Jerry McKinnis doesn’t have a legendary career fishing in B.A.S.S., not after earning $791.50 in six total events. Never won an event, never fished a Classic.
But he is a bass fishing legend just the same. The former pro baseball player from St. Louis got the fishing bug on a trout trip, then started a guide service in Little Rock. To boost business, he started a local TV spot called “The Fishin’ Hole,” and the rest is, as they say, history.
The show moved to cable and eventually ESPN, where it was the network’s second-longest running show to SportsCenter. McKinnis went on to develop the popular ESPN Outdoors block of programming on Saturday mornings.
JM Associates, his production firm in Little Rock, has been known as B.A.S.S. Central, promoting the business of bass fishing with award-winning programming. McKinnis is well-known for being one of the most influential figures in the fishing industry.
He got even bigger last year when he, Don Logan, and Jim Copeland teamed to purchase B.A.S.S. from ESPN. Even at 74, he continues to put his touch on everything from the Elite Series to the Federation Nation.
How they wrangled him in to fish the Bassmaster Legends event this Sunday is another story. When first asked by event organizer Steve Bowman, he said, “Good night, no!”
When old friend Bill Dance said he’d fish if Jerry fishes, it was over. Despite admitting he wasn’t on the same skill level as the others competing, he was in.
Now on Sunday at a private lake, in conjunction with the Evan Williams Bourbon All-Star Championships, the Legends will fish in what promises to be a laughter-filled affair.
The teams are Bobby Murray and Guido Hibdon, Ken Cook and Guy Eaker, Tom Martin and Rick Clunn and Dance and McKinnis. McKinnis lamented not having some of the other legends in the sport, and has vowed to get more involved next year.