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Sept. 23, 2021

Zona and Feider Reflect on the Angler of the Year Title

Revisiting what it took – and what it means – for Feider to win AOY.


When Seth Feider lifted the 2021 Bassmaster Elite Series Angler of the Year Trophy on July 16, Bassmaster LIVE host Mark Zona applauded like everyone else who had followed the Mercury® Pro Team member’s stellar season. Reflecting on that moment a couple months later, Zona said he was thrilled to see his friend come full circle.

Nice sentiment, but the back story hammers home the point. The tale started early in the year, when Feider humbly dismissed Zona’s suggestions of AOY potential.

“I said, ‘Looking at the schedule, you have a legitimate shot at winning Angler of the Year,’” Zona recalled. “And he said, ‘No, people like me don’t win titles like that.’ I said, ‘Why not you?’ And he got really, really quiet.”

Flash forward to the season’s final Elite event at the St. Lawrence River, where Feider held a 55-point lead over South Carolina’s Patrick Walters. Feider was in a good position, but sealing the deal meant he had to deliver.

As Zona recalled, a pre-tournament talk told him his favorite Minnesota duck hunter was feeling it. Feider was finally embracing who he had become and, more importantly, what he could be.

“Going into that final event, he said, ‘Why not me?’” Zona recalled. “That was awesome to see.”

Awesome in terms of Feider’s accomplishment, but also awesome because the fishing world now truly appreciates this angler’s diverse skill set. Prior to the season, Zona saw the 2021 Elite schedule lining up well for the established shallow-water sticks in the field. Given his previous milestones, Feider’s shallow game may have flown under the radar – until now.

“In the world of (advanced electronics) that Feider and the rest of the Elite field use, to see 95 percent of what he put on the scales come in 5 feet of water and less, in these days and times, that’s impressive,” Zona said. “Because he won on Mille Lacs (2016), because he won on St. Clair (2019), people look at Seth as a smallmouth wizard, but Seth is a phenomenal shallow-water grass fisherman. That’s what this schedule predominantly lent itself to.”

What Makes Feider, Feider

Feider’s AOY title speaks for itself, but Zona stresses a few finer points that contributed to the victory.

Meticulous focus – Feider’s low-key, short-and-sweet speaking style may, at times, leave a broad-brush impression that he embraces a simple fishing style. In Zona’s view – based on lengthy tackle and technique discussions with Feider – nothing could be farther from the truth.

“You don’t see that a lot of times. You see the gruff side of Seth, but he’s a tackle tweaker. The dude’s a tackle junkie, and whenever you’re a tackle junkie, you are a perfectionist.”

Staunch individualist – “Seth does it his way, which to me is the right way,” Zona said. “He wants to outwork the dude next to him. He doesn’t want the shortcut. There are short-cutters in professional fishing. He’s not one of those. He wants to outwork you and do it by his own ability.”

Authentically Seth – Noting that he’s spent as much time on the water with Feider as anyone he fishes with, Zona described the AOY as one of the most loyal and genuine human beings he’s ever met.

“What you see is what you get,” Zona said. “What’s interesting is that, in this sport, there’s a template for what you’re supposed to look like and act like, and he is not that.

“Seth may not tell you what you want to hear, but he’s going to tell you what he thinks. That’s a rare, special attribute. He is very much out of the box, as far as how your average pro looks and acts. I respect the heck out of that. He’s his own person.”

Work ethic – Calling Feider a “throwback,” in the best sense of the term, Zona noted that one of the most endearing aspects of his friend’s professional career is the blue-collar, earn-it vibe that stands as distinctively as that trademark mullet and Alan Jackson-esque mustache.

“Two to three decades ago, it generally took a fisherman taking a couple of shots to the chops for three to five years; getting that knowledge, seeing all those lakes (to solidify his career),” Zona said. “It took Seth that exact time. He went through the highs, the lowest of lows to get to where he’s at.

“To me, Seth is that guy that used to fish your Wednesday nighters that went on to win one of the biggest titles in the sport. He’s that everyday dude. Every single one of us knows a Seth Feider, but he was the dude that made it.”

Unrivaled consistency – Feider has publicly acknowledged that he was most concerned about the season-opener on Florida’s St. Johns River and Texas’ notoriously stingy Sabine River events. Placing third and sixth, respectively, in those events helped establish and maintain the momentum that propelled Feider to an impressive season during which he made all nine semifinal cuts and never placed lower than 29th.

“We have a tendency to look at his top finishes, but the other part of the AOY story is avoiding a land mine and throwing out an 80th-place finish, and he avoided that,” Zona said. “There were a few tournaments in there that were potential land mines, and they ended up being some of his best events of the season.”

More from Zona and Feider

Check out this video to enjoy a recent conversation between Zona and Feider, where they reflect together on Feider’s AOY title.

Zona and Feider Reflect on the Angler of the Year Title
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