Mark Zona: Pick Your Poison

Photo of Mark Zona holding a pair of bass

I’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.

You could be a guy in northern Alabama, or about anywhere else, saying “You’re an idiot -- largemouth are the best.” You could be in south Alabama, saying the Coosa River spot is the best. A dude in South Dakota might argue walleye are the best. I understand that.

It’s what trips your trigger. Pick your poison. Mine is the smallmouth, or bronzeback, brown bass, smallie or whatever it is you call them in your neck of the woods.
As a kid, I remember watching Jerry McKinnis doing “The Fishin’ Hole” and saying his favorite fish was smallmouth bass. I know why.

Whether you catch a 12-inch smallmouth or a 7-pounder, there is something about the attitude of that fish, all the way from the bite to his jump to his surge. And when you get him in the boat, they’re so damn ticked off to have gotten tricked, you can feel their bodies tense up. If they had legs or arms, they’d probably try to slug or kick you.

Another side is they don’t come to play alone often, if that makes sense.  Yeah, the granddads do, the 6- and 7-pounders do, but the 2- to 5-pound fish have a tendency to gang up. 

I’ve said this before back when we were covering the Redfish Cup; any good red fishermen would be a great smallmouth fishermen.  Any great smallmouth fishermen would be a fantastic red fishermen. It’s an extremely visual fish.

I would say we’re using our eyes on 70 percent of the smallmouth that we catch before they go deep each year. There’s no better way to catch fish than that.
And what’s amazing when you’re using your eyes and you find a pack hunter -- the dude that’s roaming the alleyways with the other bad kids -- is after you catch one, it seems like the others want to go toe to toe with you.

There’s just not many fish in freshwater that are like that. There definitely are in saltwater, but God created a perfect specimen when he created the smallmouth bass.
Now you can agree or disagree with me.I respect that. I respect the fish that you have an attachment to. 

That brings up something else I’ve noticed about anglers’ favorite fish. When folks I fish with tell me their favorite species to catch, I’m always amazed that they often have similar character traits. I know phenomenal muskie fishermen who have certain traits a muskie has, and the same goes for some red fishermen and the few alligator gar fishermen I’ve met. You know who you are out there.

Think about that fish and wonder to yourselfm do you share some of the same characteristics? I know I do. 

Previous Articles by Mark Zona

Mark Zona: Smell The Mud

Photo of a bullfrog

I 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 cameraman

The 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 thumb

The 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

BoatUS ANGLER Pro Staff member Mark Zona Mark Zona

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