Mark Zona: Color Me Amazed

Photo of Mark Zona with his cameraman

The Bassmasters has been my favorite TV show since I was 9 or 10. 

What’s weird is, I can still remember some of my favorite episodes from the early 80s, where I was like, “Wow, that’s the coolest thing in the world!”

I was an oddity growing up in Chicago because none of my friends watched anything that had to do with bass fishing. That being said, one of the most-asked questions I get, whether I’m at a seminar or an Elite Series event or wherever, is how does the whole slick production comes together?

It’s much different than taping little Zona's Awesome Fishing Show, which is kind of like college compared to The Bassmasters, a constantly moving puzzle. I’m amazed at how everybody who’s involved in the production has such a critical job in getting it to air, and it never ceases to amaze me that it seamlessly comes together. 

Some tournaments are harder than others to cover. When you hold a tournament in New Orleans or a body of water where there are really no boundaries, those events are logistically more difficult than on a lake 40 miles long. That’s big, but in some the playing field can be 200 miles. 

It really all starts with the cameramen. The anglers obviously have to do their job, but those cameramen are on board shooting hours of videotape and have got to capture one moment. A lot of times that moment we remember during a tournament may only be a half a second long, and it is that cameraman’s job to get it.

You’ve got to realize that this guy is holding a 30-pound camera and he doesn’t know when that moment is coming. Most other sports you know when the putt is coming, you know when the ball is snapped.  There’s something in place telling you a play is going to happen.

In fishing there’s really nothing like that, and it’s that cameraman’s job to harness that moment.  From there it goes into the production crew’s hands, all of the editors and all of the producers back at JM Associates in Little Rock, Ark. 

When I fly into town for taping, I’m always amazed how they have gotten the story without first knowing what the story really was going to be. 

My partner in crime, Tommy Sanders, and I are fortunate enough to be able to call these anglers and really find out what the turning points were in the tournament.  But that crew in Little Rock, the editors and the producers, already have it. They always get that high and that low, and all the people in the graphics department work their magic to detail that story.

Like I said, putting together the Bassmaster Elite Series show is organized chaos -- there’s so many working parts. When you look at all of the hours and hours of tape from the final day of a tournament that the crew needs to go through to get those little nuggets -- those little moments that we see on the weekend -- it’s a credit to every one of those guys. 

It’s weird now because Tommy is one of my best friends on earth, but I remember watching him  quite a long time ago and I was always amazed at how he covers bass fishing.

Sanders is not one of those guys who’s on the water an embarrassing amount of time like myself, yet he truly understands bass fishing.  That’s not an easy thing.  I know he wants to be on the water more than he is, but he is the Al Michaels of bass fishing, the Monday night football commentator of what we do. 

When all of this comes together, I just try to add some color. I’ll blabber out how they caught them and make some stupid comments, which I think is the easiest job of this incredible crew. From the cameramen to the guys who work in audio, to the guys in the truck, to the producers, to the graphics, to every single piece of the puzzle, I’m always amazed that my favorite show 25 years ago is still my favorite today.

I’m even more amazed and thankful to be a part of The Bassmasters. 

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