a morning of turkey hunting, Matt emerged from the woods where his boat was parked on the banks of Tellico Lake in east Tennessee. Set up next to Matt’s boat, an older gentleman caught crappie after crappie from a laydown as Matt – intrigued by the moment – watched. A short time later, Matt was back in the same cove with minnow bucket in hand. While seemingly innocent enough at the time, the decision kick-started a career path that continues to evolve.
“That was a memorable day, one that started my transition from being purely a hunter and a bass fisherman,” Matt said. “You can definitely say it was a pivotal moment for me.”
One of the emerging personalities in the crappie culture, Matt, with the encouragement of his wife, Laura, parlayed the moment into a side career in the outdoors. While he maintains his day job, working for tournament partner Darren Caughron’s outdoor contracting business, Matt continues to grow his Wired for Crappie brand through YouTube videos, his guide service and an exploding electronics installations component.
Like many anglers, Matt fondly remembers his formative years of fishing.
“I can remember standing on the front of the boat with my Snoopy rod and Mickey Mouse life jacket,” he said. “I still have the pictures.”
Matt’s family moved to Tennessee when he was a teenager, but the crappie bug didn’t bite until several years later. He pursued bass but longed for something more from fishing. Eventually, that something more proved to be crappie fishing.
“I got to a point that bass fishing was too much like work,” Matt said. “Four million casts a day, giant rods with a big ole bait, throwing it out there and cranking it back in as fast as you can. It just seemed like work. I thought, “I’m going to go crappie fishing. It’s relaxed, it’s laid back, it’s calming.’”
The chance encounter in the turkey woods proved to be the impetus that pushed him in that direction some 15 years ago. Matt said he soaked up all the information he could find about crappie fishing, and his knowledge and skill sets compounded through the years.
Starting from scratch – “I had no electronics on my boat,” he said – Matt learned as many techniques as possible, starting with long-line trolling but quickly adding to his reportoire. When he formed the East TN Crappie Club in 2013, his knowledge base increased because of the many associations he formed through the club. His experiences also allowed him to expand into other crappie fishing-related ventures.
In 2019, he launched Wired for Crappie on YouTube.
“The YouTube channel, that was my wife’s idea,” Matt said. “The club came about first, and I really started getting into competitive crappie fishing. I learned all the different techniques, trolling, shooting docks, vertical jigging, float and fly, cork and minnow, everything that I could learn about crappie fishing to be more competitive in tournaments.
“My knowledge began to grow because I began to soak up everything I could about crappie fishing. I have to admit that a lot of guys in the club had a whole heck of a lot more knowledge than I did when I first started it. I thought, ‘I’m going to latch on to some of these guys and pick their brains, go right alongside them and learn something.’ And I did.”
Matt began to spend more time on the water expanding his crappie-catching skills. His wife, while not a fisherman, recognized his passion and expertise and made the suggestion to go digital.
“My wife said, ‘If you’re going to fish all the time, you need to video it and put it on YouTube, start a YouTube channel,” Matt said. “She bought me my first GoPro and Wired for Crappie was born. The guiding came from Wired. That’s how Wired for Crappie Guide Service got started.”
The YouTube videos brought Matt attention in a variety of ways. He grew an audience but also attracted the attention of sponsors. One of those was Blake Hauk, who had recently opened Crappie Cove in Maryville, TN, a store that caters to the local crappie community not just as a bait ship but as a promoter of crappie fishing in general. Matt also lives in Maryville.
“When I started Crappie Cove, I got Matt engaged because he was a local YouTuber,” Blake said. “Matt and I have done several things together since that time, and he now heads up and manages my pro staff for Crappie Cove.
“He led the effort for Crappie Academy, which was a year-long, quarterly series of classes taking people through crappie fishing from A to Z, fishing to electronics to trends.
“He’s just a knowledgeable guy, a high-energy guy, a good, all-around guy to run the pro staff.”
Matt also joined the pro staff of ACC Crappie Stix, the Illinois company with the distinctive green rods. Matt’s favorite is the 6½ footer, which he said he uses for just about any technique imaginable. He is also part of the pro staff for Bonehead Tackle, Fishing Specialties (he uses their LiveScope poles), Stowaway Mounts, Amped Outdoors, and Tri-County Marine.
“Throughout my journey, I have been able to meet great people,” Matt said. “I am most proud of my relationships with people, ACC, Crappie Cove and other sponsors.. I don’t just go out looking for people . My friendship with those partners is what I cherish most.
“I’ve been blessed, extremely blessed to associate with these people and to help promote their products.”
The sponsorships are only part of the equation for Matt, however. While he loves to talk about products and to promote them, ultimately his goal through the YouTube videos, guiding, and electronics installation is to help others be successful on the water.
“So many people wanted to learn and I had that knowledge,” he said. “I keep coming back to the same thing. I have the mindset to help people. When they come to my YouTube channel, they realize after watching a couple of videos that I am there to help.”
That idea does not negate Matt’s competitive nature. He said he has been fortunate to win the Angler of the Year in the East TN Crappie Club two years running, the 20-21 title along with his regular tournament partner Darren Caughron and the 21-22 AOY race by himself (because Darren took one tournament off to take his son deer hunting.
With over 100 active members, the club offers not only a competitive environment but also a clearing house for information about crappie fishing.
“The East TN Crappie Club formed basically on a whim,” Matt said. “I was at Reelfoot with an uncle, and someone was having a tournament. I came back to east Tennessee and wanted to see if there was something like that. There wasn’t, and I said, ‘I’m going to start one.’
“That’s how it was born. I put my time and my mind behind it. The very first meeting we had, we had 32 men show, 30 of the 32 joined the club that night. I didn’t even have a bank account.
“After a lot of social media posts, a lot of putting flyers in bait shops, a lot of talking about it, it was born.”
While the club and the Crappie Academy are two things that Matt has been instrumental in establishing, he also plays a big role in the annual Crappie Cove/ACC Crappie Stix Big Crappie Bash, serving as the MC for the pre-tournament meeting/dinner and for the weigh-in. He also suggested the idea of the hourly weigh-in format used the first two years of the tournament, which has been held on Watts Bar Lake, a Tennessee River impoundment in east Tennessee, and will return there next year.
Expect more of the same can-do spirit from Matt in the future. While juggling work and family responsibilities – he and Laura have three sons, 15-year-old Braydun, six-year-old Brantley, and seven-month-old Branson – Matt will continue to produce YouTube content and potentially grow his guide and electronics installation businesses.
He chose a good name for his brand; his mind seems to be continually “wired” to analyze all things about crappie fishing. He loves the old but has adapted to the new.
“At its roots, crappie fishing is about those laid back, calm days where you can take the kids, take a slip float and a minnow and just go have fun,” he said. “LiveScope is changing that a little bit. Everybody’s running and gunning. It’s kind of changing the dynamics of crappie fishing. I love it all.”