Outdoorsmen give names to creatures they pursue, like Cleatus for a 10-point buck or a 10-pound bass. B.A.S.S. landed such a trophy in its partnership with FOX Sports, whose robot mascot just so happens to be named Cleatus.
The CGI-animated character has appeared in many iterations, and with the four-year deal to air Bassmaster LIVE on FOX Sports networks, Cleatus might soon be zinging a cast or yanking back on a super-cyber hookset. With coverage of most all the major sports reaching more than 100 million viewers every weekend, FOX Sports moves bass fishing into a much larger ring.
“It’s a straight four-year agreement. It’s a good one," B.A.S.S. CEO Bruce Akin said. “There is a huge appetite for live bass fishing, and this partnership with FOX provides an incredible opportunity to reach new fans.”
The development excited many in the fishing industry, who were already optimistic with an expanding interest in the sport because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The B.A.S.S. news release on the deal received more than 10,000 likes or shares on social media, and Akin has received congratulatory notes from industry CEOs, anglers and fans. B.A.S.S. as an organization is riding high.
“Bass fishing is taking another really giant, giant step here, with LIVE becoming the norm for linear television,” said Mike McKinnis, executive producer and B.A.S.S. VP of media content. “We’ve been producing posted shows since the beginning of B.A.S.S. We’ve been streaming live shows on Bassmaster.com since 2015, and it wasn’t until this year that we aired Bassmaster LIVE on network television.
“Now with the new FOX deal, every event is going to be on television live, and that’s just incredible for our sport, for our anglers, fans, sponsors, for everybody.”
Bassmaster LIVE made strides in 2020, airing multiple tournaments on ESPN2 that produced impressive viewership. That success was in part the impetus of the deal to have all nine 2021 Elite events aired on FS1 for three hours each weekend morning and Day 2 of the Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Huk airing on FOX for three hours.
“We kind of put the net out there a little bit to see who would work with us, and we arrived at FOX,” Akin said. “One thing that attracted us was the complimentary programs they have on FOX, having three hours each weekend day live, and the 8-11 a.m. (ET) time slot was attractive at the same time. Committing three hours of the Classic that Saturday to broadcast on FOX is huge. There’s also access to FOX digital platforms. Those were the things we were looking at.
“ESPN was willing to continue with the posted shows, but they weren’t in a position to commit to what we wanted to do with live. We’re still doing some things with ESPN, and we’ll still be on Bassmaster.com, but in television, it’s important for us to be live.”