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Cast Masters

Zack Willson

Hall of Fame Inductee, 37 times on All American Team, holds Senior Men’s All Accuracy Combination, Plug Accuracy Combination, Plug Distance Combination, Overall Distance and Fly Accuracy Combination Records, Co-Record holder of Men’s Dry Fly (score 100), holds Senior Men’s Dry Fly Accuracy Record and 1/4 Oz. Spin Distance, Co-Record holder Men’s Trout Fly Accuracy (score 100), Co-Record holder Senior Men’s Trout Fly Accuracy, holds Senior Men’s Bass Bug Accuracy Record, Co-Record holder Senior Men’s 1-Hand Fly Distance, Co-Record holder Men’s 5/8 oz Plug Accuracy (score 100)and lastly, holds the Senior Men’s 1/4 oz Plug Accuracy Record.

How long have you been casting? My Dad, who was an active tournament caster, made an outfit up for me using a level wind reel and a bamboo rod for casting and bass fishing. I made my first cast at a target with it in 1942 in the 5/8 oz. accuracy event. That outfit was my only fishing and casting tackle for about the next four or five years. I used it in 1946 in my first National Tournament competition in the Junior Division 5/8 oz. accuracy plug event at Indianapolis, Indiana. I placed second with a score of 95. My prize, in addition to a trophy and NAACC Chevron, was a box of five Tony Accetta bass lures. I still have one of those lures which is covered with teeth marks, but still works. I put it on every once in a while when fishing; but, only for a few casts and when I think the chances are real good that no bass will strike it.

Where do you practice? My current practice sessions are held at a pond at a city park in my home town of Upper Sandusky, Ohio. I place one target in the water and then make casts at that target from distances of 40 to 80 feet from various points on the bank of the pond's perimeter. I use this method for accuracy plug casting. For fly casting practice I stand 50 feet from the target and use my imagination for the targets leading up to 50 feet and for the 70 foot bass bug shot. Mostly, I am just trying to make a smooth straight lay down on those imaginary targets. In both plug casting and fly casting, I am continually trying different strokes and slight tackle modifications looking for something better. I actually enjoy my practice sessions more than the tournaments. When I find something new that works in practice, I can't wait to get to the next tournament to see how it holds up in competition. During the casting season, I try to have about two accuracy practice sessions a week; with each lasting about two two hours. I generally practice only four events; 1/4 oz. and 5/8 oz. Plug, Trout Fly and Bass Bug.

Favorite fish to catch:  The vast majority of my fishing is for bass from a bass boat and done in Florida. I fish nearly every day from January through March in various Florida lakes and rivers. My wife Marcia and I release everything we catch except occasionally, we decide to have fish for dinner. We then go after black crappie which will hit smaller versions of bass lures.

Favorite rod: I only keep two types of rods in the boat. One is a 6' medium light graphite spinning rod with an open face spinning reel and 6 lb. monofilament. This one casts 1/16th to 1/4 oz. lures nicely. The other rod is a 6' medium heavy graphite rod with a level wind revolving spool reel and 10 lb. monofilament which will cast 1/4 to 5/8 oz. lures.

Favorite reel: My favorite reel is a Meek No. 3, made by The Horton Mfg. Co. of Bristol Conn., which I use for the 5/8 oz. accuracy event. It was my Dad's reel and he used it in tournament casting for over thirty years. When he passed away in 1979 it became mine. Sentiment was my main reason for using it at first. It was a challenge the first couple of years, as the reel was much faster than my level wind job. The fear of a backlash entered my mind often in competition. I love the reel now, and although that old fear still pops-up once in a while, there is no cast that feels better or gives me more satisfaction than a well stroked 5/8 accuracy cast.

Advice for new casters: Be honest with yourself; if you want to be good or the best it will take time and lots of hard work. In competition, you owe it to yourself to do the best you can on every single cast. It's the only way you can accurately measure your progress. If on the other hand you just want to have a little fun, that's OK too. Enjoy it and be a good sport.

Philosophy relating to casting: Casting is a wonderful family sport. It's for male or female, young or old and as much fun or challenge as you want to make it.