Daily Limit: Growing the sport on ESPN2

Even though he’s on the other side of the camera, former Bassmaster Classic champion and two-time Bassmaster Angler of the Year Davy Hite still gets amped up for a bass fishing tournament.

Hite’s excitement is further heightened because Bassmaster LIVE will air on ESPN2 for the next two events, starting Thursday with this week’s SiteOne Bassmaster Elite at St. Lawrence River.

“I’m excited to get back going. I’m excited for the sport,” Hite said. “It’s unbelievable because there’s a lot going on in this country. I pray every day for people to be healthy and get along. The bright thing that I see is the news about ESPN2.”

Hite, of Ninety Six, S.C., was on TV plenty as a Bassmaster pro, winning eight events, including the 1999 Bassmaster Classic and Angler of the Year titles in 1997 and 2002. His second career as bass fishing analyst began in 2017, and he sees live bass fishing on a major cable network as a great opportunity to grow the sport.

“Live television is huge. Our regular Bassmaster show has been on ESPN2, on delay, but that’s a whole tournament combined in an hour,” Hite said. “The big thing about this, it gives the anglers a chance to really showcase who they are.

“We’ve got a lot of great personalities in our sport. We always have and always will. For our sport to grow, it needs live TV so people can truly see the personalities of our anglers and appreciate their skill level. There’s a lot that goes on that we really can’t cover when we aren’t live.”

ESPN2 will air 25.5 hours of Bassmaster LIVE from the St. Lawrence. It airsThursday from 8:30 a.m. ET to noon and 1-3 p.m. On Days 2 and 3, ESPN2 will broadcast from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. On Championship Sunday, coverage will be from 7-11 a.m. and 1-3 p.m.

“It’s what our sport has been needing for a very long time,” Hite said. “I’m glad to be a part of it, still in a different way, but it should give anglers a chance to showcase sponsors and their personalities. I just know Jerry McKinnis would be super, super proud, because this is what he dreamt of.”

McKinnis was an icon for his long running Fishin’ Hole show and producing the block of outdoors programming on ESPN2, as well as developing television broadcast standards for bass fishing tournaments. McKinnis’ life mission was to raise pro anglers up to the level of other sports.

Hite, who will provide on-the-water reports, said there was a great boost from June’s Lake Eufaula event that aired 19.5 hours on ESPN2. Hite and most in the bass fishing world reveled in the viewership numbers — 2.8 million watched 85 million minutes, surpassing all of last season’s broadcasts on Bassmaster.com and WatchESPN.

“Any sport is better live,” Hite said. “We have loyal watchers, but you can become a fan of the sport by watching it for one day. Then the next thing you want to do as a fan is educate yourself more on the sport. Whether watching football or bass fishing, the more you learn, the more you appreciate the athletes.”