Mark Zona: It's Show Time

Photo of Mark Zona fishing with his friend Jerry
"Our shoots are similar to when you go on a fishing trip"

The question I get most often about doing Zona’s Awesome Fishing Show is: how long does it take to film?

It sounds like a really easy question, but I don’t think there is a clear-cut answer. All the years I watched Jerry McKinnis do the “The Fishin’ Hole,” I thought, “That seems about as easy as it could be.”

Filming a show can be the easiest thing on earth, or it can be what seems like the absolutely the hardest thing to accomplish. There are two reasons when it gets difficult. The first is human error.

I’ll brag on us first. Our shoots are similar to like when you go on a fishing trip. I pack everything up, get in my truck and get the crew, whom I consider my fishing partners, and we hit the lake.

We don’t get practice time. I may look at a lake for an hour just to get a read of it, but I never wanted to “pre-fish” for a shoot. I don’t think that makes it very natural. That’s the one thing about Zona’s Awesome Fishing Show I wanted, to be just like anybody’s trip, a group of buddies just fishing and hopefully figuring it out.

There is no script when you go out with your buddies and there’s obviously not a script when we do a show. Obviously. We go out with just a mental game plan of how we’re going to attack it, taking into account the weather, time of year and all that.

What’s amazing is there are times when the smallmouth or largemouth are absolutely wired to the way we’re fishing and it takes 45 minutes to shoot a 30-minute show, actually 22 minutes, 15 seconds of air time.

Does that happen all the time? Unfortunately, no. We may get one or two of those a season and feel very, very, very fortunate.

One thing about me is I don’t know when enough is enough. I want 500 fish catches in a show, but the reality is all you need is six to eight really good fish. At times, you don’t even need that many.

The negative is when the fishing absolutely stinks, and then we might stay at a lake for a day and a half. In six or seven years, I don’t think we’ve ever stayed at a place more than two days. We either caught enough or got to the point where it was so painful I thought, “Just air it, air it.”

I’ve always said we were going to include the fumbles and interceptions, and we’ve had those. That’s the No. 1 challenge, human error. The other is weather.

We plan probably four to six weeks out, kind of pick a lake and look at what the weather pattern might be going on, which never works out. The weather is the No. 1 ultimate enemy of shooting a fishing show, whether that’s Falcon Lake in Texas or Lake Guntersville.

I remember actually shooting at Lake Guntersville, and thought how all the matted grass in the Goosepond looked so inviting, but as we tried to launch we found out that it was complete frozen.

Needless to say, that was a very challenging shoot. But there are other times where the wind doesn’t blow and you get a high pressure weather situation that the fish are just going crazy.

So I guess the answer to how long does it take to make a fishing show is a rather vague between 45 minutes and a day and a half.

And it always seems like the shows that I really felt we were going to knock out of the ballpark, the ones that I would call layups -- launch the boat, catch the bass, big bass, big time, everybody having fun -- those have been hands down the most challenging shoots.

Interestingly enough, the lakes that we’ve thought were going be tough have turned out to be some of the better fishing shoots, whether it’s been conditions, number of fish caught, something interesting happens, like we actually learn something, and stuff like that.

In a nutshell, to tie this all up with BoatU.S., you have to be prepared for everything. Never take for granted that when you hook that boat up it’s all gonna be peaches and cream, because it just doesn’t work that way.

It always works that way up in our skull, but generally Mother Nature and some of our bad habits on the water can get us in a little bit of trouble, especially with the fall and winter setting in.

We don’t shut down. When we go to various lakes, we always dream of success and that 45-minute shoot, but it’s good to know BoatUS ANGLER is there for any failure, which I’m sure will come in the next 10 minutes when I walk out the door.  

Click for Blog Mark Zona

BoatUS ANGLER Pro Staff member, Bassmaster Series co- host, and host of "Zona's Awesome Fishing Show"