When The Bassmasters television show won Outdoor Channel’s Golden Moose Award as the “Fan Favorite in Fishing” for the second time in three years, it was validation of a vision brought about by a challenge that was given to B.A.S.S. co-owner Jerry McKinnis almost 20 years ago.
That challenge ultimately involved two networks and the two of the largest tournament organizations in the world; and ultimately, it changed the face of tournament bass angling forever.
“ESPN was getting ready to kick off ESPN2, and Bill Fitts (ESPN Outdoors coordinating producer) called insisting that we need competitive fishing on the new network,’’ McKinnis recalled. “Then he said, ‘And don’t do it like it’s been being done.’”
That was a tall order. Up to that moment, tournaments were mostly covered with one camera on the water. And with fields ranging in size to 100 to 200 boats, actually having a camera on the winner while he was winning didn’t happen very often. That made those shows weigh-in heavy, talking-head heavy and light on tournament action.
Getting a camera in the boat with the angler was something you hardly ever saw. These days, anglers fight to get a camera in the boat; back then, anglers didn’t want a camera close, afraid it might reveal too many secrets.
With that in mind, McKinnis, Fitts, Tommy Sanders (current emcee of The Bassmasters), along with Angie Thompson and Mike McKinnis, started creating a new look. They started by extending the duration of an event, then cutting the field and getting to a point where they could actually have a camera in the boat watching every wining catch.
Those first changes were part of the creation of FLW, where fields were ultimately cut to the Top 10 on the final day, each of them covered with a camera in a 1-hour show. When ESPN purchased B.A.S.S., that same formula was switched to that circuit. And with the show airing on Outdoor Channel, viewers all over the world are seeing a lot of things they might not have seen two decades ago.
“There are a lot of other changes that are involved in the success of B.A.S.S. now, including our relationships with Outdoor Channel and ESPN’’ McKinnis said. “But those early changes have stood the test of time. The sport went from revolving around the weigh-in to the actual drama that takes place on the water.
“When you see the emotion, the heart break and the adrenaline of one of these competitors during the heat of battle, then all of the sudden the sport becomes real to a larger audience. It became real to even the hardcore guys who had experienced it, but never seen it.
“We are especially thankful for our viewers and Outdoor Channel for having an award that recognizes those things.”
The Golden Moose Awards is an annual award ceremony that focuses on outdoor television, recognizing the top editors, producers and talent in the industry. The award ceremony was part of the annual SHOT Show, held last week in Las Vegas, Nev.
Mark Zona was awarded “Best Fishing Show,” for Zona’s Awesome Fishing Show, a show that is produced, shot and edited by the same crew that produces The Bassmasters.
“These two awards are the pinnacle in outdoor television,’’ said Mike McKinnis. “They showcase the best of the best, and we are really honored to be recognized in that group.”
Tommy Sanders and Steve Bowman accepted the awards on behalf of The Bassmasters and Mark Zona.
"We are extremely pleased that both the judges and the fans recognize the outstanding work of JM in producing Zona's Awesome Fishing Show and The Bassmasters,’’ said Bruce Akin, CEO of B.A.S.S. “We also want to thank the Outdoor Channel for sponsoring these prestigious awards and for all they do to promote fishing and the outdoors."