(Editor’s note: Leading up to the 2013 FLW College Fishing National Championship – slated for April 19-21 on Beaver Lake in Rodgers, Ark. – CollegeFishing.com will publish weekly, in-depth features stories of each of the 25 national championship team qualifiers. At stake in the tournament is a first-place prize package that includes $30,000 in cash, a brand new, Ranger Z-117 bass boat and an automatic berth in the 2013 Forrest Wood Cup.)
Club Web site: Ramapo College bass fishing on Facebook
CollegeFishing.com: How were you introduced to fishing?
Joe Zapf: My family and I always used to go on summer vacations to different lakes in the Adirondacks in New York. That is where my dad taught me and my brother how to fish as kids. Every year we could not wait to go on vacation to bass fish for a whole week. From there we became more serious about bass fishing in New Jersey, and eventually joined a youth chapter in the New Jersey Bass Federation. That is where I first started tournament fishing. From there my interest and passion for the sport continued to grow and now I am fortunate to be competing on both the FLW College and BFL levels.
Jeff Voss: Growing up in Secaucus, N.J., a stone’s throw away from New York City, I do get asked a lot about how I got into fishing coming from in such an urban area. The reason behind that is the closest fishable lake to my house is nearly an hour away. However, New Jersey is not where I was introduced to fishing. My parents own a house in Pennsylvania, near the Delaware River, where my father would bring me fishing all the time, starting at a very young age. All my life I have always been around fishing, even though fishing was not around me.
I started fishing tournaments at the age of 11 for the youth club Next Generation Jr. Bassmasters. A few years later, while I was president of that club, it won an award for best junior bass fishing club in the nation. All of the skills that I have picked up through the years are directly related to this club. I can’t thank all the people associated with NGB enough because all of them helped me become the angler that I am today. Throughout my fishing career, my parents could not have been any more supportive of my fishing. My parents have always wanted me to do what makes me happy, and bass fishing is just something that I feel a strong connection with.
CollegeFishing.com: What style/method of fishing are you most comfortable with?
Joe Zapf: I’m most comfortable with any kind of smallmouth fishing. Although I began fishing mostly for largemouth in New Jersey, it is hard to beat catching a giant smallmouth. I just love going up to New York and fishing the awesome lakes like Lake Champlain, the Finger Lakes and 1000 Islands for the amazing smallmouth they have.
Jeff Voss: Because I did most of my tournament fishing in New Jersey, I learned early on that versatility is the key to success. Bass fishing in New Jersey is some of the toughest fishing that I have ever experienced. Jersey has a bit of everything – sometimes one pattern works, sometimes multiple patters work. So it’s all about making the right choices. When I get to a body of water, there are a lot of variables that I consider before I decide what kind of approach I will try. While fishing tournaments in the northern areas of the country, the biggest question for me is what species to target. I have a lot of experience fishing largemouth bass as well as smallmouth bass and don’t really have any preference as to what species I target. When I am fishing a tournament, I always try to keep an open mind and fish in the moment.
Although, if I had to pick one style of fishing that I have the most confidence in, it would have to be a drop-shot. Drop-shotting is one of those techniques that I know I can catch fish anywhere. During tough tournaments I will always have a drop-shot tied on. The reason being is that I have yet to see a scenario out on a lake where a drop-shot will not catch some fish.
CollegeFishing.com: What did it feel like to qualify for the 2013 FLW College Fishing National Championship? How do you plan to prepare for the big event?
Joe Zapf: It feels amazing. I qualified for this event last year with Jeff and we are excited to re-qualify. This is the biggest event in college fishing, and to have a chance to make it to the Forest Wood Cup, who couldn’t be excited about that? As far as planning is concerned, we will do as much research as we possibly can back here in New Jersey, and then hopefully we are going to get some time off to practice and learn a lot about Beaver Lake. From there, we will look to have a strong showing during the tournament.
Jeff Voss: Making it back to the National Championship feels great. Being a senior, this might be my last shot to try to win the title. It truly feels great to get back to the Championship once again and compete. I really can’t thank FLW and sponsors enough for giving us college students these opportunities. I can’t even begin to name all of the people I have met and friends I have made through the FLW College Fishing series. I am very proud to be a part of this program. And when I am finally done, I will miss it very much.
The FLW College Fishing National Championship is one of the biggest tournaments that a college student can fish, and I am going to prepare for the occasion. I will be making the long trip from New Jersey down to Beaver Lake to give myself the best chance to win. I will be practicing hard, just like many other angers, giving it their all to try and win. When I am down there, I will give my all. And hopefully, in the end, all my hard work will pay off and I will have an opportunity to take the title.
CollegeFishing.com: Tell us something interesting about yourself that most people wouldn’t know.
Joe Zapf: One interesting thing that most people do not know about me is that I am an ice hockey referee and have been since I was 12 years old. I played ice hockey as a kid and eventually became a referee. It has allowed me to still be involved in a sport which I still enjoy and, to this day, I have refereed hundreds of ice hockey games.
Jeff Voss: Throughout my life, there were always two things that I never lost interest in: bass fishing and computers. All through middle school and high school, when I wasn’t bass fishing, I would be doing something with a computer. However, bass fishing has always been and will always be my passion. Before fishing the college series, the biggest tournament that I could fish was the National Guard Junior World Championship. I started fishing tournaments with Next Generation Jr. Bassmasters at age 11, and started to progress very quickly. With the exception of my first year, I never missed the angler of the year title. I had the most weight in the club for five straight years, but unfortunately, that doesn’t qualify you for the Junior World Championship. Year after year of qualifying for the state championship, and receiving countless second places, I finally got my shot to fish the Junior World Championship in 2008, in Pittsburgh on Three Rivers. That accomplishment will always be something that I remember because it was my first big win.
While bass fishing has always been my first priority, computers and technology in general has always held my interest. I am currently studying at Ramapo College and I am majoring in Information Systems. I think that an education and a degree is something very important, and at this point in my life, my degree has to be my main focus. That is why I feel that the FLW College Fishing series is so great. It gives college students like me a chance to pursue something that they enjoy while still obtaining an education.