By Darl Black
Russ Bailey and Dale Black taping a segment of Brushpile Fishing show on Pymatuning Lake on PA/OH border.
If you are a diehard crappie angler, I can probably tell you three things about yourself even though we have not met or had previous discussions. First, you place deep-fried crappie at the top of culinary delights. Second, you are a reader of the CrappieNow – the #1 online crappie fishing magazine. Third, you watch BrushPile Fishing on television or on the web! (If you don’t, then you should!)
The host of Brushpile Fishing is Russ Bailey of Saint Marys, Ohio. Bailey is a longtime crappie angler with impressive credentials, including a very successful pro crappie tournament career. Many believe that Russ was actually born with a dippin’ pole in his hand.
“Several years ago I started to get burned out with all the traveling involved in tournament circuits,” Bailey explains. “I was contacted by a few sponsors about doing a show which resulted in several year run of Midwest Crappie TV and how-to videos. Then last year, I was contacted by L.J. Jellison of NK Telco about hosting a new show called Brushpile Fishing. We had a few meetings to discuss concepts, and the show was born!”
Show producer Jellison reviews a list of guides and tournament pros provided by Bailey to serve as potential weekly co-hosts. Then together they narrow the options. “We try to pick different lakes and as many patterns/techniques that have wide appeal to fishermen and can be handled in a season. L.J. makes the final cut then works out the logistics of travel and so forth,” explains Bailey.
Editing the good stuff!
Last spring I had an opportunity to visit an on-the-water taping of a Brushpile Crappie episode when the production team spent a day on Pymatuning Lake with Gamma Line president Dale Black of Oil City, Pennsylvania. Situated on the PA/OH border, 16,000-acre Pymatuning is recognized as one of the country’s premier northern fishing lakes.
I arrived mid-morning just as they were abandoning the planned technique of dipping pads. The mid-May timing was right, but the lake level was lower than previous springs so therefore black crappies had not moved into the pad beds to spawn as anticipated.
As I climbed into the camera boat, Jellison hurriedly explains that earlier in the morning he had become concerned about getting enough material for a program when the pad bite fell through…until Russ and Dale came up with an alternative cover location and technique. “You know you have the right people in place when the initial plan does not pan out, but the host and guest have the experience to make an alternate plan on the fly,” says L.J.
Jellison went on to explain about the crew and equipment. “In field we have two camera operators. One of the two-person crew fulfills the role of director, making sure all the necessary footage is accumulated. We use two full-size video cameras, one or two Go Pros plus a drone for aerial footage.”
There is more to making a TV show than just catching fish on camera.
According to Jellison, the most challenging issue of filming on the water is maintaining a good clean shot. “Usually we have Russ and the guest co-host in one boat and a secondary boat for at least one camera operator. With both boats in motion, it is hard to continuously keep both hosts in frame throughout, and when they are fishing you never know when the strike will occur. The wind is a secondary thorn in our sides when it comes to both audio recording and boat placement.”
Russ says that normally it takes about 6 hours in the field – or rather on-the-water – to have enough material for a show. However, sometimes the fish are so cooperative it only takes two hours. “And sometimes the fish just don’t want to cooperate, and it can take from sunup to sundown! Unfortunately, there have been a few times we just could not get it done!” admits Bailey.
But when a show does not happen, it is lack of fish cooperation that gums up the works. Bailey says guests are real troopers, recalling one taping in South Carolina with Whitey Outlaw. “The night before the planned shoot, Whitey was sick and could not speak. I thought we were sunk. But Whitey took cough medicine and braved the cold windy weather…and we got the show done!”
Up in the sky! Is it a bird, a plane? No it’s the camera drone hovering above.
Jellison recalls a memorable incident in the field as well. “We were filming a show on Lake Loramie in Ohio. We needed one camera operator in the water to get a good shot of the hosts’ faces. The co-host told us the water was only a couple feet deep. Well, he didn’t take into account the two feet plus of mud bottom that sucked the operator down and filled his waders with water! But we got the shot!”
Once the field work is done, Jellison averages 20 hours of studio time to produce one 1/2 hour program. “Frist we cut the raw footage into usable clips. Then we go through another cut process of fine tuning and start layering camera shots and establish smaller sequences. Next in the studio we do cut aways and gear checks with Russ’s assistance, and insert them into the episode. Then we add graphics and additional on screen tips & info. The final trim is for timing. Next the audio is sent out to be mastered. Then we take the finished audio and reconnect it to the sequence. With a final review, the show is ready for delivery.”
It’s always an adventure to get a show out to viewers but certainly worth the effort concedes Bailey. “No matter how good a fisherman we tape, or how good the fishing has been, the fish still control things! The best part of the show for me has been the great friendships I’ve made across the country, and the fact that after all these years I’m still learning new things. We hope the viewers are learning as well.”
If Brushpile Crappie is not currently on your local TV channels, you can view previous episodes at www.nkt.tv/all-channels/brushpile-fish.