By John Johnson
BassFan Senior Editor
At this time a year ago, Chad McKee possessed very little knowledge of professional bass fishing. The play-by-play man for the Bass Pro Tour's live-streamed telecasts had been totally immersed in a great variety of mainstream sports for the past quarter-century, both at a network TV affiliate and then as part of the University of Oklahoma's ground-breaking Sooner Sports TV.
"I knew a little bit about bass fishing, but not much," he said. "I grew up in Oklahoma and the first time I remember fishing, my dad took me to Lake Tenkiller when I was 11 or 12 and we caught sand bass. We also fished a prettier lake near there called Lake Greenleaf and I spent one or two weeks on Lake Eufaula (the one in his home state).
"I knew how to tie a hook on a line and I had at least some idea of what baits I needed to be using, but everything was very rudimentary."
After accepting the new gig for the BPT's inaugural season, he got a good indoctrination into the sport on a December trip to Lake Kissimmee with JT Kenney, who departed the pro angler ranks this year to serve as a BPT color commentator.
"We spent two days out there and it was the best crash course I could've had," McKee said. "We went over the different styles of fishing the guys would be using and the different types of cover and foliage.
"I learned more in those two days than I could have in two years on my own."
Hectic Time Coming
The 47-year-old McKee will get married this weekend and then will depart on a honeymoon trip to Europe. He'll come back and conclude his summer by covering the BPT's first Redcrest championship out of LaCrosse, Wis., then he'll be neck-deep in Sooner athletics throughout the fall and winter.
In addition to football – lots and lots of football – he also has broadcast responsibilities with the volleyball, basketball, soccer, wrestling, tennis, golf and gymnastics programs. In previous years, he spent the spring months covering baseball and softball.
"The Redcrest conflicts with the first soccer game, so I'm going to have to get a substitute for that one," he said. "After that, I'll be going full-bore."
He'd been aware of Major League Fishing since its inception in 2011. At that time he hosted a show called Big 12 This Week that, like MLF, was produced by Tulsa-based Winnercomm. That show employed many of the same camera, audio and post-production people who worked on the MLF shows for Outdoor Channel.
Randall Heritage, a producer on the Big 12 show who now works for the SEC Network, told McKee that Randy White, MLF's VP of broadcast production, had approached him about McKee getting involved with broadcasting MLF events. Although he liked the concept, McKee had to pass, as the travel involved would've adversely impact his regular job.
The Big 12 show was dissolved a couple of years ago, and White and MLF president and CEO Jim Wilburn approached McKee last year about anchoring the inaugural BPT broadcasts. By then, he was ready to say yes.
Crew Meshed Quickly
McKee became acquainted with broadcast partners Kenney and Marty Stone for the first time in a meeting last November in Tulsa. He says he was immediately impressed.
"I walked out of the room, headed for a basketball game, and I got to the car and texted (White) and told him he'd found the perfect combination," he said. "With their combination of personality and knowledge of the sport, I just knew. JT's style is he'll say something off the wall, but then he'll bring it right back on the technique side and Marty's so good with the straight info, but now and then he'll get his zingers in. The most important thing for me to do is just set the table and then get out of the way and let the experts do their work.
"It's great to see the respect that the anglers have for Marty and JT, and for (on-water commentator) Rob Newell, who's been doing this stuff for so long and knows all the anglers' styles inside and out. And Natalie (Dillon) also has a lot of knowledge and a lot of appeal with the social media stuff."
Naturally, he believes the product has tremendous growth potential and he foresees it airing on live over-the-air TV. After all, there just isn't much available to satisfy competition junkies on weekday afternoons.
"If you look around at what's airing in the 1, 2 and 3 o'clock time slots, it's mostly just talking heads rehashing story lines," he said. "Here we've got dramatic finishes, guys going home and guys with a chance to win $100,000.
"I think it'll eventually find a home on daytime TV. There's just so much drama and intrigue involved."