MICHAEL JONES, former B.A.S.S. Senior Writer…

Michael Jones was a part of the B.A.S.S. operation for years, in addition to working as a long-time staffer at Western Outdoors Publications. I’m giving him some space to respond to the latest from Jerry McKinnis.

It’s hard to believe anything you read these days, especially when your own experience tells you it just ain’t true. For me, it’s particularly tough when the conversation comes around to BASS or ESPN.

To hear someone like Jerry McKinnis, co-owner of B.A.S.S., publicly wring his hands and bemoan his travails in generating support for professional bass fishing makes me want to puke. This is the same guy who, back in the dim, misty past before he was involved in tournament fishing, openly dismissed the entire thing – out of hand.

It wasn’t until the world rocketed past his folksy view of what fishing should be that McKinnis, shall we say, re-ordered his thinking. Sadly, his epiphany also coincided with his ability to make a profit from it.

In a recent interview on BassFan.com, McKinnis said – on the subject of pro tournament fishing – “it needs changing bad, really bad.” Interesting. From the guy who originally changed the landscape of professional bass fishing – badly – when he was under contract to his masters at ESPN. This is the guy who openly mentored professional anglers as to what he felt was necessary for a vital, forward-thinking atmosphere among the pro ranks. To him, it was all about creating an image, a personality and a brand – if you will – that would resonate with viewers.

What he created was a “clown car” of anglers. From it emerged Mike Iaconelli as the screaming, tatted-up, sidewise ball cap guy. Next up, Gerald Swindle as the wise-cracking, country buffoon who was soon to be followed by Skeet Reese as the frosted hair, yellow-is-my-color, get-a-dose-of-this dude. Thankfully, Kevin Van Dam kept winning and he got to be Tom Brady.

While professional bass fishing needed personality, it also needed substance. And direction. Although it may have seemed like a good idea at the time – a time when the world at large seemed to be taking notice of bass fishing – it was anything but.

McKinnis is from Arkansas. Wal-Mart is from Arkansas. McKinnis worked for FLW. Wal-Mart was – and still is – the number one sponsor of FLW. McKinnis wants to limit the number of anglers by “making stars.” Wal-Mart wants to limit your shopping choices by, well, limiting your shopping choices. One is successful, the other is not.

Since ESPN took over, the problem with BASS seems patently simple: Those in power have tried in vain to apply other business models to their product. Tell me, have they given up on the NASCAR model yet? You know the one, where brightly colored and logo’d cars go ‘round and ‘round in an enclosed, controlled environment. How is that in any way similar to bass fishing?

The facts of the matter are these: ESPN, McKinnis, et al. don’t know who you are. At the turn of the century, they all thought you wanted to see only those anglers of their choosing. They thought you would be content with fancy graphics, cool music and no content. They thought you were a twenty-something with a Facebook page, an iPhone and a bank account capable of purchasing a $60,000 bass boat.

Somehow, Mr. Folksy and crew neglected the connection between parent and son or parent and daughter in forging an outdoor connection. Somehow they forgot about how it works.

In the words of Jerry McKinnis, “I don’t think that person quit watching it on TV. I think they moved over and started watching it on the Internet.”

No, Jerry, we just stopped watching because it sucked. We may have briefly clicked onto the Web to get an update now or then, but certainly not anything that remotely reminded us of real fishing information. We didn’t even get the full spectrum of tournament competition because you guys didn’t talk about anyone except the Chosen Few.

In July of 2005, I sat outside a Pittsburgh hotel as Ron Shuffield lighted up a cigarette. He looked up at the sky and then spoke directly to me in a sad and resigned tone that he – a BassMaster angler of impressive credentials – would be moving on to FLW. His deep, rolling baritone didn’t mask the hurt or disgust he was feeling.

To him, the glass ceiling had been reached. There was no ink, no coverage, and no crumbs for his sponsors in the newly realized BASS world. If he was going to get any recognition, the only way was to – (a) win all the time or (b) be anointed as one of the Chosen Few. As a true veteran of the bass wars, Shuffield knew when the bite was over.

So, for Jerry McKinnis to throw his hands skyward seven or eight years later and ask for an answer isn’t disingenuous, it’s hypocritical. He helped run ESPN/BASS into the ground just as he is doing the same with this more recent, zombified version of the walking dead. Make no mistake about it Jerry, you’re dead, you just haven’t laid down yet.





9 Responses to “Guest blogger slams McKinnis’ account”

I thought it was a bit odd that after 20 years, I got a phone call last evening from a man named Jeff representing B.A.S.S. Before he could present his “schpeal”, I informed him that while I was a member of B.A.S.S. for many years, I wasn’t interested in rejoining nor was I interested in a magazine subscription. He thanked me and we hung up.

They must be really desperate for support if they’re calling old (very old) members to rejoin. It’s sad, very sad.

From the bbcboards.net…

I believe B.A.S.S. missed and continues to ignore their best chance to grow the sport when they make available several spots in the classic to the federation and only one spot to their weekend series fishermen….The weekend series tournament fisherman is the market they should be aiming at…..only one spot in the classic turns it into a “lottery” type chance at the classic for an entire tournament trail and you just don’t have a reasonable chance at making the classic..if you have a choice of fishing a trail that offers a reasonable chance at the All-American or a trail that offers a reasonable chance at the classic-which are you gonna fish..it’s a no brainer and B.A.S.S. could have taken most of the BFL series fishermen away from F.L.W….. B.A.S.S. still thinks the future lies with the club fisherman…my contention is their future lies with the fisherman who is still a weekend fisherman but has graduated from club fishing and is ready to test his skills in open tournys….He is the fisherman who is willing and can afford to buy new trucks,boats and the latest tackle which in turn provides sales to fishing sponsors…this is no criticism of club fishermen but go to any lake and just observe the difference in equipment between club tournys and open tournys……80% of club fishermen are older guys in older boats who have no interest in fishing at a higher level or new fishermen just starting out and unable to afford $50-70,000. boats…and make no mistake,the sale of new boats,trucks,electronics and fishing tackle is what drives the sport….

Wow, so true! I knew I wasn’t the only “old guy” that felt that way. I truly thought the end was near when BASS did away with the fishing non boater in favor of the”marshal” system. I know my interest certianly waned. Hey, but just 1 guy… Out of millions


Talk about an insightful read. I love your pot-stirring tendencies 🙂


Yes Sir Mr. Coleman! Spot on…Congratulations to the truth Mr. Jones…the Marshall System was a huge mistake. Perhaps Mr. Shuffield’s move may be necessary but is he jumping from a boiling pot into a hot frying pan? Is the FLW really the best alternative? Both BASS and FLW are marketing organizations that are truly more interested in building brands and marketing product; however, the bass competitive angling game will see no changes any time soon if the anglers are unorganized and have no representation at the large oval tables. We, for the most part have been fishing for each others money for years…gambling with a rod and reel rather than a deck of cards. Nevertheless, the paradigm has shifted greatly in the world of competitive business, yet the majority of the Countries bass fishing has stayed stale or presented in a manner that is counterproductive. The real question to ponder is NOW WHAT?
“Pot stirring tendencies” love that RS…

I hate professional bass fishing so much because I love bass fishing so much.

I quit B.A.S.S. after I realized that it had evolved into an infomercial. I do respect and admire certain pros –they still fish– but the bigtop NASCAR act did itself in, IMO.

I’m really happy to have read this, as it provides me with confirmation that I am not merely an antisocial deviant with a strong aversion to being regarded first and foremost as a consumer.


Wow, talk about hypocritical! Seems the guest blogger has a bad case of jealousy and BS. I haven’t laughed that hard in ages. Maybe because I see the stones he throws at people like Skeet and Ike as being so….childish it makes me want to puke.

I understand Jerry did bring back a bit of the past with his dvd of his final episodes…I was too late to get one! Rats!