BassWestUSA - November/December, 2009, Page 44

well, it still wasn’t for me and I ended up quitting the next year. “Mike didn’t quit, though, and went on to dominate southern California,” Zank said. “Still we remained close friends and talked all the time.” Then in 2006, the team of Hart and Zank came back. “What got us back together in 2006 was the fact I wouldn’t stop bugging John,” Hart said. “We had so much trust in each other that it was just a matter of time be- fore I knew he’d cave in and do it.” “I only wanted to fish a handful of tournaments and it just turned into a run,” Zank said. “We kept winning and playing. Now it’s hard to think of not fishing with Mike. It’s where we belong.”

Hart and Zank haven’t come to domi- nate the tournament scene due to luck, se- cret baits or anything else. It all boils down to hard work before the coming tournament and the utmost in confidence in each other’s ability to locate and catch the right fish. “Our tournament day doesn’t start the morning of the event,” Zank said. “It starts weeks before the event in our garages. We make sure our equipment is in order, we have the right hooks, they’re all sharp, we have the right worms, the right jerkbaits, you name it. Everything in our boat is organized – we don’t have to fumble around looking for hooks, or baits – and we have the confidence in everything we are going to fish. “Another big deal is our prefishing,” Hart said. “We spend between two and three days on the water before each event and those are individual days – not days spent together in the boat. During the first couple days we don’t talk at all – we want to find our own fish and if we talked, it would pollute our minds into maybe fish- ing the other guy’s fish. “During the third day we will finally compare notes,” he added. “When we do this, we seem to do really well. The oth- er thing is if we have two or three events strung together, we are actually prefishing for the next event during that event and that helps us out a lot too. “The biggest thing about prefish is we eliminate a lot of water,” Hart added. “We use search baits trying not to catch fish but find the bigger fish that most guys don’t find. Then we get together and figure out how to catch them” Another aspect that draws them apart from many is the fact they are only inter- ested in 5 fish. “We know there are going to be times when we may only be fishing for a 7-bite

WinninG WayS

nament on the lake (Castaic) and I wanted to fish it. I was 15 at the time and my dad took me to it and I fished with one of his friends who didn’t have much experience. Every- one in southern California who was anyone fished that tournament – it was that big. I’m talking 175 boats on a lake that’s only 1400 acres in size due to low water condi- tions. “Well we went out and blanked but that event changed my life forever. I fished tournaments after that and tried to do well but it didn’t happen. That’s when I told my- self if I was going to be competitive I had to change the way I fish. “At that point we were just interested in putting 10 fish in the boat (back then the limit for team tournaments was 10 fish). Castaic was – still is for that mat- ter – notorious for being a great prefish lake and then come tournament day when there’s 150 boats on the water, you only weigh 2 fish. By then, I realized that if I was going to do well, I had to fish for a limit no matter how small they were. “So, instead of throwing big jigs for a big fish, I’d throw a split shot rig or some- thing else that produced a lot of fish. I just wanted to weigh a limit. After that epipha- ny, we started doing well in tournaments. “Once I got the confidence that I could put fish in the boat I started looking for bigger fish patterns,” he said. “Eventually the law of averages plays into your hands and you begin to do better. But at the same time, I was learning about the lake, the bait and the fish migrations. It took years of hard work but it all paid off.

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After meeting Zank in 1986, Hart and Zank became close friends but never pur- sued fishing together for a number of years. “John and I hung out a lot during my early years and we really clicked,” Hart said. “We fished well together but never fished any tournaments together. I was fishing a lot tournaments and John helped me all the time. “We talked about what I was do- ing and what he was doing – comparing notes so to speak – and because of that we gained a trust in each other over those years. If John told me something was go- ing on I knew it was the truth and he felt the same way if I told him something. We believed in each other and that is the basis of why we are so good together now. “We fish so much alike that if one of us says there’s a particular bite, we can go out separately and duplicate it,” Hart said. “And if we’re in a tournament and one of us says something, we trust that person and go do it – no questions asked. There are no egos in the boat and that is prob- ably the number one reason we do so well. In 1991 Hart convince Zank to fish the WON Bass circuit with him. Their re- sults that year were the warning shot over everyones’ bow come the mid-2000s. “I’d been inactive in tournament fish- ing for a long time,” Zank said. “Then in 91 Mike talked me into fishing a tournament with him – our first tournament ever. We ended up placing second and continued for the rest of the year. That year we had a number of top 5s. Even though we did

oUt oF retirement - tWiCe

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November/December 2009