Editor’s Note: If there ever was a total outdoorsman, Mossy Oak Pro Hank Parker is one. A Bassmaster Classic champion twice, a master deer hunter who has taken 19 bucks that scored 170 or more, a race car driver and a TV host, Hank Parker has done it all. This week we’ll take a deeper look at the man who produces three TV shows, “Hank Parker 3D” and “Hank Parker’s Outdoor Magazine” on the Pursuit Channel and “Hank Parker’s Flesh and Blood” on the Outdoor Channel. “I started wearing Mossy Oak as soon as it came to the market, and I’ve been wearing it for close to 30 years,” Parker explains. “For the last 6 years, I've adopted the Mossy Oak family as my family.” Hank is a staunch member of the Mossy Oak fraternity. We’ve watched as his life has changed courses throughout the years. Parker also is key to the success of C’Mere Deer and Swhacker Broadheads.
Mossy Oak: Hank, when did you move from bass fishing professionally to hosting a television show?
Parker: In 1985, I decided to get more visibility for my sponsors as a tournament bass fisherman, I needed to have a television show. In 1980, Bill Dance left tournament bass fishing to be a fulltime outdoor host. But when I started my television show, I continued to tournament fish. I told my wife and children, “If I win the Bassmaster Classic for the second time, I’ll retire from tournament fishing. So in 1985, when I won the Bassmaster Classic for the second time, I retired from the tournament bass circuit and became a fulltime TV host.”
Mossy Oak: After winning your second Bassmaster Classic in 1985, you were the hottest bass fisherman in the world, at that time. Why did you decide to give all that up and go into television fulltime?
Parker: I was 36-years old, and I had four sons and a daughter at home. I felt like my kids needed my time, and I needed to be with them. I needed to be off the road. From the time I was 16 until I was 36, I burned the tires up on my vehicle going to bass tournaments. Tournament bass fishing was my only focus. To stay on top of my game and be competitive, I knew I needed to fish as much as I could. I couldn’t even go hunting, and I knew my children needed their daddy at home. For 20 years, I was fishing 5 to 7 days per week. Back then, I’d fish a tournament at Lake Okeechobee in Florida, and when the tournament ended on Friday, I’d load up and drive to Toledo Bend and start practicing for a tournament there, as soon as I arrived. After that tournament, I’d load my boat up and head for Cherokee, Tennessee, or the Thousand Islands, New York to fish another tournament. Often, I’d leave the first of June and not get back home until the first of July or later. I averaged being away from home 290 to 300 days per year.
Mossy Oak: Hank, why did you think you could make a living as the host of a television show?
Parker: When I started my show, the fishing industry hadn’t really embraced television. Roland Martin and Bill Dance both had shows. They were willing to help me get started. I started calling my sponsors. I’d tell them, “I can help your business, if you’ll use me in advertising and sponsor my show.” I started calling well-known fishing writers of that day - Mark Sosin, Homer Circle, Nick Sisley and others. Any time I could come up with up new idea of how to catch bass, I’d tell them, and they would come and fish with me to promote me, my sponsors and my shows. Back then, magazine articles were the only way fishermen and sponsors could communicate with the anglers of this country. I knew I needed to help my sponsors get more publicity, and I knew I needed to continue to try and help teach the fishing public how to catch fish. Television seemed to be the next natural step for me to achieve these goals. I also realized that as a tournament fisherman I had no way to grow my business except possibly through the vehicle of television.
Mossy Oak: How did you do your first year in television?
Parker: We kind of made it. I was on NBC, and we syndicated our show. When I started, I was scared to death that we might not make any money. I was afraid I was going to lose everything I had, because I had invested $100,000 in this idea - all my savings. But my third year in television a new network came out called TNN. We moved the show to this new network, and the whole world changed for us. Our show started going into 3- and 4-million households per week, and we began to have a very cost-effective CPM (cost per thousand). We started reaching outside and inside the fishing industry for sponsorship and had Chevrolet, Kelly Tires, Ranger Boats, Mercury Outdoors, Minn Kota trolling motors, Humminbird Depth Finder, and Abu Garcia. As far as advertisers and sponsors, we had the cream of the crop.
Go to http://www.hankparker.com/ to learn more about Hank Parker.