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Chalk Talk: Zona on fishing 'the juice'

Chalk Talk: Zona on fishing 'the juice'

(Editor's note: The following is the latest installment in a series of fishing tips presented by The Bass University. Check back each Friday for a new tip.)

With the exponential advances in marine electronics technology over the past several years, a wider cross-section of anglers can consistently find quality bass in deep water. In some places “deep” might be 10 feet, and in others it might be 80 or more, but with their computerized “eyes” even many relative novices are able to identify key cover that will hold bass again and again and again.

Michigan angler and television personality Mark Zona calls it “the juice,” and he’ll often spend as much time looking for those magical stretches as he actually spends with a rod and reel in his hand.

“I spend hours on end just idling," he said. "Just idling around looking for deep irregularities.” His goal during all of that screen time is not necessarily to find single fish, although that’s an added bonus, but rather to find big schools of the right caliber fish, and then to manage them so he can maximize his catch.

With his big screen Humminbird Mega Imaging units, Zona will identify and then drop waypoints on each valuable piece of cover until the he develops a key zone that he referred to as a “minefield of gold.” Zooming out, patterns and hot spots will often immediately become evident. In turn, their orientation and the distance of the waypoints from one another will inform how he attacks the playing field.

Once he’s settled on what he perceives to be highest-percentage areas, Zona doesn’t barge right into the best of the best. Instead, he picks his approach ultra-carefully, trying to maximize his time and presentations while also preserving the maximum number of bites. It is essential is to avoid spooking fish by running over them haphazardly. Because more anglers have deep-water capabilities than in past generations, there are very few good areas that don’t get meaningful angler pressure.

“I’m going to attack the perimeter of that stuff,” he said of his cautios approach. While the cover he’s targeting might not be visible to the naked eye, even in comparatively shallow and crystal-clear water, he nevertheless treats his targets just as he would a shoreline dock, a complicated laydown or a big mat of hydrilla. He’ll “do donuts” or “do crop circles” around “the holy land,” making sure to “stay out of their house.”

This requires something of a change of attitude for most tournament anglers who feel the ticking of the game clock pulling at them to fish faster. The mindset, Zona said, is to get right to the sweet spot, but by taking your time, instead of catching just one, you can catch them all. By saving the juice until he’s picked apart the associated targets, he’s able to fill livewells rather than just catch single fish.

If you want to learn some of Zona’s additional tips for attacking the juice, and check out how he rigs his Humminbird electronics, check out his full video, available only by subscribing to The Bass University TV.

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