Harvey Horne spun slowly, capturing the hubbub behind him for an Instagram video. As he recorded a number of B.A.S.S media members, he summed up the situation well: “This is where all the magic happens. These are the people who are going to make us famous … ”
Horne, who had driven down from Bella Vista in the northwest corner of Arkansas to the JM Associates studio in Little Rock, paused momentarily. He witnessed the lights, cameras and action as the TV production arm of B.A.S.S. got in full swing for a week of angler visits.
As one of the many new pros on the Bassmaster Elite Series, Horne is hopeful he’ll be among those who make their mark on the tour. And he knows the task at hand. Horne finished his 29-second video with a mission statement that’s been true since Ray Scott began holding winner-take-all events some 50 years ago.
“… All we have to do is catch the fish,” he said.
In the past half century, competitive bass fishing has changed from stem to stern. It’s evolved once again. One of the only constants is that those who consistently catch bass rise to the top, but there is more, and the media push is part of that.
Workin’ at the car wash
To help make sure the new faces go places, B.A.S.S. invited a group of anglers to go through what’s called a “car wash.” For TV and internet, each of the anglers present posed and performed in front of a variety of cameras. They spoke with every B.A.S.S. media channel on-site.
Editor’s note: See studio photos.
The TV team of Mark Zona, Davy Hite, Dave Mercer and Tommy Sanders were on hand, taping segments for shows and the website. The tripling of TV air time on ESPN’s networks and new partner Pursuit Channel were discussed (Editor’s note: More on TV expansion) as well as adding Day 1 coverage of Bassmaster LIVE.
Also, the anglers were interviewed by Ronnie Moore for a cache of fishing tips videos, and anglers taped 15-second solo spots to air on the Pursuit Channel. A crew came over from B.A.S.S. headquarters in Birmingham, Ala. – Jim Sexton, Thomas Allen and Bryan Brasher – to interview anglers at length for podcasts.
For a guy like Horne, who won a Basspro.com Open last year that helped him qualify for the Elites, his time in the limelight made his jump up after 12 Bassmaster events seem more like reality than a pipe dream.
“It’s exciting being down here,” Horne said. “It’s just really cool to experience all of this and get to meet everybody who’s on the team.
“Everybody at home has been asking me, ‘Is it getting real? Is it getting real?’ It’s starting to, and this is even making it worse. It’s worse because I’m ready, but I don’t think it’s really going to hit me until Mercer calls my name and number on the first morning. That’s going to be when the excitement goes all the way up.”
On Monday, B.A.S.S. launched a Dream Big initiative as it ramps up for the season. Late last year, B.A.S.S. hosted most of the Elite field in Birmingham for interviews and to detail their “New directions,” which was captured well in this story. “I can only imagine how exciting this has to be for the new guys over what I feel is fixing to take place.”
The 2019 slogan, “Big Bass. Big Stage. Big Dreams,” wasn’t lost on Horne, who said he’s champing at the bit to get to the St. Johns River for the Feb. 7 opener. That first launch can’t arrive soon enough.
“Everything is going to be a first for me,” Horne said. “It’s going to be tremendously exciting. The adrenaline is going to be flowing. I may throw my bait in a tree the first cast, you never know – maybe we can get that on film.
“This has just been an awesome experience. It’s been great working with JM and everybody at B.A.S.S., just an awesome all-around deal.”
One special treat was having Bob Cobb come over from Atlanta. The Bass Fishing Hall of Famer helped Ray Scott shape B.A.S.S., from being the first editor of Bassmaster Magazine to building Bassmaster TV from the ground up. He’s detailed much of that time in his recently published book, The B.A.S.S. Story – Unplugged.
Cobb sat down with Steve Bowman, the recently named Angler Relations Manager for B.A.S.S., Phoenix Boats owner and new Elite Gary Clouse and Hite for a lengthy video forum. As Scott’s first employee, Cobb wore a blazer with an original patch that included his name.
“This patch, I’m proud of it,” Cobb said. “That patch has changed numerous times, and B.A.S.S. has changed numerous times.”
Cobb said transition can be a good thing, but the past needs to be taken into account even when moving forward. The past was heralded as Clouse and Hite each fondly remembered 1988 Classic champion Guido Hibdon, who passed away last year. A friend and mentor to both, Clouse didn’t think he’d be where he is today without the Hibdon family.
Hite’s story of Hibdon brought it full circle to making it as a Bassmaster pro. Respected not only for his instinctual fishing, Hibdon was an astute businessman. Before Hite started his pro career, the two fished together. Hite said he was proud when he finally earned Hibdon’s stamp of approval for his fishing skill. But in the end Hite received a greater career lesson from Hibdon.
Hibdon told him there are two ways to make a living in fishing. One was catching fish, and the second was representing yourself well on the business end and to media. Hite said he’ll never forget the following words of advice:
“If you want to make a good living in this sport, boy, you better learn how to do both.”