Ross Robertson

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Z-Man Hooks Walleye Fishing Frontman


At age 14, Ross Robertson already knew he wanted to be a major league player on the pro fishing scene. After school and on weekends, the “skinny kid” worked at a local tackle store near his home in Toledo, Ohio — a short cast from the shores of Lake Erie’s famed Western basin, perhaps the single greatest trophy walleye fishery on earth. It was here that Robertson met anglers the likes of Jim Fofrich Sr., the legendary and pioneering Great Lakes walleye man. Robertson also befriended “Mr. Walleye” Gary Roach, who became a lifelong angling amigo.

Eventually, Robertson — who once compared his teenage self with Opie from The Andy Griffith Show — competed and conquered major walleye circuits. While travelling with his mentor, Dave Hanson, Robertson did the dirty work, too, sorting nightcrawlers and minnows, rerigging tackle, troubleshooting boat and trailer issues, you name it. Along the way, Ross learned the ropes of the competitive walleye game, of course. But Hanson also offered lessons on making a career in the fishing industry, including the overlooked details of working with tackle companies, product design and the value of media communications.

Decades later, new Z-Man pro Captain Ross Robertson has grown to be one of the most recognizable and revered names in the walleye game. For the past few decades, he has operated a highly successful multi-boat guide business on Lake Erie. His byline appears regularly in national fishing magazines. His blogs, videos and podcasts play on prominent online outlets, including his own multimedia organization, Bigwater Fishing. In 2013, he co-authored the bestselling book, Walleye Trolling. (To underscore his impact, Robertson has also appeared and addressed national fishing topics on CNN and Good Morning America.)

For years, Robertson has designed walleye lures targeted for trolling. Recently, recognizing the unique, walleye-centric advantages of ElaZtech softbaits — and the rising significance of casting artificial lures for ol’ marble eyes — Robertson forged a partnership with the people at Z-Man Fishing Products — a leader in bass baits and an ascending brand within the walleye world.

“These days, every player in the walleye arena is hearing about ElaZtech superplastics and the baits’ almost unimaginable benefits,” said Robertson. “But when you go fishing and discover that all these claims about ’50 to 100 fish on one softbait;’ that the baits are also twice as soft and thereby livelier in the water; or that their buoyancy adds a critical third dimension of fish-attracting movement — and that all those things are true — man, that’s pretty wild.

“Then you realize, we’re just scratching the surface of what can be done with ElaZtech and new walleye bait shapes and actions. It’s motivation to keep stepping outside the comfort zone and expanding the sport’s possibilities. My belief is that Z-Man’s the right tackle company for walleye at just the right time.”

From the perspective of the people behind the “Z,” walleyes have long been on the radar.

“Several years ago, we introduced our Micro Finesse baits — a category (panfish) we had never entered before,” said Joey Prochazka, Z-Man pro staff and promotions manager. “It’s become our single fastest growing ElaZtech category. And in several, perhaps not so obvious ways, we see parallels to walleye and a logical next path in product outreach.

“But to get there, we needed to align with the sharpest walleye minds, from top young sticks like Dylan Nussbaum to seasoned vets like Ross. Few anglers today are more tuned in to walleye trends in new products and techniques. And next to no one is more dialed into media communications in walleye. Ross knows everyone in the game, operates in both new and traditional media and has been around long enough to understand how to bridge the gap between the sport’s pioneers and new generations of anglers using artificial lures and live sonar.”

“What I’ve learned through working in fishing for quite a while is that every three or four years, you have to reinvent yourself,” said Robertson. “Whether that means adapting from print to electronic media communications. Or adjusting fishing techniques and embracing new technology. Hard work and persistence nearly always equals success. Roach taught me that no matter how many walleyes or bass or crappies you catch, you still have to keep the business thing going, because very few of us get paid to actually fish.

“Even more important, I believe, is to surround yourself with the right people. For me, it started with Jim Fofrich and Dave Hanson and Gary Roach. The folks at Z-Man and our partnership are in many ways, equally essential — and rewarding — to what I do. Can’t wait to dig in and help anglers everywhere better understand new walleye techniques with ElaZtech baits, and another little secret, ChatterBait bladed jigs, which we’ll be sharing, soon.

“Developing radical new baits and tactics for my favorite fish with the Z-Team is going to be a blast.”