Showing people that fishing is easily obtainable really floats Jerry McKinnis’ boat.
The long-time host of “The Fishin’ Hole,” and now co-owner of B.A.S.S., has done that for 60 years. He takes great pride that many people who watched his show feel comfortable enough to greet him and say he’s the reason why they fish.
“When people come up to me, half of them want to tell me that I got them started fishing,” he said. “I think the reason why a lot of that is, it’s because I did it very simple, nice and easy. I didn’t want to show my viewer how I caught fish, I wanted to take them along and have them learn with me.”
From Atlantic salmon in Russia with Ted Williams, to steelhead in British Columbia with Forrest Wood, to smallmouth bass in the Boundary Waters with Coach Bobby Knight and everything in between, McKinnis demonstrated and taught fishing, much in calm, relaxing pace like Andy Griffith would do with Opie.
For his lifetime work of growing the sport, McKinnis was among the 2014 inductees in the International Game Fish Association Hall of Fame on Tuesday at its facility in Dania Beach, Fla. McKinnis was inducted in the IGFA’s 16th class with Hank Parker, Al Pflueger, Jr., and Eugenie and Lou Marron.
“I do understand it’s a big deal,” McKinnis said. “I’ve been blessed with a lot of honors. I guess this could be the biggest.
“It’s kind of neat going in with Hank Parker. I’m sure he feels the same way too because we’ve been really great friends forever. I feel honored for that.”
In his IGFA bio, McKinnis is referred to as an outdoor sports pioneer at ESPN and one of the most influential figures in the sport fishing industry.
The IGFA, which began in 1939 as the keeper of fishing records, inducted its first Hall of Fame class in 1998. It now has 100 members with extraordinary achievements in recreational fishing, which are nominated before review and voting by its executive committee and board of directors.
“Jerry was no surprise,” said Mike Myatt, COO of the IGFA. “A lot of us who know the industry and the television side and sharing of knowledge side, know that Jerry has been for years and years at the forefront of producing ‘The Fishin’ Hole’ as well as other shows.”
Myatt said McKinnis, who will join B.A.S.S. luminaries Bill Dance, Roland Martin, Jimmy Houston, Ray Scott, Johnny Morris and Forrest Wood in the hall, has done so much in fishing world. His JM Associates company in Little Rock, Ark., has produced award-winning shows like “The Bassmasters,” “The Spanish Fly” with Jose Wejebe, and “Zona’s Awesome Fishing Show.”
“They did a lot of stuff right,” Myatt said. “They got some really good talent. Jerry has always had an eye for talent, and it just resonates with everything JM does.”
McKinnis, taking a step away from writing a book on his life titled “Bass Fishing, Brown Dogs and Curveballs,” said he is proud of his 44 years as host and producer of “The Fishin’ Hole,” the second longest show on ESPN to “SportsCenter.”
“I think that when people talk about me, No. 1, they talk about the same old things, being on TV so long,” he said. “The thing that I don’t think people realize is, I was on about 2/3 of the time that TV was even in existence.
“Here’s something else that I’m really proud of. Of all the people out there trying to grow the sport, I’m probably one of the few who have realistically tried to do that.”
That’s been his main focus since teaming with two others to purchase B.A.S.S. from ESPN in 2011. The past several years have been concentrated on making B.A.S.S. a stronger organization, from the Elites to the grassroots B.A.S.S. Nation level.
“I don’t need to be doing what I’m doing right now,” said McKinnis, “but I think my life’s mission is not quite complete.”