Jerry McKinnis, 82, a pioneer in outdoors television programming, died Sunday following a long illness, according to family members.
A longtime Little Rock resident, McKinnis was best known for his television program The Fishin’ Hole, which featured fishing trips with celebrity guests like Hall-of-Fame baseball player Ted Williams and NCAA basketball coach Bob Knight.
McKinnis originated the show in 1975, in Little Rock. It was ESPN’s first “time buy” program in 1985, and the show became the flagship for ESPN’s entire outdoors programming block. After SportsCenter, the Fishin’ Hole was ESPN’s longest tenured program.
Using modern videography, production and marketing, McKinnis helped build Fishing League Worldwide and BASS into major sports organizations. In 2010, McKinnis partnered with Don Logan of Birmingham, Ala., and the late Jim Copeland of Peachtree Corners, Ga., to buy BASS from ESPN.
McKinnis is enshrined in the International Game Fish Association Hall of Fame, the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame, the Arkansas Outdoor Hall of Fame, the National Fishing Hall of Fame and the Bass Fishing Hall of Fame.
McKinnis is survived by sons Mike McKinnis, Matt McKinnis and Shannon Nardi, all of Little Rock, and Mark McKinnis of Ventura, Calif.