For those of you who read my blog or follow my posts on The Fin Facebook page you probably know that I produce the Walmart FLW Tour bass fishing tournaments for FLW Outdoors (along with Peyote Perryman of Digital P Media) The shows are on VERSUS every Sunday at 1:00 PM ET so check 'em out.
We're constantly trying to evolve the show by taking what we learn from one tournament and applying it to the next. But once the tournament season gets started its hard to make changes so with less that two months before our 1st tournament now is the time we take a hard look at our past work to see what worked, what didn't, and what we can do to make it better. Hence the title of the post...that's our goal!
In the few years, since I've been involved, the show has gone through some big changes. One of the biggest change is that the anglers now do all of the talking (when I started, the show was mostly presented using voice over with little talking from the anglers themselves). This makes it hard to get to know them. Another change is that we cut down on the time allotted to the final weigh-in. While the weigh-ins are very exciting in person (if you are near any of our tournaments you should come see for yourself!) we found that folks watching the show really just want to see the fishing. To that end, we also changed how the fishing itself is presented. In the past, most of what was shown was a hook set and then the fish swinging into the boat. We make every effort to show the whole process and not just fish being lifted out of the water. Of course we do what we can through editing to make things exciting for the viewer, which may mean speeding some things up, but we know that our fans want to learn something too. (here are a few bass fishing tips for those of you who want learn something right now).
Our goal is simple... Capture the excitement of the tournament and tell the story of what happened as well as provide as much fishing info, tips, tricks, etc so that our viewers walk away having learned something that they can take to their own lake.
Sounds easy right? Not so fast. (BTW, you can see all of last years shows here) Each tournament lasts for 4 days. Our crew starts to arrive on the Wednesday before the tournament (they start on Thursday). Wednesday afternoon the anglers have a mandatory rules meeting and this is an opportunity for us to talk to some of the guys to find out where people are fishing, how they're practice went and any other info we might dig up. Understandably, the anglers can be tight lipped as not to give away any info that might help their competitors. Of course, anything told to us goes no further. To do our job to the best of our ability it's important that we have the trust of the anglers. The info we get here helps us determine who we'll follow on day one.
Day 1 & 2. On the first two days we generally cover the action with just 2 cameras. One filming the action on water (Jeff McMichael..one of the best in the business) and one (me) on land getting b-roll, time-lapse video (the cool moving cloud shots), beauty shots, etc... Because the actual tournament is 4 days long and the show is only an hour, it would be overkill to have more cameras on these days. But still, it's important that we capture the action on these days so that we can tell the whole story.
Day 3 (cut day). Things start to heat up on day three because it's at the end of this day that we'll know who is going to fish one more day and have a shot at the money. (1st place gets $125,000). In terms of the TV show, this is generally where it begins. On this day, we have three cameras on the water all day. Typically, each cameraman covers up to 3 anglers. We start the day covering the top three. Once the guys have enough coverage on the top three they move on down the line to the anglers in 4-6th place, and so on. With only three cameras on the water, it's a challenge and requires us to keep in close contact with the anglers. The lakes we're fishing on are huge and it could be an hour run to find the next guy and if they are not where they said they would be we just wasted an hour. But, they're fishing for a lot of money so if they have to move they have to move. More often than not though it works out.
The top ten meeting: At the end of day three, after the weigh-in, there is a mandatory meeting for the top ten anglers. These are the guys fishing for the money. At this meeting they are briefed by the tournament director and then by us, the production team. As I mentioned before, our goal is to have the anglers do all the talking and not have to rely on voice over to tell their story. In order for this to happen, the anglers actually have to talk, and this is what we tell them at the top ten meeting. This is really their chance to shine and for some it will be their only chance as making a top ten consistently is VERY difficult. Some guys are natural on camera and some guys completely clam up. No mater what, it's our job to get something out of them while on the water. I's obviously important for them to concentrate and fish hard but they also have to keep in mind that in order to build their own personal brand they have to perform for the camera if it doesn't come naturally. The more visible they are the better chance they have to land key sponsors. Of course I'm simplifying...the sponsorship game is much more complex than just talking on TV.
Day 4 (the final day!). On the final day, we team each of the top ten anglers up with their own cameraman. We choose which camera goes with which angler based on chemistry (they need to work together in a very small space) and ability. Each cameraman's job is to tell the complete story of the angler they're following (sounds simple right?). So, from the second they hook up with their angler in the morning until the day is done they are not only covering every fish catch but they're talking to the angler about how they're doing it, how they made the decision to fish where they are, etc, etc, etc... When the fishing is done, we do one final interview with the anglers and then it's off the the weigh-in. (these are very long days, and our cameras work very hard). by the time we get to the weigh-in, the bulk of our job is done. The weigh in takes about an hour and we cover it with 7 cameras and it ultimately ends up being about 4 minutes in the hour long show.
The next phase is to put it all together but that's probaly more than you want to read right now and probably not as interesting as gaining a little insight into what it takes to produce what we hope will be The Best Damn Bass Fishing Tournament Show!