Editors' note: Leading into the new year, ESPNOutdoors.com will be rehashing 2007, highlighting the good, bad and ugly stories in these three categories: bassmaster, hunting and fishing.
Jerry McKinnis retires his "Fishing Hole"
Jerry McKinnis took the floor as the featured speaker of the BASS Media luncheon on the first day of competition of the 2007 Bassmaster Classic. He spoke to a respectful crowd of media members about his 44 years as host of The Fishin' Hole, which wraped production this year.
The show began in 1963 when McKinnis rented a Bolex camera to shoot a day on the lake. After peppering the gentleman at the counter with questions about the intricacies of loading the film and adjusting the settings, McKinnis encountered more technical issues when clouds moved in late in the day. It required finding a phone and a call back to the shop.
"But I was so taken by it that, I worked up the nerve to spend $100 to purchase a camera," McKinnis said.
Known for special relationships with sports icons like the late baseball great Ted Williams and college basketball coach Bob Knight, McKinnis recalled that one of his best shows was with legendary luremaker and tournament angler Tom Mann. If McKinnis had not been deathly afraid of snakes, that immensely successful trip that might not have taken place.
"We worked this stretch of riprap on the lower end of Lake Eufala in the spring and caught 25 bass over 8 pounds," McKinnis said. "It was just gross! I mean, I caught two fish back to back over 10 pounds. I caught a 14-pounder. And it never would have happened had I not talked Tom out of fishing this creek that was just covered with cottonmouths."
"So many of the things I've done like that have been accidents."
Far from accidental has been The Fishin' Hole's place in ESPN's lineup. McKinnis recalled pitching the show when at least some of the offices in Bristol, Conn., were in-house trailers. Little did he know that the ESPN people were just as happy to have the programming as he was to provide it.
"I remember watching rugby and Australian rules football and thinking 'Bass fishing is as good as that,' " McKinnis said. "When I walked out, I felt like high-fiving somebody. Of course, they were thinking the same thing."
McKinnis will continue to play an active role in the production of tournament fishing for ESPN, as well as his company's lineup of original programming. "Retired is really not the right word," McKinnis said. "I have so many different things I'll be working on. But this is like losing a very, very special friend."
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