Daily Limit: Sexton going out in style

GEORGETOWN, S.C. — Jim Sexton picked a rather cool and picturesque venue for his last road trip with the Bassmasters.

Sexton, the digital VP at B.A.S.S., attended the Yamaha Bassmaster Redfish Cup Championship presented by Skeeter Boats. With the sun setting on a second-floor deck overlooking Winyah Bay, he said some goodbyes to friends he’s made in the fishing world.

After turning 65 over the summer, Sexton figured it was time to slow down, retire and map out life’s next chapter.

“The plan is to do whatever I want to do,” he said with a big grin. “I don’t feel worn down like I can’t work anymore. It’s more like I worked full-time for 44 years, let’s enjoy life a little bit more. Even though what I have is a really interesting and sometimes fun job, it’s still work.

“I’ve been at B.A.S.S. 12 and a half years, a lot of travel, a lot of great places, a lot great people, a lot of friends now. All the people I’ve become friends with, I do hate to walk away from that. I hope to stay in touch.”

Keeping the audience in touch with bass fishing, from tournament coverage to knot-tying, was Sexton’s mission. Earning a journalism degree from the University of Tennessee, Sexton worked for various media companies, including Time Inc., before taking the big role at B.A.S.S. He managed digital platforms, planning content strategies for Bassmaster.com, mobile and social media.

“Jim’s going to leave a big hole to fill,” said Steve Bowman, a long-time employee of JM Associates who helped show Sexton the ropes. “There’s been big changes in media. Jim came with that storytelling background, and he was good at incorporating the electronic aspect.”

Bass fishing is a much more complicated sport than most imagine, Bowman said, equating it more to chess than checkers. Sexton’s target was to help people understand it. Of course, he had to learn those intricacies first. He picked Bowman’s brain as they often teamed up on the water, Sexton blogging while Bowman photographed.

“The thing with Jim, he would listen,” Bowman said. “He learned the game of chess in the bass fishing game.”

Sexton’s first task at B.A.S.S. started with the difficult mission of migrating years of content over from ESPN.

“It was building a new web platform as a vehicle for housing all that content, all that data,” he said. “Getting it all synced up was challenging. It was a many months project.”

Sexton (right) heads out with Steve Bowman as they team up for on-the-water coverage.

The bottom line had been suffering and Sexton helped the company turn that around and become profitable once again. In his time, Sexton tackled numerous other projects, including web redesigns. The split, when 68 pros left for another circuit, was a major hurdle to overcome, but Sexton said he’s pleased how B.A.S.S. class stood tall through it all.

“I was proud that we worked hard on being positive,” he said. “We kind of stuck to our goals of what we were trying to do, and we just kind of kept going.”

Sexton leaves B.A.S.S. in great position, its page views soaring and footprint expanding. Along with Elite and Classic competitions airing on FS1, the final day of all nine St. Croix Opens will be broadcast in 2024.

But it’s the personnel he leaves in place that’s most gratifying. He said he feels the organization is loaded with a talented, passionate staff.

“Maybe the most proud is the people I’ve brought in, and the people I’ve helped grow who were already here,” he said. “I put faith in them, and they’ve rewarded me by making me look good.”

Bowman and Sexton show off some Mille Lacs smallmouth in 2017.

He mentioned the likes of Bryan Brasher, Matt Dowd, Ronnie Moore and Kyle Jessie, along with free-lancers Shaye Baker, Dalton Tumblin and Logan Crumley.

“Hopefully they carry on for a long time,” he said. “So you leave a little bit of yourself behind in those people, which is cool.”

But why Winyah Bay?

“I wanted to come because I get to see people like you,” Sexton said, “and David Brown, Dave Mercer, Jake Latendresse, Steve Bowman, who I’m friends with, and be able to shake hands and wish well and tell them what I’m up to.”

Sound like Sexton will stay busy. His wife, Gretchen, recently retired as an administrative assistant to the dean of education at Samford University. They plan to see more of the world in between projects on their 85-year-old house loaded with 17 years of stuff.

“My wife wants to travel, go to some cool places like Ireland, maybe go down to south Florida in the winter for a week or two, not be in a hurry,” he said, adding he hopes to get back to the Rocky Mountains and re-visit Yellowstone Park. “When I was in college, I worked at a tackle store on Lake Yellowstone. I’d like to get back there.

“I want to write some, whether for B.A.S.S. or others. I have a book in my head that I’m going to try to do. I’d like to be little bit more present for my kids and my parents, who are in their 90s, when they need me. I’m not a guy who can sit around a whole lot. I do love sports of all kinds, football, basketball, baseball, fishing. But on college football Saturday, about two games is all I can handle.”

While wearing a number of hats at B.A.S.S., Jim most usually has worn a smile.

Sexton still has a couple months until his end-of-year final goodbyes, but the B.A.S.S. offices in Birmingham should start planning a celebratory sendoff. 

“I’m expecting perhaps a parade,” he joked. “At least a couple beers.”

Happy retirement, Jim!

For more about Jim Sexton, visit the tour of his hometown, Knoxville, Tenn., before the 2019 Classic.