Minnesota Fishing Hall of Fame names 2024 inductees

Jan. 15—LITTLE FALLS, Minn. — Four individuals and three organizations will be enshrined by the Fishing Hall of Fame of Minnesota in 2024, the organization said in a press release.

Inductees in the Individual Legends category are Scott Bonnema, Tom Zenanko, Matt Straw and Nancy Koep. In addition, Fishing for Life, Ice Team and Wayzata Bait & Tackle will round out this year's inductee list.

To be selected for the Minnesota Fishing Hall of Fame, individuals must be Minnesota residents who have lived in the state for a minimum of 25 years, be at least 50 years of age and have made meritorious contributions to the sport of fishing.

Businesses and organizations may also be nominated, provided they are registered in Minnesota and have made similar noteworthy contributions to fishing. Nominations are accepted from the general public, and the list is reduced to the top 10 by current Hall members, after which finalists are voted on for induction.

In a news release, the organization said the Hall "stands to recognize all passionate fishing promoters, whether they have made a difference through education, legislation, guiding, manufacturing, media promotions or other means."

The official enshrinement will take place on Friday, Sept. 27, 2024, at the Rice Creek Hunting, Rec and Event Center in Little Falls. Here's a closer look at this year's inductees.

A native of Prinsburg, Minnesota, Bonnema pursued a degree in Non-Destructive Testing from Hutchinson Technical College after high school. His career then led him to California, where he quickly caught on to the California fishery that ignited his passion for competitive bass fishing. In 1989, he returned to Minnesota and continued to be involved in tournament bass fishing by participating in numerous tournaments, including the Dick Hiley St. Jude Bass Classic, which is in its 25th year and has successfully raised over $5.8 million for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. Bonnema serves as a board member of the Mille Lacs Smallmouth Alliance, an organization dedicated to rebuilding, preserving and maintaining Mille Lacs as a world-class trophy smallmouth bass fishery.

For more than 45 years, Zenanko has dedicated his life to teaching people to fish, from his television series, the "Sportsman's Journal" — shown in 43 markets in the 1980s — to his bestselling videotape series, "Tom Zenanko's Fishing Tips and Secrets." Zenanko also authored four successful books on fishing and published a weekly hunting and fishing magazine, The Sportsman's Press. He has performed well over 1,200 seminars in 28 states. Zenanko competed and won many local and regional fishing tournaments and even won the Professional Walleye Trail's Western Walleye Championship in 1992. Zenanko continued his unique style of education to help sell products at Vexilar and launched the first online streaming series, "Ice Fishing Today." He worked with Vexilar for the next 20 years and retired in 2021.

Straw was inducted into the Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame in Hayward, Wisconsin, in 2019 as a "Legendary Communicator." He is now a Field Editor for In-Fisherman magazine and is also a freelance writer, having bylines in a wide variety of magazines, including Field & Stream, Outdoor Canada, Fly Fisherman, Game & Fish, Musky Hunter and many others. His work has also appeared in anthologies such as "Michigan Seasons," "Harvest Moon" and "Hooked." Straw is also active as an author, freelance photographer and editor.

Koep is no stranger to the fishing industry and has a true passion for sharing her love of it, the Hall said in a news release. She has spent countless hours volunteering to help people learn more about the sport. Her interest in fishing started at an early age while working at the family resort on Spitzer Lake, and then working in the family businesses of bait shops and convenience stores. In 1999, her family opened their last convenience store/bait shop in Glenwood, Minnesota, where she found her true passion of sharing her love for fishing with the younger generation. She has had 24 successful years of supporting the Glenwood community and continues supporting it today. Some of her many accomplishments include MN Aqua Educator, Outdoor Women instructor, recipient of the Lions Melvin Jones Award, featured on "Minnesota Bound" and "Fish Addictions TV," and being recognized in the Definitive Women magazine covering four counties.

Fishing For Life was founded in 2004 by Tom Goodrich and serves youth, families, veterans and communities through several summer fishing and outdoor programs, including a

catfishing event they hosted in September on the Red River

in Grand Forks and East Grand Forks. Fishing for Life uses more than 1,100 volunteers with over 9,100 volunteer hours to share their experience, boats and knowledge to bring fishing into kids' lives.

Ice Team is the original ice fishing club and team. Founded in 1997, Ice Team was established to be the premier ice fishing resource for the ice fishing community by teaching the modern ways of ice fishing, across the Ice Belt of the U.S. and Canada. "The Ice Team isn't just the promoters and anglers behind the brand, but it's everyone who loves the sport and wants to be involved," according to the Hall's news release. "Ice Team helped revolutionize the sport of ice fishing and continues to blaze the trails for new techniques, products and innovation for the sport we all love."

Wayzata Bait & Tackle is owned by brothers Tim and Bob Sonenstahl, who have been sharing their passion since working as kids in the shop where Tim would cover Bob's shifts — and vice versa — to allow them time to fish competitively. Bob won Minnesota's Walleye State Championships in 1979 and 1980, and Tim chased bass as part of Minnesota's Pro-Am Series. Bob also guided bass on Lake Minnetonka, fishing mornings and working the shop every afternoon. That would cement the Sonenstahls' daily schedule. Bob would open the shop at 5 a.m. and work until 1 p.m., and Tim would take over and work from 1 to 8 p.m. They worked the shop seven days a week. The only time the shop closes is for Minnesota's deer opener.

During the shop's busiest years, Bob and Tim would employ friends and area students to help bag minnows and share fishing reports. Bob also built the shop's crappie jigs, spinner baits and walleye spinners. Tim, who was taught reel repair at the age of 14, had been doing the bait shop's repairs ever since. You can also still find Bob's custom baits for sale. The brothers also sponsor and help teach and coach alongside local high school fishing teams.

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