Old Book Reviews: Jerry McKinnis’s Bass Fishing

Jerry McKinnis' Bass Fishing

Jerry McKinnis’ Bass Fishing

As promised, I recently completed my reading of this book, which carries the sub-title, “Largemouth & Smallmouth Habits & Habitats. Tackle. Techniques. Maps,” on its cover. The book was published in 1974 (First printing), and features illustrations by Ralph Mark, and a cover credit to Bert O’Neal. Speaking of the cover, it has the somewhat unusual appearance (for a fishing book) of featuring Jerry with a big stringer of bass looking to his then wife, Nan.  She appears a couple other times in the book. The book sold for $3.95 and covered 95 pages.

The book is paperback and actually quite large, more like a magazine or a coloring book. All pictures and illustrations. of which there are plenty, are in black and white. The font is also slightly larger than normal making for a very quick read. You could easily finish this one off in a matter of hours some afternoon.

Beyond introductions and indexes, the book has 17 chapters as follows;

  1. General Characteristics and Types of Bass
  2. The Complete Tackle Box
  3. The Right Rod and Reel
  4. Monofilament Line
  5. The Bass Boat
  6. The Depth Finder
  7. How, Where, and When To Find Bass
  8. Worm Fishing
  9. Top Water Fishing
  10. Medium Running Plugs
  11. Little George
  12. Specifically the Smallmouth
  13. Stream Fishing
  14. Those Special Bass Fishermen I Have Known
  15. Get Close To Someone Who Knows
  16. Southern Fishing Spots
  17. In Closing

In reading through the book, the first thing I realized is that this is a fairly high level overview of bass fishing, with no big revelations, secrets or surprises. As such, I won’t go into detail about every chapter, as so much of what is written is simply a good introduction to the sport and its related tackle and equipment.  Instead, what you will pick up on rather quickly upon reading, and what makes this book so attractive, is the language or writing style used – just as “down-to-Earth” and “Aw, shucks” as Jerry’s personality was on his TV Show, “The Fishin’ Hole.” If you’ve seen or grown up with the show as I did, you’ll know immediately what I am referring to.

In the introduction, Jerry states, “Now I would like to let you in on an honest-to-goodness secret here at the beginning, and that’s there are no miracle hooks, miracle baits, or miracle anything else in this bass fishing game, and don’t ever let anyone tell you differently.” That pretty much sets the tone for the entire book that follows. Some more examples of this “down home” style of writing include the following;

  • “If it sits for over a couple of months, again please take my advice and change it” (on the subject of line).
  • “Do me a favor and go ahead and buy a $400 or $500 boat trailer, with big wheels and heavy-duty construction” (advice to not to skimp on a trailer for your expensive bass boat).
  • “Don’t mean to be hurting anyone’s feelings, but when a fellow tells me the “dog days” are here, I can just assume that the fish have left the banks, gone to a little deeper water, and only the bottom fishermen (using plastic worms, jigs, etc.) are doing any good (on summer bassing).
  • “I guess it’s about time I got to talking about plastic worms which are, without a doubt, the most prolific bass catchers ever to come into the fishing picture.”
  • It’s really kind of a shame that we’ve waited so long in this book to get into the subject of this fish, because he’s the king of the bass family, without a doubt (on the smallmouth).
The late Bill Rose

The late Bill Rose

Those examples should give you a good idea of the laid back nature in which this book is written, and you can easily “hear” in your head Jerry speaking these words as you read them. A couple sections though that are worth mentioning a little about. In “Those Special Bass Fishermen I Have Known,” Jerry names Glen Andrews (“probably the best bass fisherman I have ever known”), Roy Murski, and Bill Rose. Jerry credits Bill as the guy he learned the most from, and he credits Bill with developing the “suspended bass” theory, a very common pattern in Ozark waterways that featured clear water and acres of submerged trees.

Select Lake Maps from the book.

Select Lake Maps from the book.

Another mention needs to be made about the “Southern Fishing Spots” chapter, which features mini lake maps showing ramps, creeks and even the best fishing areas on the lakes. Lakes covered include Eufala (AL), Bull Shoals and Crooked Creek (AR), St. Johns R. (FL), Seminole (GA), Barkley, Cumberland, Center Hill and Dale Hollow (KY-TN), Santee (SC), Smith Mountain (VA), and Livingston, Rayburn and Toledo Bend (TX).

In closing, outdoor writer Tony Dean credited Jerry with saying in a seminar once, “I think we all take this fishing too seriously.” After reading this book, you can’t help but come away with the same feeling.

Ed. Note: While the story mentions “Roy” Murski, we believe that is a typo that got repeated several times in the book. In fact, “Ray” Murski is likely the correct person of interest. Unfortunately, we lost Ray a few years back. For more on him, see the following Bassmaster piece: Bass fishing loses Icon in Murski