A friend and I recently took a trip down memory lane. The subject was bass fishing television and, not surprisingly, we both harped on the good ol’ days.
There was just something about the programming 30 or so years back. Sure, the shows hosted by the celebrity pros were good, but the shining star was The Bassmasters on TNN. For a pure bass fishing junkie, there was simply no equal.
Now, for those of you not familiar with the old format, luckily there’s a place where you can get a sample. A YouTube channel under the name “Lynn Dollar” holds hundreds – if not thousands – of hours of old programming, most of which is vintage Bassmaster television. I’ve got no correlation with the creator of this channel, nor can I figure out why someone would take the time to load all of this stuff – or how, really – but I love it. I’m sure that, by bringing this up in conversation, I’ll hear from one of you with an answer to the mystery.
Anyway, a guy like me can re-watch those shows that I’ve already seen 20 times apiece. I know it sounds crazy, but my excitement level still goes through the roof each time I hear the intro music while watching the pre-show clips. There’s probably some analytical reason for this, like the age in which my original exposure to this excitement occurred, or recollections of my childhood or whatever; who cares? What matters is the transformation of my head.
Now bear with me here, because I’m sure I’m not alone. Those shows, back then and to this day, can completely change my overall mood and raise a level of motivation in me to bass fish like nothing else.
The Bassmaster television narrator, I’m told, was a Tulsa man named Dick Schmitz. Anyone who’s ever heard his voice knows the distinct way in which he inserted drama into the world of tournament bass fishing.
I remember a particularly rough event held at 1000 Islands:
“Day 2 … gut-check time” was the intro, as we watched now archaic-looking bass boats head out into the abyss, possibly never to be seen again. The show would completely transform from a fishing format to a program centered on the superhuman feats of warrior anglers battling each other for glory. It was truly reality TV before there was such a thing.
So, getting back to my conversation, I wondered what the kids of today were watching. Well, I already knew that; they’re watching social media videos as much as anything for their version of a fishing fix. Now, I question further: How could that possibly be as good?
I don’t want to infer that’s the only game in town. Throngs of bass anglers are watching the newest versions of Bassmaster TV, Major League Fishing, Roland, Zona, the regional content that’s expanding with many tour pros; I get it.
But more so even than that, young anglers are turning digital for their broadcasts. Nothing can touch those numbers.
And sure, a great photo on Instagram of a giant bass gets me pumped, and watching a young “YouTube pro” succeed will often get me thinking outside the box on my rig or approach. But none of that holds a candle to the oldies, for me anyway.
YouTube pros vs. Blaukat sinking his boat at Buggs Island? Come on.
Digital shows vs. Nixon at the Harris Chain? Or Rojas at Toho? No comparison.
YouTube tip videos vs. the early days of KVD, painted blades and all? Please.
So how, then, can the diluted content being distributed today be held in high regard by the viewers? Let’s face it, no one is hoarding films of unknown anglers fishing from the bank in their subdivision pond, despite millions of people watching them.
Does the younger generation know what they’re missing?
I often wonder that. And I wonder what the result will be from the majority of anglers looking all over the place for their version of thriller?
One thing’s for sure: such behavior is already changing advertising in the fishing world. Gone are the days when manufacturers spent money in a half-dozen places and gained the majority of exposure available. Those same companies now have to diversify more to stay ahead.
And gone are the days of a new lure or technique being instantly famous. A friend recently reminded me when braided line came on the scene – how it was exposed on the Bassmaster show and instantly everyone used it. It was, literally, almost overnight. We don’t see that as much today.
But most importantly, I just wonder what our youngest anglers are missing. I mean, what gets them pumped up for go-time? What reminds them of the thrills ahead and wakes them an hour before their 4 a.m. alarm on Saturday morning? What do they rewind, over and over, to get another look into, say, Cochran’s eyes at the Classic?
'Cuz, folks, it ain’t the new stuff on YouTube.
(Joe Balog is the often-outspoken owner of Millennium Promotions, Inc., an agency operating in the fishing and hunting industries. A former Bassmaster Open and EverStart Championship winner, he's best known for his big-water innovations and hardcore fishing style. He's a popular seminar speaker, product designer and author, and is considered one of the most influential smallmouth fishermen of modern times.)