Billy “Hawkeye” Decoteau

There is a passion about pursuing the ‘Black Bass’ that drives us in many different directions! For some it’s the thrill of high stake bass tournaments, screaming across huge impoundments at racecar speeds with high performance outboards, others strive to stay within their means by competing in local and regional bass tournaments, while there are yet others who desire to become one with their environment in a solitary effort these individuals seek out the most remote bass haunts available.

Their bass rigs come in a variety of shapes and sizes, yet each is designed for specific presentations and more often than not specific bodies of water as well! There are those individuals, who will backpack, float tubes to hidden ponds, or beaver dammed areas on quiet countryside brooks and streams.

Then there are the ‘Tin Boat Wizards’! These individuals are a rare-breed and depending upon the size of their aluminum craft, be it a dory stuffed in the back of a pickup bed, or a sleek clean-trailer craft, each boat captain carries a ‘Bass-Eating –Grin, that only time on the water can understand. Some are recluse’s, searching for a therapeutic treatment only found in the Creators creation. Yet, all have the same goal in life………………pursuit of the largest Black Bass on their chosen body of water!

One such individual ‘Tin Boat Wizard’ is Rich Zolla, designer and proprietor of ‘Grizz Baits’. ( At first glance, ‘Grizz’ indeed portrays the appearance of a modern day Davy Crockett! Wrapped with a full facial beard, a working knowledge of the backwoods, Zolla has the ability to detect and distinguish the most remote movement and minute sound of every critter surrounding him. Launching his aluminum craft, Rich Zolla a shallow water guru transfers his understanding and appreciation from the world above the surface, to the aquatic world below the surface.

” I suppose every angler has his or her most favorite body of water to fish, but for me there is no other place on earth as peaceful and serene as Quabbin Reservoir!” acknowledges Zolla. Eighteen miles long, encompassing 181 miles of shoreline, Quabbin Reservoir is a man made public water supply for the residents of Massachusetts’s metropolitan Boston, area.

According to Zolla, the Quabbin Reservoir project started in 1930 by flooding four rural towns within the Swift River Valley; Dana, North Dana, Greenwich and Enfield. “The entire project took nine years to complete!” Quabbin’s crystal clear water clarity allows anglers to actually view, stonewalls, old road beds, stumps, and in some areas stone foundations, at twenty-foot depths. Eagles, coyote, deer, black bear, turkey, beavers, loons, hawks and other wildlife seem to be additional reasons for Rich Zolla’s allure to Quabbin’s pristine angling opportunities.

“With approximately sixty islands, Quabbin’s 412 billion gallons of water divert into coves, pockets, and interlocking channels, all providing habitat conducive to the Black Bass, and their favorite forage,” informs Zolla. Then with a quick-witted grin paired with a soft-spoken tone in his voice, “These are the areas in which I have caught some of my many Lunker Largemouth Bass!”

Meeting Rich Zolla, of whom I have affectionately nicknamed “Grizz” for obvious reasons, at our designated rendezvous point. We loaded my camera gear, tackle and suggested items into his ‘Tin Boat’. Taking notes while listening to Grizz as we drove unto Quabbin’s Gate 43, I felt as though I was back in college rendering my attention totally to my Quabbin mentor!

To the point of being anal, Rich Zolla’s means of preparing his “Tin Boat’, organizing our equipment, ended with a step-by-step precision launching of his Quabbin Craft! I knew at this point I was in for one of the most enjoyable experiences of my lifetime………and as I was soon to learn one of the most educationally memorial as well!

Concentrating on coves within site of Fishing Area #3, Grizz maneuvered his craft within inches of boulders and shallow gravel flats, or so it appeared, as his seasoned Johnson 20 HP outboard powered us to our first stop. “This is the maximum horsepower allowed on Quabbin, for two-stroke engines,” says Rich ‘Grizz’ Zolla. (Log unto for additional information.)

Handing me one of his newly designed 3/8 oz Alaskan Grizzly Parallel Twin Rear Blade spinnerbaits in a Bluegill color pattern, I immediately appreciated the craftsmanship and detail, Zolla incorporated into his products! “This is one of the four Predator Prey Series colors we have designed based on predators such as the Black Bass and Northern Pike. Our color selections resemble Baby Bass, Bluegill, Rainbow Trout and Yellow Perch, which is the forage they prey upon,” replied Zolla.

Under Rich Zolla’s tutelage, I quickly discovered the inherent abilities to work the Alaskan Grizzly Twin spinnerbait in a variety of techniques. Burning the bait across the surfaced, caused a commotion similar to a small school of fleeing bait fish, while slow rolling or cranking the Alaskan Grizzly along the bottom sent enormous amounts of vibration through the water column. My Bluegill pattern also resembled the exact colors of the actual forage.

As we approached a down tree along a five-foot contour line Zolla added to his list of Alaskan Grizzly Twin Spin techniques. “Make a cast to within inches of the tree and then let your Alaskan Grizzly, free-fall vertically into the deeper water.” Although, I received no reaction strike on this cast, I was overwhelmed at the Alaskan Grizzly’s vertical action! It was identical to the baits horizontal retrieve. Extremely balanced with all blades spinning, reflecting a realistic baitfish appeal.

Circling the downed tree, I continued to make multiple casts dissecting the entire piece of cover from every possible angle. After about twenty or more rapid fire cast on the same piece of isolated cover, I echoed fish-on! “I knew there had to be a bass on that tree”, replied Grizz as he netted my first of many Quabbin bass for the day. Holding up my Grizz Baits largemouth Alaskan Grizzly spinnerbait bass, he added, “This is about a 2.25-2.5 lb Largemouth, which is a normal size largemouth for Quabbin.”

Working our way in a northerly direction, Rich Zolla continued to enlighten me to the history and panoramic beauty of Quabbin Reservoir. Idling up to a wind blown point, Grizz informed me of the structure and cover hidden below the surface. “This point always seems to produce when the wind blows from the southerly direction. There is a huge cluster of boulders in about ten-feet, topping out at two-feet below the surface. Both laregmouths and smallmouths use these boulders as ambush points for schools of bait fish.”

Armed with a double-Colorado blade 3/8 oz Cocoa Bear Gold Shad color spinnerbait,

Grizz made a perfect cast into the wind, let his blade bait fall a few feet then began slowly reeling it into the boulders. “As soon as it hit those boulders that bass inhaled it!” Adding quickly, ”I think I’ll need the net for this one, Hawkeye?” After several leaping thrashing runs, Rich Zolla, brought his lunker largemouth along side the boat within reach of the net.

With passion and gentleness, Zolla, measured the length and girth, tallied an official scale weight of 6.1lbs and smiled for a few pictures before releasing his sixth largemouth of the young 2010 season over six pounds!

After ten-hours battling Quabbin’s largemouth and smallmouth bass we headed back to the ramp. Inhaling the clean fresh air, my friend, guide, and mentor Rich ‘Grizz’ Zolla, kept me aware of Quabbin’s wildlife by pointing out eagle nest, soaring eagles, loons, historic landmarks, and even a few deer along the shoreline. To view the complete line of Rich Zolla’s quality spinnerbait products, which include, in-line spinners, buzz-baits and jigs, log unto or send Rich an email at…Tell ‘Grizz’ Hawkeye sent you!

God Bless and Best Bass’n