If it swims, chances are Mark Zona knows how to catch it. Zona — or simply “Z” as he is known throughout the fishing world — has been fooling fish with a rod and reel since he was old enough to walk.
He fished his first bass tournament when he was just nine years old and immediately knew the fishing business was his calling. Since then his journey through the fishing industry has included positions in retail marine sales, professional fishing, corporate promotions and instructional seminars.
In 2004, ESPN harnessed Zona’s extensive knowledge of professional bass fishing by employing him as co-host of Loudmouth Bass then in 2005 The Bassmasters television show. In no time his angling insight, resilient personality and spontaneous humor earned him a fishing show host position on ESPN’s popular Outdoor Block, making him one of the most recognizable faces in outdoors television today.
I grew up in a south suburb of Chicago. In the early 80’s my parents bought a little cottage on a lake in Michigan where they would take me on the weekends. I remember throwing a “plow jockey” (a pre rigged plastic worm) next to a pontoon boat. I watched a bass swim out and grab it. It was a done deal! Visually seeing that bass eat the worm was the coolest thing that I had ever seen up until that day. Even though I was around 5 years old, I remember the color of the worm, what the weather was like, everything! I even remember the color of the pontoon. That one fish is cemented in my head. That was the day it all started.
I fished tournaments for 5 months out of the year and sold Ranger bass boats in Indiana the other part of the year. I had done that for so long, that when the opportunity came along to go to work for ESPN I almost didn’t take it. I was already completely happy in the career I was in. Selling boats and fishing tournaments was all I knew.
In all honesty, some dude called me while I was in Subway ordering a cold cut combo. I thought the whole phone call was a joke. (They were looking for some one who was out spoken to co host “Loudmouth Bass”.) I think a few people had talked to Jerry McKinnis along with ESPN and that is the reason why they called me.
Steak- Medium Rare- Nothing else! Actually, any piece of beef medium rare. I don’t need any sides. If there is something with it, great. If not, great. It frightens people how much meat I can eat. I truly think I was a T-Rex in my past life.
That is easy! I would like to be a weather man. I am absolutely 100% fascinated with weather.
My family. If I didn’t have my family I would be hanging out on some beach fishing and hanging out at night. Don’t get me wrong. It still sounds fun, but my family keeps me grounded. Pretty much what I was doing before I got married. (Smirk) I can also see myself on a crab boat, like on the show, “World’s Deadliest Catch”. There is no doubt in my mind I would be doing something like that…. I don’t know…Maybe a bounty hunter… It would not be anything normal.
The first band that comes to mind is Men at Work, just because I love all of their songs. But a band that has the total package would have to be Motley Crue…. Come on, that is self explanatory. Motley Crue is the most kick ass band EVER. I would for sure be the lead singer. If you watch “World’s”, I have some pipes. If there wasn’t an age limit on American Idol I would completely try out. My wife doesn’t think I am a good singer, but I think she is tone deaf. My kids are the ones that can spot talent!! They know I have it! I just can’t seem to find anyone else that sees it… I have been called the “Song Bird” of my generation. Frankly, I think my wife is just jealous!
Jackass- Weather Channel-Anything NFL, especially the Bears. I really don’t watch anything else.
I would have to say Beavis or Butt- Head. I miss those shows. Those shows were great! Besides that, I would have to say one of the South Park kids. A lot of what goes on in South Park is what goes through my head everyday. I know that sounds absurd, but it is very true.
(Question by Sam Todd-7 yr old friend) Walter Payton. He was a winner on and off the field. Also, Peyton Manning, because he is a class act….Even though he is not a Bear.
(Question by Hunter Zona) Venice, Louisiana. To me, that is the most incredible place on earth for a fisherman. Plus the food is awesome!
I would say Kevin Van Dam. It’s hard to pick him, because he is one of my best friends. That being said, I think what he has done on the water, in this era, is unexplainable. I am always in awe at the Michael Jordan’s the Payton Manning’s, but I truly believe KVD has done things that you just can not explain. And that is pretty cool.
I actually live in the middle of “no where” in Michigan. I talk so much at work, that when I get home, I don’t like to talk very much. I like to come home and hang out with my family. I like to go fishing and hunting. I only hunt deer. No other hunting really interests me at all. Just deer.
For sure first and foremost, my dad. He was the one that stuck a rod in my hand. Then I would have to say Tommy Sanders. He is the KVD of outdoor television. Seriously, the guy is a monster! He is so good! Plus, he is one of the funniest people that I have ever met since I have been on earth.
The Key West shark fishing episode, with Captain Bo Johnson and KVD. It was just one of the most incredible experiences on water, for all three of us. It was just one of those days…. Or any show with Jeff Kriet or Greg Hackney.
(Question by Jakob Zona) Neither. The Sturgeon.
No… No! No! I cover tournaments for a living. Actually, wanting to fish in a tournament would be like a lawyer going into a court room on his day off. Will that desire come back some day? In all honesty, since covering the Bassmaster Elite Series, I have had the opportunity to be with every guy in the top 3 on every lake. I don’t think it would be very cool to use the knowledge they have given me against them. They would still kick my butt!
Mike Ditka. I mean come on! Give me a break! The dude is just a complete badass, and he coached the 1985 Bears – The BEST football team ever. I saw him in O’Hare airport this past year and I froze! I couldn’t say a single word.
Since I was a kid, the Bassmaster show was what I grew up on. I remember walking in the studio at JM and Associates (Jerry McKinnis’ production company) in little rock AR. and never being that intimidated in my life. I mean they are that good! I don’t even know how to put it into words how good they are at covering tournaments. I have covered 70+ tournaments with Sanders and sometimes I will be standing in the studio and still think, “Wow! Am I really here?”. It never gets old.
(Question by Jeff Todd, Z’s best bud) Well, interestingly enough, failure is just a game that I refuse to win.