Jerry McKinnis Talks About B.A.S.S.

An exclusive interview with B.A.S.S. Owner Jerry McKinnis where he reveals his thoughts and plans for the future of B.A.S.S. Discover what changes are in store for members as well as the Opens and Elite Series. You don't want to miss this!
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Glenn: Hi, I am Glenn May with, and I am here with Jerry McKinnis of B.A.S.S. Jerry, it is great to have you here today.

Jerry McKinnis: Well, it is good to be here. We have had a big day so far. It is media day here at the Bassmaster Classic, and we have surely had a good time.

Glenn: Now, Jerry, a lot of the questions that people have about the new ownership and the new direction for B.A.S.S.: one of them is why did you decide to get involved?

Jerry: Well, every now and then, I stop and say to myself, "What were you thinking?" No, the truth of the matter is, I did not decide one day, "Well, you know what, I'm going to go try to buy that." It was not like that at all. Actually, I have been associated with ESPN since ESPN started in 1979, and have really grown up with the ESPN people, and the main person at ESPN is a gentleman by the name of George Bodenheimer, and George called me one day and said, "We're going to sell B.A.S.S.," and that was very disappointing to me, because we did all the television and production work around it, and so we were embedded in it even before all this happened.

George said, "But don't be disappointed, because I want you to buy it," and so it kind of knocked me back a step or two, and he at that time then said, "You know, I have another really close friend that I always promised I would get them involved if this were to happen," and so then he brought me up to meet Don Logan. We got together and knew instantly that we were the two guys that could do this, probably spent a month or two getting ready to take a shot at it, and that is kind of how it happened.

It took a year. It was a year in the process, but there was actually no real problems, it was just kind of slow buying something from Disney.

Glenn: I can imagine, right?

Jerry: I do not know, that was kind of a long answer to your question, but that is kind of how it happened.

Glenn: What is it that drives you? What are you looking to do with B.A.S.S. now?

Jerry: Well, there is not one answer to that. If I had one thing that I wanted to do and did it and did not do the other things, the one that I wanted to get done would fail, too, so I have a number of things. B.A.S.S. has, obviously, the competitive side of its business, and within that piece there are four or five divisions that you have to take care of, and then push that aside and you have the Internet, and the Internet is a big piece of what we are trying to do here.

Then you have publications, which Bassmaster Magazine and Bass Times are such a big part of this whole thing, and then TV, and we have to get it right as well, so to say which one of them I was going to try to focus on and made it better is not completely the direction I have to go, because I have to fix them all. I do think that B.A.S.S.--this little path right here--that is a pretty important thing.

That is a big thing in the outdoor world, but we still have a lot of work to do on the business, and we need help in so many areas, and have to tweak it here and tweak it there, and it is not going to happen fast. It is going to take maybe a couple of years to even get pointed in the right direction, but I can tell you this: we are going to do it.

Glenn: Well, what sort of changes should we look forward to?

Jerry: I do not know if they are changes. We have to make additions in sales. That is where the game changer is at: in the sales side of it, and so that is not really a change. It is a pretty obvious thing to work on. There will be changes in our competitive side of it. My dream is to someday have an Elite field that is a little smaller than it is right now but does not pay an entry fee.

My dream for the Opens is to have more of them, and have them be a bigger, stronger piece of it, simply because that is the only way you can get to the Elites, and the way I feel, the Elites are going to be so fantastic that everyone that ever thought about being a competitive bass fisherman is going to want to be in them, and the only way you can get into them is through the Opens, and so the Opens have to be as strong as they can be to support these Elites.

Glenn: Well, years ago, there used to be more divisions in B.A.S.S. Are you thinking about going back to that, to expand Opens and adding more divisions across the United States?

Jerry: Well, we definitely want a division in the West. I just feel like we have shut the West. Well, you know.

Glenn: Yes.

Jerry: I am not just saying that because I am standing here talking to you. I guarantee you we will have something going out there next year, and when we do, I do not know how big it will be, but it will be good, and it is going to stay there until it grows. That has been kind of the pattern in the past, I think, anyway. B.A.S.S. runs out there for a year and they do not get enough entries, and so they pull out of the Opens and then they are gone, and then another year goes by or another two and they try it again.

We are going to go out there and try to do it right and keep it there. By gosh, we are going to make it good. Why wouldn't we? There are a zillion people out there that like to bass fish, and they are a big part. Look at our guys from the West in our Elite series. There are a number of big boys there, and so that is a big part of it.

Glenn: Are there any thoughts about expanding the venues or the number of tournaments that the Elite anglers fish?

Jerry: Yes, there is, and as I say, we are going to tweak the formats a little bit. We have eight events right now. This is my wish list: I would love to have eleven Elites, with one of them being a mystery lake. Right in the middle of the schedule, where about four people on Earth know where they are going, and just turn them loose on whatever this fishery is. I just think that would cause so much excitement that I can hardly wait to take a crack.

Glenn: That is awesome. There have been so many people that have mentioned that over the years. It is great to hear that you are saying that. That just sounds really exciting!

Jerry: I even know where I want to take it, but I am not telling you.

Glenn: Of course not!

Jerry: No, I do not, but we would certainly research that. Our end-of-the-year event, kind of wrapped around Angler-of-the-Year, Toyota's big week is a major deal. Our Bassmaster Classic is obviously a major deal, and I think right in the middle of our whole schedule, this mystery lake can be a giant deal.

Glenn: Yes, that would be excellent. Any thoughts about changing the Classic to a different time of year?

Jerry: Yes, all the time we think about that. The problem is, everyone has a different idea. If I added them all up, I think it would be 50/50. Changing to a different time of the year would give us a lot more options of where we could go, but the thing that bothers me is the last three or four years we have had the Classic at this time of year, every year they get bigger.

Every year more people come to them. Every year the Internet gets bigger, and so it is kind of difficult to say, "Well, I think I will change that," so I am really torn. We are going to Shreveport next year. We are already locked in to that, and so I figure I have this coming year to kind of try to figure that out and start finding whatever day it is going to be then, or whatever time of the year we will have time to get a good site.

Glenn: Where do you think B.A.S.S. will be five years from now?

Jerry: Great, I am so glad you asked that. I am going to tell you. I am going to give you my answer here, and I do not know if it is where I think it will be or whether I am just wishful thinking that this will be where it is, but I think that if you put out a goal--and I do not that has happened in the past very much--I am going to have a goal; I have one right now--that kind of gives you something to shoot for.

In five years--I always think three years down the line--but five years from now, first of all, I would like to have a million people. I would like to have a million members. I do not know why we do not have a million members. I keep being told every survey says there are ten, 25 or 30 million bass fishermen, and I do not know what the right figure is, but there is one that is pretty close, and a half million members of B.A.S.S. isn't anything. Why don't we have a million? I want a million members five years from now.

I want every event that we have to be streamed live on the Internet all day long. I want live coverage all day long, with the final day again on ESPN.

I want the two Federations to somehow get back together and quit fighting like a bunch of little kids and start realizing that we can do three times as much if we will come together as two, especially in the area of conservation, and I would like to see high school bass-fishing to be a big part of the high school curriculum.

Those are two or three pretty big wish lists right there, but I think we can do that.

Glenn: Very ambitious, but it is good to hear. It sounds like it is going in the right direction. I think this is a change that is long overdue, and it is great to have you at the helm directing the traffic and leading the charge.

Jerry: Well, thank you.

Glenn: Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Jerry McKinnis. I am Glenn May for

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