Show tries to lure nonfishing crowd

Posted: Friday, August 30, 2002

BRAINERD, Minn. -- First there was ''Survivor,'' then came ''Big Brother,'' ''Real World'' and ''The Amazing Race.''

Are TV viewers ready for ''Battlefish?'' Chris Hermans hopes they are.

The former field producer at Babe Winkelman Productions, along with friends Sam Alvar and Ben Finch, is creating a reality fishing show he hopes will find a niche in an otherwise less-than-daring genre.

''Most of the fishing shows you see on TV today are too perfect,'' said Hermans, who moved to Brainerd from Duluth five years ago. ''They just don't seem real. Guys catch fish at the right time and everything goes smooth. I hear it all the time in the fishing industry: 'The only people watching fishing shows are fishermen.' This show will be different.''

Indeed, ''Battlefish'' will portray fishing in a different light. Hermans said he knows a lot of fishermen who are ultra-competitive, especially among friends and family. So why not square off in a real competition to decide the issue?

''Battlefish'' will feature a pair of two-man teams, each of whose goal is to out-fish the other. The teams will be sent to a lake (destination unknown before the contest) and outfitted with identical gear. Neutral officials will drive each boat and measure all fish caught.

The competition will last for two days and the team that measures the most inches of fish wins.

There also will be off-the-wall contests such as backing a trailer through a set of pylons, casting into a hoop from a distance, etc. The winning team of the on-shore contests gets to leave the dock one-half hour early when the on-the-water competition begins.

But the fun begins long before then. Hermans said cameras will be positioned in hotel rooms, bait shops, bars, on the docks and other locations the contestants might frequent in order to capture their emotions throughout the contest. Candid interaction is encouraged.

During the prototype contest in July on Lake of the Woods, some of that interaction wasn't too sportsmanlike. One team broke into the other team's cabin and taped a cell phone under the kitchen table. Hourly calls to that phone made sure the team in that cabin didn't get much sleep the night before the contest.

''We didn't realize they would take it to that extreme a level,'' Hermans said later. ''But this is real people fishing, real emotion, everything happens as you see it.''

Ted Takasaki, president of Lindy/Little Joe Tackle Co., will serve as contest official. All contestants will be amateurs. No entry fee required.

The contests will be rigged in a manner that will not allow contestants to get too comfortable. For example, at Lake of the Woods both teams had to use baitcasting reels and both were more familiar with spincasters. The winners got $10,000 in shredded cash.

The losers walked the plank, literally. In tandem they walked off the ''Dock of Shame'' and into the lake.

''This is the only fishing show I know of where the fishermen aren't also the producers,'' Hermans said. ''(The cameramen's goal) is to get as many different video angles as possible.''

Hermans has received help from Jeff Zernov at Aqua-Vu in rigging special cameras that can be used to get underwater shots, as well as unique overhead shots. The prototype contest will air on KARE-11 TV in October, Hermans said. An ice-fishing show will be taped this winter.

Later contests will feature freshwater fishermen competing on saltwater venues and other locations where they're unfamiliar. The aim of ''Battlefish'' is global, Hermans said.

''We want to make a fishing show that even nonfishers will watch,'' he said.

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