window,” Zank said. “That gives us the con- fidence to fish for hours without a bite. We have 100-percent confidence in our abilities and that really helps when the fishing is slow. You can’t lose track of your job on the water – when you do, that’s when you lose. They have no secret spots but fish the community holes differently. “We fish all the same spots that every- one else fishes,” Hart said. “There are no se- crets on Castaic but everyone seems to fish this point this way and that bank that way. What we do is fish these spots or areas from a number of different angles and with differ- ent baits and retrieves. It’s this type of experi- mentation that has helped us to do so well. “We also fish a lot of reaction baits,” he added. “People know us a structure fishermen but to be honest, John and I would much rather be on a reaction bite than anything else. And that’s not just on Castaic – it’s everywhere we go. “We also experiment with every bait we throw,” he said. “I throw every bait in my pool at home. Doing that I can learn how the bait works under the water and what I can do with the rod and reel to make it act differently. It makes a huge difference in how I use different lures and even line sizes. John and I are always playing with baits like this.
I couldn’t let this article go without asking Mike and John what they would tell aspiring tournament anglers on how to be- come winners. “The number-one thing to be a winner in any team circuit is to have a partner you have confidence in,” Zank said. “And it can’t work one way – both anglers have to have the same amount of respect for each other. There can’t be any egos in the boat and you can’t be in competition with each other. Mike and I are never in competition with each other. Yes there are days when he does better than I do and there are days when I do better than him. But we each know we are both capable of great days and lift each other up when one of us is having a bad day. “The other thing that teams need to do is not get stuck in the rut of what every- one else is doing,” he added. “You have to think outside the box. Develop a couple of different techniques you have confidence in – techniques that will put that limit in the boat – and then begin developing new stuff until you have confidence in it. We didn’t become proficient at everything the first few years we fished. It took years of hard work to learn what we’ve learned over the years.”
Mike Hart and John Zank would like to give special thanks to: Trolling Motor Doctor, Robo Worm, Peregrine 250, Angler’s Marine, Zank’s Custom Baits, PIP Printing of Sun Valley, Don’s Smokin’ Salmon and their wife and girlfriend for supporting them over the years.
“Once you get the confidence in a cou- ple of techniques, that’s when you need to start finding bigger fish and the techniques that will get them in the boat,” Hart added. “A lot of guys are content with a limit of 2-pound fish instead of catching a limit of 4s. You have to figure out how to catch those bigger fish with consistency if you’re going to win consistently. “We’ve also learned over the years that the first bites you get are always go- ing to be the bigger fish,” he said. “This is where a lot of teams make their biggest mistake. They fish for the fast limit instead of fishing for a limit of bigger fish. Around here a limit of big fish is a 2 1/2-pound av- erage. A limit like that every tournament will win you your share of tournaments.” “We’re fishing for the dominant fish first,” Zank said. “And we’re fishing baits that will catch those dominant fish. We won’t fish small baits for small fish. Don’t be afraid to fish the meat and potatoes
when you know you’ll catch a limit on a 4-inch worm. But we always have the 4-inch worms to fall back on in the event our main pattern doesn’t come together. “It all comes down to time on the wa- ter,” Zank said. “Time on the water give you more experiences to pull from. Time on the water also gives you the ability to time the fish on the water. It’s all about experience – just like anything else in life. The more you do it, the better you get and the better you get the more of a chance you have to win. I think one of the biggest things I learned was back when the Trasks, O’Mallys, Poores, Waters and Carters were taking ev- eryone’s money in the 70s and 80s. Those guys didn’t copy each other, they imitated each other. We all imitated the way they fished – not the spots they were fishing or their techniques but the time they put into it and their hard work. That’s what made those guys so good back then and that’s what will make anyone good today. BW
hoW to Win
E XPLOSIVE STRIKES
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