Made better by a knucklehead like me

Courtesy of Mark Zona
Mark Zona and sweepstakes winner Steven “The Vacuum” Taylor during their BoatU.S. Angler Zona’s Awesome Fishing Trip.

I do a sweepstakes every year with BoatU.S. Angler, and believe it or not, I actually take it seriously.

Look, I’m not the smartest crayon in the box but I’m wise enough to realize that while I’m fortunate to fish all the time, to the person that wins that trip, there’s a real good chance they only get to fish a few times a year, and it’s likely they’ve never caught a boatload of big smallmouth.

That said, it’s a big deal to the sweepstakes winner. And, in turn, it’s a big deal to me.

We’ve had three different sweepstakes winners now, and it’s kind of amazing how a random process sends such differing personalities and people to catch smallmouth with me. The most recent winner was a guy from Kentucky named Steven “The Vacuum” Taylor.

Yep, that’s what he told me within minutes of shaking his hand. He said, “They call me ‘The Vacuum.’” I had met my match. A total stranger. A sweepstakes winner. That talks as much smack as I do.

So my first thought when we hit the water was, “I’m gonna unplug ‘The Vacuum.’” I knew for a fact that Steven and I were gonna have a blast. And we did.

Of course, the day he was here was one of the most impossible autumn smallmouth bass days of my life. We managed to catch a few with drop shot rigs on 6-pound line, but man, as cheesy as this is gonna sound, the day really wasn’t about fishing.

It really wasn’t. It was about making a new friend. Doggone it, I loved the guy. Steven Taylor is a knucklehead just like me. I picked on him the whole time we fished, and he gave it right back – and he gave it back bad.

Like I said, I take this annual fishing trip seriously. I want it to go well. I’ve always wanted to make sure the winner catches lots of smallies. But here in year number three, thanks to Steven, I truly came to realize the day is about way more than how many times we set the hook. It’s about fun. And it’s about friendship.

Somebody’s gonna win the BoatU.S. Angler Zona’s Awesome Fishing Trip in 2014. And I’ll go into it a better person. Seriously. Seeing a bigger picture because of my day with “The Vacuum.”   

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