Babe Winkelman has been a fishing, hunting, and wild game personality for many years.
Donald Edward "Babe" Winkelman has been a fixture of the outdoor industry for a generation. This kindly man and his wife Kris have been entertaining fishing and hunting fans for nearly 40 years with his down-to-earth fireside chats, and her mouthwatering recipes. But his story hasn't been free of difficulties, especially in recent memory.
When we last reported on the legendary Babe Winkelman, he had just filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy protection in his home state of Minnesota. He was quoted as saying that, "I've never been through anything like this in my life."
You might think that spelled the end of the famed angler and host of the national syndicated show "Good Fishing," but it looks like that's not the case.
While the news is sad for many of the outdoor legend's fans, Winkelman has asserted that once his financial situation is straightened out, his outdoor television shows, currently off the air for over a year, will return to the airwaves.
As we reported back in March 2020, "Winkelman is well known for promoting Lindy/Little Joe fishing tackle and being a field editor for Fishing Facts Magazine among a host of other publications. He was inducted into the National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame 32 years ago in 1988. Almost 20 years ago, the Minnesota Fishing Hall of Fame inducted him into their hallowed halls as an esteemed member."
Babe Winkelman, who now calls Brainerd, Minnesota home, is also a member of the Fishing Hall of Fame of Minnesota, the National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame, the Sports Legends Hall of Fame, and has received the prestigious Excellence in Craft award from the Outdoor Writers Association of America.
Now that is a career!
Putting the bad news behind us for a moment, let's see what else there is to know about a man who has, along with his wife, entertained us since our early days, and brought us many smiles, recipes, and vital pieces of knowledge.
Babe Winkelman the Fisherman
Babe grew up on a dairy farm near the small town of Duelm, Minnesota and learned to hunt by the time he was eight-years-old when he shot his first pheasant. That love for the outdoors, instilled at such a young age, set him on his path towards mainstream recognition.
According to his website Winkelman.com,
"Prior to hosting "Good Fishing," Babe spent years guiding, and fished in competitive tournaments beginning in 1970. He co-founded the Minnesota Bass Federation and served as its president in the early years. He also co-founded the Masters Walleye Circuit (MWC) and emceed its early events. In 1980 he started his television career and has hosted "Good Fishing," America's most-watched fishing show, ever since."
Those of us who grew up watching the Babe on TV shows know that you can't fake his enthusiasm for fishing, and it's entirely infectious when you see him in action. His YouTube fishing and hunting channel has nearly 16,000 subscribers and over 6.5 million views of the countless videos.
Winkelman has taught us how to sight fish for bluegills and cast for muskies, pike, and bass, but he is most famous for his walleye and crappie fishing exploits.
Don't let the infectious smile fool you into thinking that he's just another angler, Babe Winkelman is a world-class fisherman!
According to his Facebook page his outdoor shows have been seen on CBS Sports, Destination America, Pursuit Channel, Fox Sports North, Wild TV, Spectrum Sports, Comcast Chicago, AMG TV, and the American Heroes Channel. Babe also routinely fishes in and around Ontario, Canada and the lakes that border the United States, catching everything from walleye and bass to lake sturgeon.
For nearly 40 years he owned the trademark, "Teaching America to Fish," an educational show that involved his entire family. During the 1980s, Babe also authored a series of how-to books based on his fishing expertise, and was the only person to use audio tapes at the time. He was one of the first to film his fishing exploits starting in 1984, and went on to produce nearly 100 different videos over the decade.
Babe Winkelman the Hunter
In 1988 Babe's show "Outdoor Secrets," his jump from fishing into the hunting genre, aired for the first time. The show now features Babe, his daughter Karlee, his wife Kris, and other guests pursuing wild turkeys, whitetail deer hunting, tracking mule deer, targeting Ontario black bear, and even hunting Shiras moose in Utah.
Maybe the best part of watching a Babe Winkelman video is how easy-going and down to earth he seems during the whole adventure. This calm demeanor is sometimes so likable that normal folks like you and me just gravitate to him, which is probably why he has such a proud following of hunters and fishermen.
His early days on the farm taught him how to not only appreciate the little that they had, but what it meant to survive by the hunt as well.
Midwest Outdoors interviewed Babe Winkelman in the early part of 2017 and he told them,
"I loved doing all of it, but there were no such thoughts, of fishing or hunting for a living. I mean, everything was different; the government paid you a bounty, not only for pocket gophers but for skunks, raccoons, coyotes, a bounty to kill bears, bobcats, timberwolves."
As a man who was raised by a father and grandfather that lived through the Great Depression, he learned that to survive meant to use what nature offered. He added, "Now we're sitting there after putting ourselves on pedestals saying that we are the watchdogs of the earth, which, to me, is the stupidest thing Man has ever uttered, because the earth did perfectly fine for millions of years before we got here. And it'll do just fine for millions of years after we're gone."
Outdoorsmen and women everywhere remember back in 1978 when S.C. Johnson hired Babe to star in a Deep Woods Off commercial catapulting him into the public eye. Babe Winkelman Productions have thrust the venerable angler and hunter into the spotlight as a sportsman since the 1970s as a television series that has yet to be matched for its down to earth host and his friends and family.