Mark Zona: Don't Be "That Guy"

Photo of Bassmaster Elite angler Jeremy Starks fighting rough water on Lake Erie
Jeremy Starks battles the rough water on Lake Erie

I have one recurring nightmare. It dates to the first time it happened to me – a bass boat stuffing through a wave.

It’s a blessing and a curse having that nightmare, because it taught me what not to do. I learned it from “that guy.” Anybody reading this article has been in a boat with that guy.

I was in my late teens and I fished with a guy on the Great Lakes who would absolutely, positively run rough water like a bat out of hell, like he was trying to get to the edge of earth.

What was amazing to me was we would get to our spot and have to piece the boat back together. At the end of the day, we’d get back to the hotel and again have to piece the boat back together after the ride in.

I know this sounds crazy, but I was glad I was in the boat with that guy because it taught me how not to run in rough water.

There are a few basic rules I live by so I’m never that guy. Rough water sucks, but sometimes it’s unavoidable when you have to get from point A to point B. Growing up on the Great Lakes has taught me that, and how to run a boat in rough water.

If you know you’re going to be in such conditions, one of the very first things I can tell you is to shift the weight of your boat from the front to the back. Putting weight in the back is the most critical thing to help keep your bow up.

The second thing is try to quarter big waves. And I don’t know what makes it a big wave, a four-footer?  Six? I don’t know. I know small waves and I know big waves. Try to quarter them.

Sometimes it’s unavoidable, but never try to go straight into waves and never try to go straight with waves. That’s when you can get yourself in trouble.

The simplest thing on the earth you can do is slow down. Whether I’m with my camera crew or my kids and it’s rough, I slow the heck down.

And last but not least, never take your eyes off the road. Every single wave is different. None of them are the same.

While you are studying every wave coming at you, whether you’re at Lake Erie, Lake Ontario or Kentucky Lake, there’s always what people call a rogue wave coming in the distance.

That minute your take your eye off it to look at your tachometer, your miles per hour, your GPS, that’s when that monster wants to creep up and bite you. So always keep your eye on the road.

I still have that recurring nightmare of stuffing a boat through a wave. It’s happened to me numerous times, but luckily it hasn’t happened in many years, especially when my camera crew is in the boat or my kids are in the boat.

If you really pay attention to these little tips for running rough water, it will help you not be that guy.

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BoatUS ANGLER Pro Staff member, Bassmaster Series co- host, and host of "Zona's Awesome Fishing Show". Click Here to read Mark Zona's blog