ESPN2: Bass fishing from the inside out

  • Editor's note: Each Saturday on ESPN2 television, "B.A.S.S. Insider" airs at 8 a.m. ET and "Day on the Lake" at 9:30 a.m. ET. (This week's episode of "B.A.S.S. Insider" re-airs April 14 at 5 a.m ET and "Day on the Lake" re-airs April 12 at 5 a.m. on ESPN2.)

    Also see: Click here for the "B.A.S.S. Insider" Cover Story for Episode 1.

    As most fishing fans across the nation know, if you tune into BASS Saturday programming, you'll get the best tournament bass angling coverage on the planet.

    Take last weekend for instance: from the shocking DQs of Kevin VanDam and Alton Jones to Preston Clark's record-setting victory at the CITGO Bassmaster Elite Series Showdown on Santee Cooper, ESPN Outdoors had you covered.

    But while BASS tournament glory is great, if you're a weekend warrior like me, you want to learn how to emulate the pros when you get out on the water.

    In other words, you want to know how to catch more and bigger bass.

    And if that's you, ESPN Outdoors again has got you covered, thanks to two new BASS Saturday offerings that begin this weekend — "B.A.S.S. Insider," airing at 8 a.m. ET and "Day on the Lake" at 9:30 a.m. ET. Both can be seen on ESPN2 television.

    Both shows should give viewers plenty of inside information on subjects ranging from being a better bass angler to exactly what happens in the hallowed halls of BASS' headquarters in Florida.

    "B.A.S.S. Insider"

    "Our new television series, 'B.A.S.S. Insider,' is devoted to making the average angler a better angler," said Dan Bowen, senior coordinating producer, ESPN Outdoors.

    "While ESPN Outdoors is proud to feature its many tournament shows, 'B.A.S.S. Insider will take a different tact by speaking directly to the weekend angler and the family fisherman, giving them the latest techniques to better his next trip to the lake."

    Each episode of "B.A.S.S. Insider" will include short features such as "Stock Your Box" and "Pro's Pointers" among others.

    "There's another feature called 'Cover Story' where a BASS senior writer focuses on one story from the bass fishing world," said Don Rucks, vice president and general manager, BASS.

    ""It takes a viewer behind the doors of BASS to really see the inner-workings of the organization."

    This week, the 'Insider' show will focus on the amazing big bass exploits of Jeffrey Smith, his brother Steve, and their pal Randal Keith, all of Blue Spring, Mo.

    The trio of big bass experts is indeed worthy subjects for this week's inaugural episode, especially in light of their career big bass catches.

    For the record, Jeffrey has caught 21 bass certified at 15 pounds or greater, fish that include an IGFA Florida catch-and-release record largemouth that tipped his certified Boga Grip scale at 17.8-pounds.

    That's not even mentioning the fact that Jeffrey has an eye-popping total of 128 bass — and counting — certified at over 10 pounds.

    Not to be outdone, brother Steve is rapidly playing catch-up, landing 56 bass of his own that are certified at 10 pounds or better.

    Among those catches, Steve has his own Florida 17.8 pound lunker, albeit from a different water body in a different part of the state than that of his brother's big bass.

    And Keith, a relative newcomer to the big bass fraternity, is rapidly learning how to catch giant largemouths of his own, already boasting a record of 11 fish over 10 pounds including a 17 pound bass and a 14 pound fish.

    "We've been fortunate and lucky," said Jeffrey, a region manager for Dannon Yogurt, when ESPN Outdoors caught up with him earlier this week on a snowy business trip to Salt Lake City.

    "We've also put a lot of effort into catching these big fish since about 20 years ago, my brother and I decided to try and catch these trophy size fish."

    Jeffrey, who led a contingent of anglers back to Florida several days ago for some big bass fishing, isn't resting on past glories, mind you.

    During that recent outing, using what he calls the "filet mignon" of bass baits — the wild golden shiner — the Smith brothers and their pals (including NFL announcer Bill Maas) landed 20 bass over 10 pounds in six days of fishing.

    Those fish — "teen-agers" as Maas calls a bass approaching 13 pounds or better — included two fish weighing above the 14 pound mark.

    Unfortunately, those same figures don't include the heartbreaking loss that Maas suffered of a bass that Jeffrey estimated at 20-pounds or more.

    Hmmmm … Jeffrey, can I schedule a bass fishing trip with you sometime soon?

    "I'm a pretty lousy golfer, but I can fish pretty good, so the guys always want to go fishing with me," Jeffrey chuckles.

    Even when the ESPN Outdoors television cameras are rolling and Old Man Winter is doing his best to freeze the orange juice solid in the Sunshine State.

    "When we filmed this (particular) episode in February, it was the coldest temperature that I've ever fished in," Jeffrey said.

    "It was 20 degrees that first day. A cold front and big fish is not a good combination in Florida."

    So cold was the first day of filming that condensation was freezing on the TV camera lenses.

    Even so, as temperatures moderated a couple of days later — into the balmy 50s — the Smith brothers and Keith turned TV time on the water into a semi-clinic for big bass catching, putting a 10.4, an 11.4 and an 11.8 in the boat.

    "Day on the Water"

    Speaking of time on the water, that brings up the second new show of this quarter, the small screen version of the longstanding Bassmaster Magazine staple, "Day on the Water."

    "It's the single-most popular part of Bassmaster Magazine each month," said Dave Precht, editor in chief of the magazine.

    "It's the first thing that many people read when they open the magazine," Precht added, noting that the feature runs approximately seven times a year.

    "We certainly get more feedback on that than anything else, even more than my column."

    According to Precht, the TV show will certainly resemble the magazine feature.

    "I think every angler, when the fish aren't biting, has wondered 'What would Kevin VanDam do in this situation?' or 'I wish Rick Clunn was here and could show me what to do,'" Precht said.

    "Both the magazine articles and the TV show help you get inside the head of a professional angler who makes his living finding fish in all sorts of situations with very little advance information."

    One thing that magazine readers should notice is that the TV show producers have attempted to use anglers who haven't already appeared in the magazine's popular series.

    To that end, BASS pros such as Mike McClelland, Jeff Kriet, Bradley Stringer, Timmy Horton, and Matt Reed will pay "Day on the Water" visits to such venues as Bull Shoals, Lake Fork, and Lake Monticello among others.

    Leading off is McClelland, the three-time CITGO Bassmaster Classic qualifier and three-time BASS winner from Bella Vista, Ark.

    While this Saturday's venue is one that McClelland admits he has seen before — the 45,400-acre Bull Shoals Lake nestled along the Arkansas/Missouri border — he was confined to an area of the deep and typically clear lake that he had never fished before.

    Throw in the fact that it was a somewhat chilly day with water temps in the 40s, and McClelland was indeed faced with a challenge — with the ESPN Outdoors television cameras recording the action, mind you.

    "We have a lot of pressure on us on the water when we're fishing in a tournament," McClelland said. "If we catch them, we make money, if we don't catch them, we don't make any money."

    If anything, McClelland said that he felt as much — if not more — pressure to do well during the day-long filming of this weekend's "Day on the Water" show.

    "It amazed me how much pressure I was under to catch something — it was interesting and fun," McClelland said.

    "The camera crew documented everything we did on the day. Basically, it was like we were thinking out loud as they filmed and helped viewers see what goes through a seasoned angler's mind on a day on the water."

    According to Rucks, that's what show producers hope to convey on the Deuce's small screen each Saturday.

    "I think this is the kind of show that conveys exactly how many elements there are to locating and boating a fish," Rucks said.

    "Sometimes, anglers have a hard time doing it on bodies of water they are familiar with. Here, there's another obstacle because it's brand new territory for them (the pros)."

    Which brings to mind the questions: is this fishing's version of reality entertainment, is it solid angling instruction, or perhaps a little bit of both?

    "These days, every TV show has to be entertaining because we're in a universe of hundreds of channels," Bowen said.

    "But at its core, it's a program geared toward identifying an angler's deficiencies and helping them improve on their fishing techniques."

    And what else would you expect from the international leader in sports … and bass fishing?

    Each Saturday on ESPN2 television, "B.A.S.S. Insider" airs at 8 a.m. ET and "Day on the Lake" at 9:30 a.m. ET.