Original Caption: Recognized as a pioneer in the professional fishing business, Harold Ensley (right) of Overland Park still maintains the enthusiasm for the sport he enjoyed as a child in western Kansas. The Kansas City Times, May 22, 1989, photo credit: Steve Gonzales/staff

In today’s Throwback Thursday historical photo, we feature Harold Ensley, host of “The Sportsman’s Friend” television show for nearly 5 decades, and the pioneer who set the stage for most all TV fishing shows to come.  This particular story from 1989 detailed some of those famous anglers, and focused especially on Ensley. A few excerpts from the story follow;

“Harold Ensley, Babe Winkelman, Bill Dance and Roland Martin all have felt that sharp barb of criticism.

“But each of them now is having the last laugh on parents, friends and critics, on a world that now can only stand back in wonder and envy.

“These are the stars of an industry: professional fishing and its related detours into television, tackle, seminars, etc. they are among the select few who have ‘made it.’

“These are the men who, in the words of the theme song of Ensley’s long-running TV fishing show, have: “Gone fishin’ instead of just-a-wishin’.”

“Who would have thought that a little freckle-faced kid from western Kansas with a willow pole would one day get the kind of job that would allow him to fish four continents?” he said. “Sometimes I have to pinch myself to make sure I’m not dreaming.”

“I’ve been fishing for bass longer than a lot of people have lived,” he said as he reeled in his catch and released it. “But I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of it.

“It’s still a thrill to watch a bass come out of the water like that.”

  • For 36 years (started October 1953 on KCMO), television viewers have shared in that excitement as they have accompanied Ensley on his fishing trips. Many fishermen grew up watching his nationally syndicated “Sportsman’s Friend” series, which is recognized as the oldest fishing show in the nation.
  • It still keeps him busy. Though Ensley long since has passed the age when many people retire (he won’t reveal his exact age), he continues to film his show, give promotions at Wal-Mart stores, develop and test fishing tackle and do seminars and after-dinner talks.