CELEBRATION, Fla. After a 44-year stretch that has seen The Fishin' Hole presented by Stihl visit extraordinary locations such as Zimbabwe and the Kola Peninsula in Russia with luminaries such as NCAA Basketball coach Bob Knight and MLB Hall of Famer Ted Williams, the show and its affable host, Jerry McKinnis, will entertain viewers with its final season of programming in 2007.
New episodes of The Fishin' Hole currently air on ESPN2 Saturdays at 7 a.m. ET., through the end of March. McKinnis' retirement will mark the end of a partnership of more than 20 years between ESPN and the famous outdoorsman.
A destination for outdoors enthusiasts, The Fishin' Hole has enjoyed a longer run on television than Gunsmoke (20 years), Dallas (13 years) and both Cheers and M*A*S*H (11 years).
"There isn't a show out there that can boast the longevity and continuity that we have had," the 69-year-old McKinnis said. "I am so proud of every episode that we have produced."
The program joined ESPN in 1980 and moved to ESPN2 in 2001. In that time, the ESPN networks have aired more than 300 original episodes of the groundbreaking show.
The Fishin' Hole is the second-longest running show on ESPN behind SportsCenter.
"I'm overwhelmingly proud that Jerry and The Fishin' Hole have been a part of the ESPN family for so long," said Steve Anderson, ESPN executive vice president of production and technical operations.
McKinnis was just 25 years old when he first began filming The Fishin' Hole. He was working as a fishing guide on Arkansas' Lake Maumelle and wanted to supplement his guide income with an outdoors television show.
It wasn't until 1980 that then-fledgling cable network ESPN and McKinnis agreed to the landmark partnership.
While McKinnis has enjoyed a number of high-profile trips to exotic locations including Australia and Africa, the Little Rock, Ark., resident says that the simple trips often with local guides on small bodies of water are the memories that he treasures most.
McKinnis' favorite episode occurred in the early 1990s when he visited Russia and the Kola Peninsula with both Williams and Knight. The trio enjoyed optimum fishing conditions and caught a number of Atlantic salmon during the two-week trip.
"I personally have never had a better friend than Jerry McKinnis," said Bobby Knight, Texas Tech University men's basketball coach and three-time NCAA basketball champion. "Jerry's attention to detail was what made the The Fishin' Hole tremendously successful and so well-received by countless viewers for so many years."
Since its inception in 1980, ESPN Outdoors has strived to inform and entertain anglers, hunters, campers and people of all ages who enjoy the outdoors.
ESPN Outdoors is committed to increasing awareness of, and participation in outdoor activities, a direction best exemplified by television programming on ESPN and ESPN2.
Each year, ESPN Outdoors stages more marquee events, including the Bassmaster Classic and the Bassmaster Tournament Trail.
ESPN Outdoors comprises BASS, the worldwide authority on bass fishing that sanctions more than 20,000 events through the BASS Federation Nation.
ESPN Outdoors also features Bassmaster.com, ESPNOutdoors.com, programming on ESPN2 as well as a growing array of promotions and activities that deliver a clear message of conservation and ethical sportsmanship.