Daily Limit: Elite on ESPN2 creates buzz

One small step for bass anglers, one giant leap for "basskind."

No, it wasn’t as big as the moon landing, but the DEWALT Bassmaster Elite at Lake Eufaula airing on ESPN2 was monumental for the sport of bass fishing.

“I’ve gotten more positive comments in the past week than anything I’ve done on television in 20 years,” said Bassmaster TV analyst Mark Zona, who also hosts the award-winning Zona’s Awesome Fishing Show. “I hang around people who fish. I live on a lake in southern Michigan. It’s been staggering how many people have brought up that tournament to me, to my wife or my kids.

“It was one of the biggest steps for bass fishing that I’ve ever been a part of. I definitely felt the effect of it, from there being a much, much wider sport fan base.”

ESPN2, which as of 2018 was available in 86 million households, aired 19.5 of the 24 total hours that JM Associates in Little Rock produced from the Eufaula event. According to Nielson ratings, viewership reached 2.8 million, and minutes watched topped 85 million, more than all of last year’s LIVE total for 10 events.

“It’s the first time it’s aired on a cable channel and people could run into it,” longtime Bassmaster TV host Tommy Sanders said. “Now people have been exposed to it who had no idea. It might not be a total game-changer, but it’s a completely different critter.”

With the advent of cameras that could send video via cell coverage, Bassmaster LIVE began putting viewers in Elite competitors’ boats for the first time in 2015. Bass fishing fans heralded the coverage as it allowed them to watch the event unfold.

“When we started doing LIVE, that was one of those big steps forward for the sport of bass fishing,” said Mike McKinnis, executive producer and B.A.S.S. VP of media content. “In 2001, we did same-day coverage of the Classic, but we weren’t watching guys out on the water fishing.

“Both of those were important for their time, but what happened last week was the next step up. It was the point that live bass fishing is now the ultimate programming for our sport.”