Father and son sharing life, learning to be coach and angler

Jeff Wolfe and his son Zach have shared four years of high school and other competitive fishing as a coach and angler, and as co-anglers.

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Zach Wolfe holding his third-place finish catch last year on Lake St. Clair, laughing because his dad Jeff (hidden) is helping him hold the five smallmouth bass.

Zach Wolfe holding his third-place finish catch last year on Lake St. Clair, laughing because his dad Jeff (hidden) is helping him hold the five smallmouth bass.

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Asked what it was like being father and son, as well as coach and angler for four years at Lincoln-Way Central, Jeff Wolfe and son Zach started laughing.

‘‘It was pretty contentious at times,’’ Jeff said. ‘‘Talk to any of the kids, and they will tell you. We were more military brothers than father and son. He has his opinions. I am the coach and have 30 more years of experience.

‘‘There were times we disagreed on patterns to fish. If we were catching fish, it was not as bad. As a coach with [the others], I don’t ride them as hard or offer them suggestions the same way. The other kids on the team would take my advice. He was more like thinking of me as a dad rather than a coach.’’

‘‘That’s pretty accurate,’’ Zach said.

They work well enough together that both fished as co-anglers last year in the Michigan division of the Phoenix Bass Fishing League.

‘‘I enjoyed a lot about how different places set up to fish,’’ Zach said. ‘‘Most of the stuff around us is near shore on Lake Michigan shoreline structure. Out there, they are fishing off-shore structure and fishing fish.

‘‘You’re at the mercy of your boaters.’’

That explains why it mattered when Zach drew Patrick Ricchi, who left the back graph on. Not all boaters do that.

‘‘I could see the bottom clumps of grass,’’ Zach said. ‘‘Occasionally, there was a red mark just above the grass. I would reel in and drop down. Sometimes they would take it, and sometimes they would not.’’

Enough took it that he finished third in that event with 20 pounds, 1 ounce.

Zach said recalling his most memorable fish was easy.

‘‘First day of pre-fishing St. Clair, first time ever, practicing for the first event of the BFL and was about to head in for the day,’’ he said. ‘‘Caught a 6.34-pound smallmouth. Best fish catch of my life.’’

Zach Wolfe with his most memorable fish, a 6.34-pound smallmouth bass caught prefishing last year for an event in the Michigan division of the Phoenix Bass Fishing League. Provided photo

Zach Wolfe with his most memorable fish, a 6.34-pound smallmouth bass caught prefishing last year for an event in the Michigan division of the Phoenix Bass Fishing League.

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For the season, Jeff finished 31st and Zach 37th to qualify for the regional.

Change is coming.

Zach made a verbal commitment to attend Carson-Newman University in Tennessee. Carson-Newman, which finished first in the Bassmaster College Classic in March, formed an Intercollegiate Recreational Sports Department last fall. Hunter Sales, the coach of the Eagle Anglers team, leads it.

Zach plans to major in business or marketing to build his brand.

‘‘His goal is to fish professionally,’’ Jeff said. ‘‘Go through college and build his resume. We know that is pie-in-the-sky. The alternative is to fish competitively but work in the industry.’’

Last year was good for the Lincoln-Way Central Anglers Club. Zach picked up his second all-state honor and Bill Erdakos his first from the Illinois Bass Fishing Coaches Association. The club earned Team of the Year and Jeff earned Coach of the Year. (The awards were decided by data, not popular vote.)

In June, Zach and Joe Padula took sixth at the ICASSTT Clash on Lake Springfield to qualify for nationals. The next week, Zach and Erdakos also qualified by winning the Illinois Bass Nation High School State Championship on the Des Plaines River.

Bill Erdakos, coach Jeff Wolfe and his son Zach Wolfe after Lincoln-Way Central won the Illinois Bass Nation high school state title last summer. Provided photo 

Bill Erdakos, coach Jeff Wolfe and his son Zach Wolfe after Lincoln-Way Central won the Illinois Bass Nation high school state title last summer.

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Jeff started the club the year before Zach reached high school. Then came Zach’s freshman year and COVID.

‘‘We had 45 kids come out that year,’’ Jeff said. ‘‘It was going to a really good year for us. It would be really hard to run a program that big, then we lost that year. I got to fish with Zach a lot instead.’’

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