By Doug Minor
Strike King/Lew’s VP Sales/Marketing
Traverse City, Mich. - First to bed, first to rise - Michigan's celebrity angler Mark Zona is real in so many ways.
I had the honor to film a smallmouth bass segment of Strike King’s Pro Team Journal with Crazy Z recently, and what a day I had!
We were up three hours before the sun and trailered to a mid-size lake near Traverse City. The sun broke with awesome colors on the skyline; it was a beautiful sunrise, yet it indicated that a front was on the way and we had to catch some good fish and get our filming that day.
As “Z” brought his Nitro up on plane, he had a predator grin that looked like a coyote sizing up a rabbit. After a short (cold) run, he sat the boat down and ran to the bow, promptly directing my first cast.
“The "juice" is right there,” he said.
I assumed “juice” to mean "sweet spot" and made a cast. Five or ten casts later, my drop-shot Baby Z-Too got consumed by a 4-pound smallmouth and Z grinned like that same coyote after the first bite of a rabbit.
As good as the fishing was that day, I learned a lot about Mark Zona, the angler and family man.
I have always understood the viewer's affection for the host of "Zona's Awesome Fishing Show," but I don't know if the public fully understands what a "stick" and thinker this dude is.
Not an hour goes by in this guy’s life that he doesn’t think about bass and a better way to catch them. He’s never satisfied with what's being caught and is always searching for a "Big‘un” - bigger and better than the last.
There isn’t a new technique or bait that Mark hasn’t tried – or perfected. If it’s bass-related, he not only knows of it, he has tried it and is thinking of a way to make it better.
Nor does he have a favorite way to fish. I don't think he ever thinks that there is only one way to catch bass but I do know he is always thinking and never satisfied.
His patience is profound, cast after cast, hour after hour. He just keeps grinning and casting.
The man also has a profound respect for fish. He is one of the few anglers who takes the same care in releasing a one-pound bass as he does a five pounder. He always tells the little guy "See you bud. Come back and bite again in a few years.”
And let me tell you something else: Zona's fame has not gone to his head. He takes time to help other anglers who seek his advice. Oftentimes, he’ll even offer a waypoint or two.
At the end of a 35-fish-day we pulled upon a long, sand point in the big bay. Z told me a story about how his wife and boys caught more than 100 smallmouth on the spot several years back. He stopped casting for moment and wiped tears from his eyes; his boys are in college now making their own way in life and he knows those childhood days are gone.
Mark Zona is a good man and I take pride in our personal and work relationship. He has always over-delivered for Strike King and has helped build our company into what it is today.
It’s always an honor to spend a day with a true “bass head” that has such devout passion and respect for the great sport of bass fishing.