Jack DeBord of The Midwest Angler TV series.

While many of us are familiar with the stories and achievements surrounding the “household names” in this sport, part of what makes the history and story of bass fishing so great are the less-publicized regional and local personalities. One such individual here in the Midwest was an angler by the name of Jack DeBord.

Jack was a Muncie, Indiana native born in 1936. He graduated from Royerton High School in 1955, a small unincorporated town that Wikipedia lists as being located “near Pizza King and the fire station.”

After graduating, Jack did a stint with the Navy, joining the Muncie Police Department upon his return. After a move out to California that saw him working on and off with dragsters, he returned to central Indiana and started pursuing his love for fishing. Initially, he wrote and was a contributor to several fishing publications, “helping get the pro bass circuit off the ground,” as one local write-up put it.

Things really started to happen, though, in the very early 80s when he began a television show on a local cable channel (The Family Channel) called “The Midwest Angler.” The Midwest Angler started out as a pretty low budget operation, where Jack fished and filmed on a bunch of Indiana lakes, including many of our smaller, less publicized waterways. It was part entertainment, part reality show, and great inspiration for an aspiring teenage bass fisherman such as myself. Every once in a while I’d see Jack with the boat in tow headed to a lake, or parked at the local tackle and service shop, “That Place in Clermont,” run by Howard Wood and started in 1975. A member in one of the early bass clubs I joined even bought one of Jack’s boats used in the show.

Back on topic, there was minimal show editing, at least early on. You’d never see the great catches typical of a Bill Dance- or Roland Martin-type show, nor did you ever get the feeling of promotion. Instead, you saw an angler who shot and filmed “as is,” meaning if Jack got his butt kicked by the bass that day, you ended up watching a lot of casting footage.

More frequently you saw a bunch of 1- to 3-pound fish come across the front deck, very representative of what the average angler might catch on those same bodies of water.

By Oct. 1986, The Midwest Angler was in its 4th year of production, airing in 9 states and reaching over 22 million anglers. Jack became a regular speaker at boat and sport shows around the Midwest. The show would continue until the mid-90s when Jack moved down to Florida. There he spent most of his time fishing the lakes in the southern half of the state such as Lake Istakpoga and Lake Okeechobee.

In the spring of 1997, Jack joined forces with Scuba Tech Video Productions to bring his show to the many fans through the Sunshine Network, changing the show’s name to The American Angler. According to Scuba Tech, they rebuilt 13 episodes for local airing on ABC affiliate, WJXX 25 and WBSG 21 in Jacksonville, Florida and Brunswick, Georgia, for the shows normal off season. There was even a VHS video tape made entitled, “BASS FISHING: The Dog Days of Summer,” which can still be purchased through sites such as eBay. In total, the show ran for nearly 20 years between the two locations.

Jack DeBord was a featured speaker at many tackle shows and sports shows back in the day.  This one at the Big Blue Stores 9th Annual Fishing Show in Indiana.
Big Blue Stores Jack DeBord promotion 1988.

It’s hard to fathom how many anglers learned to fish by watching Jack’s shows over the years.  He was dedicated to showing anglers how to fish and that not every day turns out to be a fish a cast – yet there’s still something to learn.  Sadly, Jackie “Jack” Dean DeBord, 75, of St. Augustine, Florida, passed away on July 26, 2011 with his daughters by his side.