McKinnis, fishing legend, passes away

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James Overstreet
Jerry McKinnis from a recent fishing trip in Wyoming.

Jerry McKinnis, former B.A.S.S. co-owner, founder of JM Associates, and a legend in the fishing industry, passed away early Sunday morning. 

He had been in the hospital for six weeks, dealing with an infection that cropped up after a fishing trip in Wyoming. McKinnis was 82 years old. 

McKinnis, along with Don Logan and Jim Copeland, purchased B.A.S.S. from ESPN in 2010, and then sold controlling interest in the organization to Anderson Media in the fall of 2017. He was the leader of JM Associates, producing award  winning television and Internet shows about fishing and the outdoors. McKinnis was also the beloved host of “The Fishin’ Hole” television series, which ran on ESPN for 44 years. 

McKinnis was a member of the Bass Fishing Hall of Fame, the National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame, and the International Game Fish Association Hall of Fame.

“Jerry was a true friend of the angler,” said Bruce Akin, CEO of B.A.S.S. “He contributed so much to the sport of fishing, extending all the way from his ‘Fishin Hole’ days on through his ownership of B.A.S.S.”

 McKinnis and his partners hired Akin to lead the 500,000-member fishing organization shortly after they acquired it. “I think Jerry was a little doubtful about bringing in a guy like me, who didn’t know a whole lot about television or bass fishing, but we were both Cardinals fans, and we bonded over that.”

 “Jerry was one of the most passionate people I’ve ever known as it relates to the world of bass fishing,” said Logan. “I don’t think I ever met anyone who spent more time than Jerry did thinking about how to make B.A.S.S. and bass fishing better — better for the anglers, better for the fans and members, and better for the sponsors.

 “We came from very different backgrounds and totally different perspectives, but we always were able to reach common ground on any issue or problem we faced. He was not only a business partner, but he was also a true friend.”

 A pioneer in outdoors television, McKinnis and his JM Associates production team took over production of the long-running “The Bassmasters” television program for B.A.S.S. and ESPN in 2001. Prior to that he helped create the FLW Tour and ESPN’s Great Outdoor Games, and he later developed the Redfish Cup and the Madfin Shark Series. 

 McKinnis was dedicated to bringing new participants into the sport of bass fishing. He held the first collegiate bass fishing championship and was instrumental in the creation of B.A.S.S.’s Carhartt Bassmaster College Series presented by Bass Pro Shops and the Mossy Oak Bassmaster High School Series presented by Academy Sports + Outdoors.

Funeral arrangements for Jerry:

Friday Nov. 8, 3:00 pm
St James United Methodist 
321 Pleasant Valley Dr
Little Rock, AR  72212

Monday Nov. 11, 2:00 pm
1st Baptist Church
721 Alford St.
Flippin, AR  72634