Sports Nut

Rods and Bods

How ESPN made fishing sexy.

Time was, the average Joe could flip over to ESPN in the early morning hours and get some titillation, courtesy of the bouncy babes of the network’s fitness shows. But whether it was the Disney effect or the simple fact that ads for boats were easier to sell than ads for weight-gain powder, in recent years the babes have been phased out for the crusty gents of outdoor fishing programs.

The boys in the ESPN programming department may have grudgingly accepted this new reality, but thanks to Fish On (airing at 7 and 7:30 a.m. on ESPN2), they’ve managed to take those fishing shows and sneak in some traditional soft-core porn.

Fish On may not be worth setting your VCR for, but when viewed over coffee and a danish, it becomes apparent that this is the finest combination of water sports and bared flesh since Baywatch. The show’s Hasselhoff is Scott, a charisma-free slab of beefcake who is always quick with a well-placed hand at the small of the back, all while dispensing wisdom from the deep. And then there are the fisherwomen: the long-legged Dierdre, the toned and extra-enhanced Tara, and the token brunette, Michelle. (Click here to gawk at photos.) No matter your taste, they sure beat the chaw-dippin’, bass-kissin’, good ol’ boys who usually populate fishing shows. Somewhere, Hemingway is pistol-whipping his Cuban captain, muttering “Why the hell didn’t I think of this?”

The trio, thanks to sheer bodaciousness and careful editing, always land stunning examples of the local fauna (and then release them because it’s, like, good for the environment and all). The girls’ prowess with the spinnaker never ceases to amaze the lucky lads on the boat, who are reduced to blabbering things like, “Wow, nice snook, Tara!” Of course, that could simply mean that menfolk are not orgy guys—as Michelle noted on a trip to Islamorada, “Scott seems much more relaxed one-on-one than when all three of us are with him.”

Fish On tours your classic fishing holes—that is, the ones where the average temperature never dips below 75 degrees, so as to allow the ladies to don two-piece swimsuits. The conversation is peppered with the usual bait-shop chatter about 20-pound lines and lead-head hooks, although it’s a little difficult to concentrate on the technical talk when a beautiful woman is struggling with a long rod strapped on at groin level. Naturally, every time the girls get a strike, the first words out of their mouths are, “Woooah, he’s a big one!”

Once onshore, the gals partake in the usual gee-whiz activities (swimming with dolphins, riding in Air Force jets). At night, they trade in their waders for Manolo Blahniks and boogie the night away at the hip discos in town. Alas, the fish are usually biting at dawn, so the action tends to be somewhat tamer than the girls are likely used to.

One would think nearly naked women challenging nature on heaving boats would be enough eye candy for the early-a.m. male viewer, but for some reason, the show producers insist on employing the increasingly tired “pop-up” graphics format, here called “fish facts.” The graphics tend to cover the ladies’ lower assets with inanities like “Speckled trout are called ‘Specks.’ “

But even that quibble is overshadowed by the hilarious positions the gals find themselves in. A favorite takes place off Key West, when the Fish On boat pays a visit to a shrimping vessel that spends weeks at sea. The girls offer beer, chips, and full drooling privileges to the bearded salty dogs in exchange for excess bait—in this case, chum that could be obtained on shore for pennies. (Of course, buying onshore would deny the opportunity to reaffirm the gorgeousness of the Fish On women.) If you can’t get a sailor who hasn’t seen a woman in weeks to stand at attention, it’s time to put some clothes on and take up a sexless, glamourless hobby. Like fishing, perhaps.

Update: Unfortunately, it seems the only jiggling we’ll be seeing in the future will be from the bait. After this article was published, we learned that ESPN has decided not to continue Fish On.