For a full-time rancher, Darrel Robertson of Oklahoma has had a hell of a career as a pro fisherman. He’s amassed over $1.7 million in FLW Outdoors winnings, over a third of it as the result of his victory at the 1999 Ranger M1 Millennium tournament held at Cypress Gardens, Florida. His other win came in an FLW Tour Major on Ft. Gibson Lake, just two months earlier. Together, they were worth $860,000.
Robertson’s victory in the M1 was a big deal in the bass fishing industry because his oversized check for $600,000 marked the largest single tournament haul to that date. It was also significant in the sport’s rise for another reason: the potential exposure that would result from it. It was broadcast live on Fox Sports. As FLW wrote in their summary of the tournament:
“For the first time in network history, sports fans nationwide were able to see the action unfold live on the network television’s first broadcast of a bass fishing tournament. FOX Sports employed a crew of more than 100 production professionals to cover the 9-mile, 14-lake venue using more than 15 boats, a helicopter, mobile production facilities, and sophisticated radio frequency relay equipment.”
If those technologies sound familiar, it’s probably because many of them have since been employed in both FLW and BASS tournament coverage in the form of live blogs, war rooms and iterative leaderboards. Much of that has been transferred to the internet, but in many ways the M1 provided a blueprint.
Fox Sports employed longtime “traditional” sports commentators Joe Buck and Bob Brenly, along with Forrest Wood, the tour’s namesake, to explain the event. The network also did their best to hype the event before it started. As New York Times television critic Richard Sandomir noted, “Fox tried to enliven the tournament with zippy production. During the Bears-Packers game leading into it, Fox posted a running countdown-to-bass-fishing clock box on the screen.” Sandomir also noted with surprise that the show garnered the same overnight rating as the Breeder’s Cup on NBC.
While the TV production values may have been unprecedented for the sport, there was a little bit of controversy regarding the final weigh-in, specifically the broadcast itself. Do you remember what happened?
The answer and winner will be revealed Thursday, July 19, 2012. Good luck!