Those We Honor

You’ll find more than just fishing celebrities in this list. One can make a significant impact
on the lives of many without ever being well known. It is important to honor all of
those who had a great influence on the great sport of fishing, whether famous or not.
Corporate advances tend to be much more visible to us. For it’s their products that
shape the evolution of the sport of fishing.

Tom Zenanko

Tom Zenanko

Inducted 2024

Born in Minneapolis in 1957 to Donald and Francis Zenanko and was the middle child, with older brother Don and younger sister Patricia. Tom grew up in the suburban community of Brooklyn Center, only a block from a small stream called Shingle Creek. Tom spent his youth learning to catch chubs and carp. When old enough, he drove his bike several more blocks to the reach the Mississippi River where he would often fish with his cousin Mike Rog.

His early passion was to fish for anything that would swim, this would serve him well in the years ahead as he would begin to travel to metro area lakes with fellow schoolmates when a car became available. This was the early 1970’s and was the beginning of what many consider the modern age of fishing. A fancy fishing rig was a 16-foot boat with a 25 HP outboard. Electric trolling motors and the Lowrance Green Box sonar were just starting to be popular. Graduating High School with honors, Tom did not attend college but instead took a job as the fishing tackle department manager for an upscale outdoor store in downtown Minneapolis called Eddie Bauer. Today it is a clothing store, but back in the 70’s, it offered guns and high-end fishing tackle. In a few
years, his department grew to be the #1 tackle department in the chain and Tom’s knowledge of fishing took on a new skillset… education. After five years at retail Tom’s popularity would have him speaking at community centers, fishing clubs and even doing a few pilot TV shows for WCCO television. He began writing a weekly fishing column for Ed Gerchy’s, Outdoor Outlines and feature stories in Sports and Recreation Magazine. The demand on his time was so great he moved on from Eddie Bauer and began a full-time business of fishing promotion in 1980. By 1982 his first self- published book, “Walleye Fishing Today” hit the market and at the same time he was appearing at The Northwest Sportshow drawing as many as 5,000 eager students who wanted to learn his common-sense approach to catching walleye with his state- of- the-art multi projector slide show at the time… By the mid 80’s Tom was now writing his weekly column for Jim Peterson’s Outdoor News and starting a video production company to make fishing “how-to” videos. This was the era of the Jane Fonda workout tapes and “Tom Zenanko’s Fishing Tips and Secrets” videos were sold by the thousands too! He also started his Fishing Tip series on KARE TV in Minneapolis for three years before developing an outdoor block on Thursday Nights called the Sportsman’s Journal for two seasons that highlighted the state of Minnesota showing the great fishing and attractions in every corner of the state. By 1986 Tom had published three books, Walleye Fishing Today, Northern Pike! And North Country Bassin’. He then took the bold move to start publishing his own weekly newspaper the Sportsman’s Press.

In 1988 he Married Marcy, who became a key partner in the operations of all the businesses. Seldom would you find Tom without Marcy at his side attending hundreds of public appearances.
In 1992 The Sportsman’s Press was sold to Chicago based Midwest Outdoors. During his fishing career, Tom competed in many fishing events. At 12 he won his first bass tournament
on lake Minnetonka winning $500 in Heddon Fishing tackle! His love of crappie fishing qualified him for four Crappiethon Classics with his wife Marcy as his partner! Won Muskie and salmon tournaments and in 1992 won the PWT western Walleye Championship on the Missouri River. His Mother, Father, Wife and 12 year-old neighbor Chase Johnson teamed up to win the Ice Fishing Nationals, Team Division event! Fishing for anything that swims in Minnesota was a passion with Tom and his family. In 1998 he took a job in Texas as the Marketing Manager for Skeeter Boats that lasted only a year before returning to Minnesota to start his own advertising agency “Blue Pond Enterprises” One of his first clients was Minnesota’s own Vexilar Marine Electronics and before long became the Sales and Marketing Manager for Vexilar. Tom continued his unique style of education to help sell products at Vexilar and launched the first online streaming series “Ice Fishing Today”. For the next 20 years Tom worked with Vexilar and retired in 2021.

For over 45 years, Tom made his mark on nearly all aspects of the fishing industry in Minnesota from tourism, guiding, photography, writing, promotion, manufacturing, and contributions to charities and resource management. One of his last efforts was his research that proved turtles were the reason invasives were spreading across the state. Tom Zenanko was inducted into the National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame in 2015.