year? That question has been burning in a number of peoples’ minds over the course of the last 3 years and I was fortunate to get some time to talk to them about their success. The following is what they had to say about their approach to tournaments and why they feel they’ve finally come across what it takes to not only be consis- tent but win with regularity.
Neither Hart nor Zank are newcomers to the tournament scene. Combined they have over 56 years of experience fishing tournaments throughout California, Ari- zona and Nevada. Hart has 71 wins, 176 top 5s and an incredible 13 AOY titles from 1986 to the present. Zank has accu- mulated 28 wins over the years, numer- ous top 5s and won his first tournament in 1979, the West Valley Bassmasters Charity event, at the age of 17. Although Zank got out of tourna- ment bass fishing in 1983, he still con- tinued to fish the local lakes and was still regarded as one of the top sticks in the area – and a person who many of the top anglers in southern California looked up to. These anglers could al- ways be found at John’s house pouring worms or just talking fishing. “I just got tired of the politics in- volved with tournament fishing,” Zank said. “It wasn’t the same towards the end and I just wanted to bring the fun back into fishing for me. I wanted to try different things and experiment with lures in a non-competitive at- mosphere.” Hart, on the other hand, didn’t start his tournament career un- til 1986 – the same year he met Zank. “I met John in 1986 when he was making baits,” he said. “He’d already quit fishing tournaments but we fun fished a lot and became really good friends. I continued fishing and eventu- ally won my first Angler of the Year title in 1996.”
Hart has fished since he was a young boy growing up in southern California. “I was really lucky growing up,” he said. “My dad and mom took my younger brother and I camping, fishing and hunting all the time. But my first experience bass fishing came when my friend told me he was catching bass from the shore of Casta- ic Lake. So I went and caught 50 fish in a matter of two hours. I thought that was the greatest thing in the world.
an hiStoriCal PerSPeCtive
“I spent a couple years doing that and then in 1984 I bought my first boat. I went from catching 50 fish in two hours to catching maybe one fish for a whole day. I learned really fast about boat control and slowing down. That was and still is the biggest learning experience for me about being able to put fish in the boat.” But his learning didn’t stop there. “I fished as much as I could and took notes about every trip I made,” he added. “I bought maps of all the lakes I fished and I tried to learn different techniques. At that time (1986) I thought I was pretty good so I entered my first tournament and blanked. That was a turning point for me in that it sparked my competitive spirit and
changed the way I approached tournaments. After that I fished as many tournaments as I could and that made me very consis- tent in catching keeper fish. Once I started catching limits in the tournaments, that’s when the bigger fish started to come.” Zank’s beginnings were much the same. “My mom passed away when I was young and that’s when I got into fishing,” he said. “I’d go to Castaic and hang out at the Mini Mart or the other local tackle stores and some of the older guys would offer take me out on the water. “Then in 1976 West Valley Bassmas- ters was holding their annual charity tour-