Meet Mark Heltzel, 2019 Angler of the Year

Published : 2019-11-21 18:29:06
Categories : LowerGear Outdoors News

Meet Mark Heltzel, 2019 Angler of the Year
We manage a great series of kayak fishing tournament in Arizona each year and 2019 was our best yet - great attendance and lots of fun!  We have 2 separate series - one here in the Phoenix area, and one based in Lake Havasu.  We track the results for each participating angler at each event and award points based on the position of each angler – for example, if there were 70 entrants at an event, the top finisher earned 70 points; #2 earned 69 and on down the line.  The events are only about 6 hours out on the water, so anything can happen - might win one event and get skunked the next.  But there are always a few consistent placers over the year, and that angler with the most earned points at the end of the series is our Angler of the Year.  This year in the Phoenix region, the winner was Mark Heltzel, who was recognized for his achievement at our season-ending event in Lake Havasu. 

We took a few minutes to talk with Mark to share with our kayak fishing community:

Tell us where you grew up and a little about your family and what do you do now for a living when you aren't out fishing?  

I was born and raised here in Phoenix, Az. For the last twelve years I have been a member of the Phoenix Fire Department. It is the greatest job in the world. I am very fortunate to have a wonderful family! My bass queen Amy is deadly with a drop shot in her hand and often out fishes me. We have two daughters, Teagan 10 and Brooke 5 both loves getting out and fishing with dad.


What has been your evolution in fishing - how did you get your start fishing and when did that develop into kayak fishing?  

I grew up fishing with my Dad and Grandpa. I can still remember catching my first bluegill when I was three or four years old. My grandfather lived in a retirement community that had a lake and I fished from sunrise until it was time for bed and would have to be dragged away from.  Fishing was always an obsession of mine!

When my grandfather passed away, I stepped away from fishing for a few years. It wasn’t until my daughter was born that I really reconnected with it. We would put her in a backpack and hike up and down streams and lakes fishing from shore. I had my fire for fishing back. I bought just a cheap sit on top kayak and started fishing our local desert lakes. I stumbled upon a post about a kayak tournament at Roosevelt lake and I was in. I think there were only ten competitors that day. Its been amazing to watch the sport grow here locally from back then to now where we have 70-80 people fishing these tournaments!


What kind of kayak and rigging setups do you usually take out  for the tournaments?

I now fish out of a 2018 Hobie PA 14. I have had a handful of kayaks over the years and the PA is hands down the best fishing platform out there! I have a Lowrance Elite 7 ti rigged to the kayak. Learning to use electronics has been a game changer for me. Being able to locate fish and structure offshore was the difference in a few tournaments this year!

I have a tendency to load my kayak up with too many rods and way too much tackle, but I want to be prepared for every possible situation that might arise on the water. I usually have 8 rods split between finesse spinning outfits and bait casters for power fishing and covering water.


What are your go-to lures and techniques to achieve the consistent results you had across the several lakes we’ve fished at this year’s tournaments?

I thought fishing this year was very difficult for whatever reason. I didn’t catch a lot of fish the way I usually catch them. Every tournament was a grind and I had to catch them a different way in each one. The key was to be versatile. Obviously, a drop shot came into play. The neko rig was another technique that I was able to catch some good fish on.

When you have time to go wherever you want, what’s your favorite water to hit?

Once upon a time, Apache lake was my favorite. It didn’t get a lot of pressure and many times I would be out there all by myself. I could catch big bass and an occasional giant smallmouth which is my favorite! Hopefully, that lake will make a comeback. Now I find myself running out to Bartlett just to have fun and get bites!

I want to thank Dallas and LowerGear Outdoors for putting on these tournaments and for growing the sport out here in Arizona. It has been truly amazing to see how far we have come. Thank you to all the competitors! You guys have made me a better fisherman and become great friends. Thank you to my family for putting up with me being gone and spending money on soft plastic baits! When it comes to fishing, I am an open book. If anyone ever has any questions don’t be afraid to ask. 

Thank you Mark and we'll see you in 2020 - dates and locations will be announced soon!

Share this content