McKinnis influence touched us all

You probably know by now about the passing of Jerry McKinnis. If you’re older, you probably remember his TV Show, The Fishin’ Hole, or know that he once co-owned B.A.S.S. and helped guide it to what it is today.

But the man was so much more than that. He often is referred to as a pioneer of the fishing industry, but the truth is, when it comes to outdoor television, he was the pioneer.

During his leadership, McKinnis and his JM Associates Production Company not only produced The Fishin’ Hole – which set the standard in outdoor television – but Spanish Fly, arguably the premier saltwater fishing show of our time, and several other outdoor programs. He broke ground with the Stihl Timber Sports, Mad Fin Shark Tournament Series and produced college football coverage as well as this knucklehead’s show. He was the one of the first to televise tournament fishing during his years with FLW and the first to offer a live broadcast on the internet.

Karin and I attended his memorial service last week during which they showed a video of Jerry’s accomplishments. When it ended, I looked at Karin and said, “Wow…that was overwhelming. I had forgotten how much his legacy influenced the fishing industry all these years.”

And keep in mind, Jerry and I were inseparable for a decade before he began backing off at his production company.

He’s the man who gave me the big break in outdoors TV when he relinquished his seat on The Bassmasters show to me. As much as I appreciated that, it was his mentoring and guidance for which I will forever be grateful.

He not only took me under his wing for The Bassmasters program but guided me in the early years of Zona’s Awesome Fishing Show and he's a big reason it has been successful.

We had a lot of talks – hundreds, in fact. He was the only human being I know who would wake up as early as I do. I could call him at 4:30 a.m. and he was already up running and gunning.

When he gave me that role with The Bassmasters I knew how big that opportunity was, and I didn’t want to let him down.

Anyone who knew Jerry McKinnis will tell you our personalities were entirely different, yet he always let me be me. He’d say, “All I ask is be you when you’re on camera. Don’t try to fake anything.”

He also taught me mediocrity is unacceptable. When I took the job, I was warned that “you have no idea how hard JM Associates will work you.”

They were right. Jerry was relentless; he strived for perfection, which is why so many shows today try to emulate his work. Everything in outdoor TV that he touched had a look, a style and a feel that carried it to a higher standard.

When you work with someone for a long time you tend to take things for granted. And when you lose that person, especially one who set the standard in an industry, it leaves a big hole.

But man, I was lucky to have worked for him, to have been trained by him, and hopefully, will continue to embrace the work ethic he entrenched in me.

Anglers may not realize how hard he worked to better the sport or how his fingerprints are on the world of fishing today.

But I do.

I feel extremely fortunate to have had a front row seat to learn from a man who had such great influence on so many things I do and love.

And who taught me to do things the right way.