(Brainerd, MN) — February 7th, 2023 — When you think of fishing, what comes to mind? Maybe your grandfather…sitting alone in a boat…probably falling asleep. Well, Zac Padrnos is on a mission to challenge that perception.
You see, Padrnos is anything but your typical angler. In a sport that’s synonymous with gray hair, the 13-year-old Minnesotan is hardly who most people expect to see out on the water.
But don’t underestimate him…he’s also a champion angler. Reeling in a nine-and-a-half-pound walleye, Padrnos is the recent winner of the 33rd annual Brainerd Jaycees Ice Fishing Extravaganza — the world’s largest ice fishing tournament held for charity.
For Padrnos, though, it’s not about winning. In fact, fishing has never been about the catch for him. He says that what he loves most about fishing is spending quality time with his family.
“It’s not every day that you’re going to drop your line and make a catch,” Padrnos said. “But what you can count on is having a good time, so I guess that’s what’s most important to me. My dad, uncle and grandpa have been taking me fishing since I was little, so I think it’s something a lot of families can enjoy.”
It’s a belief shared by the people who help make the Minnesota tournament possible. The Mills family — of Mills Automotive Group in Brainerd and Willmar, Minn. — helped open the tournament in 1990, and they’ve been continuing to support the event ever since. In fact, Padrnos is now the proud owner of a new Ford F-150 pickup truck — the tournament’s first-place prize — thanks to the company’s Baxter, Minn. location.
“The Mills family may not be experienced anglers like Zac, but supporting our communities has always been an important part of our business, and the way that fishing helps people connect with each other is why we helped establish the Brainerd Jaycees tournament,” said Tom Pfeiffer, Marketing Manager at Mills Automotive. “Staying connected to our community has always been a core value for us at Mills Auto, and even after 33 years of supporting this event, it’s still moving to see how fishing brings people together.”
So why do these families say fishing has been a positive influence on their lives? Turns out, it has little to do with the fish.
“Family life can be so busy and fast-paced and hyperconnected — sometimes we need an activity to help us unplug, slow down and relax with some quality time,” Pfeiffer said. “What’s more, learning a new skill together as a family is a great way to bond and connect, which is what led our own family to discover fishing years ago and go on to help organize this tournament so other people can connect over a shared love of fishing, too.”
If your family is interested in exploring the activity together, Padrnos has three easy tips to get started.
- Find a fishing spot. Going fishing doesn’t mean you have to pack up for a long drive far away from home. Places to fish are closer than you think. Parks and lakes can be great locations for your first fishing excursion because they’re close to home.
- Gather your bait and tackle.There are two primary types of bait: natural and artificial. It’s up to you which to use, although beginners often have better luck with natural bait, as it tends to be a better fish attractant.
- Rig your line and cast. If you feel a fish tugging, point your rod skyward. Begin reeling in your catch by slowly lowering your rod until it reaches a 45-degree angle. Return your rod to a vertical position and repeat the process as needed.
“I’ve always been a big believer that family comes first, and that’s a value we’ve instilled in the way we run our business, too,” Pfeiffer said. “Whether you’re an expert like the Padrnos family or a novice like ours, fishing can be a great way to make memories with the people you love that will last forever. Plus, you never know — you might just find you’re…hooked.”