This is a fishing story, but it’s not about the one that got away. About a year ago, Tom Frank, 32, cast a metaphorical net for the chance to appear on a TV fishing show. The Fishers resident submitted a video audition tape for himself and brothers Michael, 34, and Sam, 37, to appear as guest fishermen on the nationally-televised Bass2Billfish program airing on NBC Sports Outdoor network. “On the video, I included pictures of us fishing and what we’d caught,” Tom said. “I figured that would be the end of it.” However, a second audition tape was requested, and it showed host Peter Miller just what he was looking for. “I’ve never had three brothers on the show. It made for a great dynamic: competition, camaraderie – all dedicated to their dad, who had passed away recently,” said Miller.
While some fact-challenged fishermen are famously prone to exaggerate (“You should have seen the size of it!”), that’s hardly the case when the Franks talk about their amazing experience. Consider: the trio stayed four nights at a luxury hotel in the Florida Keys; dined on meals fit for a king; received about $500 each in clothing and other gifts; fished two days using state-of-the-art tackle and boating equipment – and didn’t spend a dime. “They took care of everything possible,” Tom explained. “All they said was ’It’s going to be nice weather so bring appropriate clothes and sunscreen.’”
A year elapsed before the show was taped, but Michael Frank, who lives in Indianapolis, says the wait was worth it. “That’s the great thing about Bass2Billfish. They take regular people and show them the world-class fishing available in Florida. They call it a fishing, travel, reality show. He was happy to show these Midwest kids the great fishing in Florida.”
The episode was shot in the Keys off the coast of Islamorada, Florida, with the intention of landing sailfish. On Day One they saw a few, but none were caught. “Sometimes you get skunked. It happens,” said Tom, who did hook a rather substantial consolation prize – a 500-pound Hammerhead shark. Like most TV fishing shows, Bass2Billfish practices “catch and release,” and after lifting the shark for a measurement and photos, the crew freed the Hammerhead. “We watched it dive back to the bottom of the ocean. That was cool,” Tom said.
Day Two started equally slowly with only tuna and barracuda hitting the dead squid being used as bait. “You have a local guide, a TV host, a cameraman, a second chase boat – they’re just staring at you,” said Michael. “There’s a lot of time, effort, and money. We started to feel a little pressure.” But that changed when Sam Frank, a Grand Rapids, Michigan, resident, hooked a 350-pound Dusky shark which, shall we say, wasn’t too pleased. “He was flipping hard, and seeing the business end of a shark up close certainly got our attention,” remembered Tom. Michael eventually landed the target – a massive, beautiful sailfish. “I would rate their fishing skills at a high level – a strong nine,” offered Miller, now in his fourth season hosting the show that reaches 78 million households.
Lessons learned? For Tom, “How three competitive brothers tossed their egos aside and were humbled by such an incredible opportunity.” And for Michael, “It pays to get out of your comfort zone” and take a risk. Consider it the catch of the day.
The Frank brothers’ Bass2Billfish episodes air Saturday, January 26, and Saturday, February 2. Additional information is available at www.bass2billfish.com.