Team Zona crowned College Bass Tour Classic Champions

Tournament anglers of any age are expected to be able to call upon a skill set employable on any body of water that makes them versatile, efficient, and successful. On August 11 and 12, Collegiate anglers who qualified for the College Bass Tour Classic converged on northern Michigan to test their mettle against the bass that reside in two of its premier lakes. Based on the winning patterns this season, the new age of angler showcased by the College Bass Tour, is rapidly shortening the learning curve as a variety of techniques were employed on often challenging fisheries.

The format saw teams compete on Day 1 at Long Lake and carried their weights with them into Day 2 on Hubbard Lake. While many teams reported an aggressive bite on Long Lake that lasted throughout the day, few teams found similar success on the final day of the Classic on Hubbard Lake. Once the scales settled, Hunter and Jakob Zona were crowned the first ever College Bass Tour Classic Champions while Kyle and Collin Jump took the “Team of the Year” Title.

1st Place: Team Zona Emerges CBT Champs

Prize: Bass Tracker Heritage Boat w/Mercury Outboard, 2 Yeti Rambler Trophies, 2 Quantum Smoke Reels, 2 Oakley Sunglasses, Mossy Oak Hats, Huk Clothing, $750 (They donated it back to CBT and in turn redistributed to participants)

After realizing that a poor finish at an earlier tournament had cost them their goal of winning the Team of the Year title, Jakob and Hunter Zona set their sights on winning the CBT Classic.

Bringing 14.59-pounds of smallmouth to the scales on Day 1, the team targeted rock humps with crankbaits in 1- to 6-feet of water.

The majority of his fish hit early in the cast biting on the shallower section of the rockpile. They burned Strike King KVD 1.5 square bill crankbaits in shad patterns back to the boat as quickly as their Daiwa SV casting reels (7:2:1 gearing) allowed.

“We figured that the more casts we could get in, the better we’d do,” Jakob Zona said.

Never having cranked rocks before, Hunter was quick to pay attention where the bites were coming from. “You would want to grind the 1.5 against the rocks,” he said. Despite using Seaguar Abrazx fluorocarbon, it was imperative that they retied often.

Towards the end of the day, they switched to a green pumpkin 4-inch Strike King Ocho rigged on an 1/8-ounce Trokar jig head to sight fish for visible smallmouth holding on top of the rock piles. In essence, they fished their version of a Ned Rig.

The team shared some of their best water with fellow competitors McLane May and Ben Cole, both teams showing respect for the others’ territory.

Day 2 showed the team a lake that completely contrasted the day before- these smallmouth were stubborn.

Little did they know that Hubbard Lake smallmouth did not appreciate the clear sunny conditions presented. In total, they caught 6 keepers on the day, their limit anchored by a 6-pound beast, the biggest bass of the Tour.

Their practice told them they’d need to rotate between key shallow and deep-water areas. They sight fished two of the smallmouth that they weighed from 2- to 8 feet of water. The other 3 fish were caught relating to deep weeds and wood in 25- to 30-feet of water.

Despite only having one fish in the live-well by 11a.m., the team stuck to their game plan.

Drop shotting the newly released Strike King Z-Too, Jakob uncovered a key piece of information that helped them trigger the winning fish to bite. Using a Daiwa Tatula Elite Brent Ehrler drop shot rod, he recognized that after twitching the lure once, the bass would only bite if the bait was held completely still. Upon telling Hunter to “dead stick” his bait after pitching it out, they caught their last fish of the day which sealed the win.

Looking back, the team dropped one fish that could have increased their bag over the course of the tournament, but the rest stayed buttoned which they attributed to the #1 sized Lazer Trokar drop shot hook that they fished.

“It was a big day- and stressful,” Jakob started. “Long Lake was fun to fish but today we had to keep piecing things together and putting fish in the well.”

Heading into Day 2, Hunter was confident and ready to get at it. “I thought we had a good shot to win because we had such a good practice,” Hunter said. “When I caught that 6-pounder, I was shaking the whole time as I tried to get it in the boat.”

Team dynamics can prove interesting at the best of times, but these two brothers have a chemistry that works on the water. “We’re good friends- until one of us loses a fish!” Hunter said. All kidding aside, anyone that follows their social media knows these two are joined at the hip and a force to be reckoned with on any body of water.