Ike, Unalike

Image courtesy of NatGeo Wild - nationalgeographic.com

Image courtesy of NatGeo Wild - nationalgeographic.com

I’ve now watched four episodes of Mike Iaconelli’s “Fish My City” – filmed in Taipei, London, Austin and NYC – on NatGeo Wild. Despite my obvious obsession with the sport, I’m not a huge consumer of fishing television. There are very few shows out there that can hold my attention for even 30 minutes, let alone an hour or two. I have lots of them set to record on my DVR and after they pile up the vast majority end up getting deleted, usually without watching more than two or three minutes of the actual show, if any at all.

But Ike’s show is different.

Part of that is the concept. He’s distingushied himself from all of the “Me and Joe” shows and the “Me and Joe go to the best fisheries in the world” shows by focusing on urban fisheries.

The second part is Ike himself. He’s genuinely excited on each episode, able to explain concepts clearly, and admits what he doesn’t know. There’s an educational component. He’s not heavy-handed about it, but he’s sneaking key facts about species and places into the action, like a mom hiding kale or spinach in a plate of brownies.

The third element is the suspense. We know that “Joe the Pro” is going to catch a trophy on most fishing shows. When it comes to tournament coverage, by the time it airs we know who has won. On “Fish My City,” however, the result is usually in doubt up until the last cast.

All of those things separate it from 99% of fishing programming. Another key differentiator, though, is that he’s NOT CONSTANTLY PUSHING PRODUCT. There’s no “I couldn’t have done it without this boat and motor” or “You better run out to the Wall-Mark and getcha some of these special titanium South Dakota Rigs.” In fact, unless you’re looking carefully, you might not know that he has sponsors at all. I’ve seen Abu, Under Armour and Rapala/Storm products on the screen, but as far as I can recall he’s never mentioned them by name. It’s fishing for the love of the game, rather than just moving the latest and greatest off of the shelves. The only things he’s openly selling are the Ike brand and the sport, which makes the show far less clunky than just about anything else in this genre.

Could or should it be replicated by another angler? That’s hard to say. Few have Ike’s personality or portfolio. Furthermore, it’s unclear whether this was a conscious decision on his part or whether NatGeo insisted upon it. Either way, it makes for a better, smoother, more honest product I might delete fewer shows from my DVR if more of his peers took a step in this direction.