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.


Previous Articles by Mark Zona

Mark Zona: Pick Your Poison

Photo of Mark Zona with a nice catch of smallmouth bassI’ve been lucky to fish for a lot of different species, from 1,000-pound sturgeon to giant muskie and bull reds. Just lots and lots of species of fish. 

Now let’s just face it, I'm a shallow individual. I am. I have no problem saying that. Smallmouth bass are the only reason I live in the state of Michigan. My wife would not disagree with that. Sure it’s a nice state, blah, blah, blah, but there’s a lot of nice states. There’s not a lot of nice states that have the population of smallmouth bass that Michigan has. Yep, there’s a few. I'm not discarding the fish in New York and Minnesota. And Wisconsin, let’s not leave them out. Strange folks, but good smallmouth. But smallmouth are by far the reason I live in the state of Michigan. Myself and my family endure incredibly harsh winters to chase that fish. There’s just something about them. Read More


Mark Zona: Smell The Mud

Photo of a bullfrogI pretty much need to start this one by saying I’m not a very sentimental person. I’m not. I’m really not. I think a lot of my family members would probably agree with that. But that’s a weird way to start this blog.

What’s weirder are the things that get me out of the Michigan winter funk. Generally, I go into it right after Thanksgiving. I can’t sugar coat this enough -- I do not like cold weather. Not at all. I don’t like snow. I don’t like ice. Yeah, I grew up ice fishing, but I think really the only reason I did it so much was to consume time. And I was fishing. This might sound strange, but to me spring is always like the start of life is coming. It’s all right around the corner.

A lot of people like holidays and stuff like that, and you know we all do. But they’re long over; winter has hung around too long. The cabin fever needs to break.
Growing up in Michigan, there are two things that happen here that really do that for me, that signal what’s to come. They’re my two most favorite things throughout the year.

The first is the smell of mud. Ever smell mud? When our ground up here starts to thaw out in March or April, sometimes late April, there’s nothing better than going out and smelling mud. Read More


Mark Zona: Color Me Amazed

Photo of Mark Zona and his cameramanThe Bassmasters has been my favorite TV show since I was 9 or 10.What's weird is, I can still remember some of my favorite episodes from the early 80s, where I was like, "Wow, that's the coolest thing in the world!"

I was an oddity growing up in Chicago because none of my friends watched anything that had to do with bass fishing. That being said, one of the most-asked questions I get, whether I’m at a seminar or an Elite Series event or wherever, is how does the whole slick production comes together? Read More


Mark Zona: Two Days That Stick In My Mind

Photo of a man with a fishing lure stuck in his thumbThe rash of anglers getting hooked in B.A.S.S. tournaments of late brings to mind two days that sucked. Well, one for sure. And what I take from both, besides some scars, is a lesson learned.

The first was probably 20 years ago when I was getting ready for a tournament in Michigan. It was one of those magical “Ferris Buehler’s Day Off” deals, a calm summer day where every single pleasure boat was out and I was in the boat alone. Read More




Click for Blog Mark Zona

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