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Two Tournament Wins in One Weekend

Two Tournament Victories in One Weekend

How Z-Man® Baits rewarded Joey Nania with the Bassmaster Central Open—and a bonus win

Ladson, SC (May 5, 2021) - It was the day after Joey Nania's first major win in a Bassmaster Open, and the Z-Man pro from Cropwell, Alabama was already back on the water. Running on the fumes of under three hours sleep, Nania found himself flinging the same ¾-ounce ChatterBait® JackHammer™, and cashing his second 1st place check in two days.

"Winning wasn't even on my mind, going in the Bassmaster Open," admitted Nania, a longtime Z-Man pro and ten year-plus tournament veteran. "I just wanted to go out, enjoy myself and be at peace no matter where I landed in the standings. As it turned out, the Lord had other plans for me."

Nania's big bass bait of choice during the first two days of competition, a green pumpkin ChatterBait JackHammer.

On Thursday, April 29, entering the three-day Bassmaster Central Open on Tennessee's Pickwick Lake, Nania and the field of 223 anglers encountered cloudy, rainy conditions amid an approaching coldfront. Recognizing an impending bite window with the arrival of the front, Nania boated a couple 3- and 4-pound largemouths right away in the morning. His early bites came on a DieZel MinnowZ™ swum across a shallow gravel point.

With good weight already in the livewell, Nania went hawg-hunting with his green pumpkin JackHammer™ dressed with a smoky shad-pattern Z-Man RaZor ShadZ™. He worked 8 to 12 foot main river bars peppered with mixes of milfoil, hydrilla and stumps, all revealed on the screen of his Panoptix LiveScope unit.

"Got bit five times on my first cast with the JackHammer before finally hooking up on a 3-1/2-pounder. The fish were actually fighting over the bait; just crazy. Two casts later, a massive 8-2 largemouth ate the ChatterBait, spitting up an 8-inch gizzard shad in the process. The fish was a total freak of nature, probably 10-inches tall, 6-inches across the back, probably right at 23-inches long. Catching a giant like that just set the tone for a good day—really took the pressure off and skyrocketed my confidence."

The whopper ChatterBait bass earned Nania tourney big bass honors and a nice bonus check. Yet it was just one of over ten more bites Nania elicited in rapid-fire succession, culminating in a weight of 21-11; good for third-place on the leaderboard. The stage was set for what Nania would eventually call the best tournament of his career.

Post-frontal, slick calm and bluebird, day-two proved a struggle for much of the field. Nania went back to his grass and stump zones, 'hammering away with the ChatterBait. "I was working the outside grass edge while another guy was moving toward me on the inside. We both hooked up at the same time, both with ChatterBaits. Mine was a solid 4.5. After that, I kept panning down the grassline and quickly slung another one at about 3-1/2 that came off a stump. I watched the bass follow as I sped the bait up and she whacked it."

As the bite slowed, Nania transitioned to a Carolina-rigged Big TRD™ and popped another good stump bass. He then scaled down to a Finesse TRD™, rigged "Texas Ned shaky head style," with which he caught several more bass, culling out a sub-three pounder. "That gave me a decent limit and enabled me to go check on other spots in prep for the final day. Actually culled out another 2.8 with a 3-1/4, pitching a CrossEyeZ Swim Jig. And that's just how the day went—a variety of Z-Man baits and 17-13 in the livewell (his 3rd place position held).

A Z-Man Mag FattyZ helped seal the victory for Nania on day 3.

"Honestly, I had zero anticipation of winning, going in to day-three. Just wanted to go have fun and catch fish," admitted Nania.

Pushing off the dock on Saturday, Nania decided to start at a little nearby point. With competitors blasting by like aquatic rockets, he boated four keepers with a jerkbait in short order. "I felt pretty good to have those fish at 6:20 in the morning. Definitely took the edge off, early on."

For the next two hours, Nania struggled on his grass and stump locations before recalling an interesting observation and a bait he'd rigged the previous day. "I'd been seeing quite a few lampreys. Saw one or two just swimming around in my spots, and another couple attached to bass I caught, which were flung off when the fish jumped.

"I didn't even have a Z-Man Mag FattyZ in the boat the first two days, but that night, I rigged one up on a shaky head and told my wife, 'This thing looks a lot like those lampreys. The bass have got to be eating 'em—they just look like candy to me. I'm going to catch a bass on it tomorrow.'"

Pitching precise casts to individual stumps, Nania boated his entire 5-fish limit—including a whopper 6.2 pounder—on the 7.25-inch Mag FattyZ™, an ultrasoft, buoyant, subtle-action ElaZtech® worm.

"I'd try to hit the stump and let the bait settle down toward bottom. The FattyZ proved so deadly because at rest, it rises and hovers, tail-up," notes Nania, referring to the trending tournament bait. "That buoyancy is huge and sets the bait apart from non-ElaZtech worms that tip over and lay flat and lifeless on the bottom. Mostly, I'd swim it slowly, give it a shake-hop and then let it rest, which self-activated the tail and triggered most of my bites.

"I felt a nice thump and then the weight of a big fish swimming with the bait in its mouth," said Nania, recalling his six-pounder. "Thankfully, the bass never jumped. I just fought it around the boat before I could finally get my hands on it and hoist it aboard."

At the weigh-in, Nania was caught off guard by the reactions of fans. "I was reflecting on what was probably my best tournament ever, but also thinking I probably didn't win. I felt super content, regardless, and just wanted to glorify God up on the stage.

"But when I pulled in, fans and buddies were giving me fist-pumps, cheering like they knew something I didn't. (Fans had been following the action on the BassTrakk app.) When I saw my wife crying, man, it hit me. Having Jessica and my sons Zeke and Eli there with me . . . what a blessing."

Nania finished with 58-pounds 2-ounces, just a pound heavier than second place finisher Lonnie Cochran. He cashed a cool $53K paycheck, but Nania wasn't quite done winning.

The day after the BASS Open weigh-in, fishing a local Sylacauga Marine Tourney Trail derby at Lake Mitchell, Alabama, Nania had a few casts left in his arms—and just enough room in his bank account for another $12k paycheck. "I was so tired out there the day after the Open; just trying not to fall asleep. We were up below the Lay Lake dam and I decided to pull out the same rod and ChatterBait I'd caught 'em on at Pickwick. Didn't even re-tie my knot. I'd never thrown a JackHammer in a heavy current situation like that. And yet, still wound up catching two of our winning fish—3 and 4 pound spotted bass—on that same, very lucky bait."

Z-Man pro-staff director Joey Prochazka, who followed his pal Nania all weekend on social media, shared in the celebration among the entire Z-Man crew. "Joey's been a valued member of Team Z for a lot of years. He's been with us almost from the launch of ElaZtech. To see him get his first big win and to qualify for the Bassmaster Classic . . . it's just a great moment. We couldn't be happier for Joey and his family on a great win—or, make that, two!"

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