Jeremy Smith fell in love with fishing at an early age, which is why he pursued a career in the industry. As a youth, he followed the television exploits of Al and Ron Lindner and, because of his persistence, he ended up working for Lindner Media Productions.
Outdoor News: Tell us about your childhood and how that affected your desire to pursue a career in the fishing industry.
Smith: I grew up in a little town called Madelia in southern Minnesota. Not a lot of water around there. When I was really little, I don’t know how old I was, but behind my grandma’s farm she took me fishing and I caught a carp. It just blew me away. I was just naturally curious from that point on.
I started going with my mom, grandma, and aunt to the Park Rapids area. I was in that 5-, 6-, and 7-year-old range. We stayed at a small resort on Little Sand Lake. They would go shop for antiques and I could fish off the docks.
So being around that clear water where you could see the sunfish and bass, I just became infatuated with it. I loved it. I just fell in love with fishing at an early age.
ON: And where did those days on the dock lead?
Smith: Our family bought a cabin near Longville, so as a teenager I spent my summers there.
When I finished high school and started college, I spent entire summers at the cabin. I was guiding out of the Mule Lake store and waiting tables to make ends meet.
In high school – just like a lot of other people – I grew up watching the Lindners, and I always thought someday I want to work for In-Fisherman, so on my way to the cabin I would stop by their offices and hit them up for a job.
When I was a junior in college, I started knocking on the door there. Nothing happened, so after completing college with a degree in biology and business management, I went to Bemidji State (University) to get a few more credits and student teaching experience. At that point, the plan was to teach, then guide in the summer, until I could find a permanent spot in the industry.
ON: Where was your start in the fishing industry?
Smith: I started working for Reed’s (Sporting Goods) in Walker my junior year of college and it was there I got to know Chip Leer and Tommy Skarlis. They had a business, Fishing the Wildside, they ran the Leech Lake Guide Coalition, and they had a publication called Dock Talk. I started doing some part-time work for them like shows and at the same time working on my teaching license.
It was right after I got through my student teaching that a full-time position with Chip and Tommy became available, so I went to work for them selling ads, writing, taking pictures, and editing. I still wanted to do something in television.
ON: So did you transition to Lindner Media Productions from Fishing the Wildside?
Smith: There was a step in between. While working with Chip and Tommy, the Lindners started Lindner Media Productions. In late 2005, I got a call from Al Lindner and while they didn’t have a full-time job in the company, they had a pile of freelance work.
So, my buddy Jason Lund and I started Topwater Media Productions on Jan. 1 of 2006. We were shooting and editing FLW bass and walleye tournaments for Lindner Media and other video productions for fishing companies. That lasted a couple years, and in 2008, Dan Sura got ready to retire and they asked me if I wanted his position. I took it, and here I am.
ON: You’ve been right in the middle as outdoor media has transitioned from print domination to social platforms. What’s your take on that evolution?
Smith: I got in on the back side of when print was really popular. I started doing television when I was at Fishing the Wildside, and that’s when it was really growing. I was learning to shoot and edit, produce and write and host. From the beginning, I always knew that content was king.
ON: How do you define great content?
Smith: Something you can watch, something you can read, and something that you can learn from to make you more successful on the water. It cannot be boring, which is why it pays to have great visuals to accompany the message.
When you’re explaining something you have to allow the viewer to see what it is you’re explaining and make it easy to consume and understand and want to see more.
ON: Where is fishing as a sport headed? Any predictions?
Smith: Wow, I wish I could predict the future. It has never been easier to learn about fishing and get good at fishing. Not long ago, we would go out and dig up nightcrawlers for bait and catch frogs and minnows to put on the hook. The best learning back then, even though you could read about it, was time on the water and experience. Now you can watch a hyper-specific video on anything you want.
Take forward-facing sonar units. Someone can buy that and not have any context on seasonal movements and why a fish is in a particular location. Now you just turn the unit on, drive around, and find the fish. Might seem like you don’t need to know much, but the technology will allow that angler to learn about the environment and soon they will understand what is going on in that fish’s world. Most people that fall in love with fishing just become students of angling. It’s a life-long passion.
ON: Does the new technology worry you?
Smith: A lot of young people I talk to have me excited that they are equally as concerned as a lot of us who have been in the industry for a while, that it’s a lot easier to catch fish, there is a lot more intelligent pressure on the resources. It does seem that there is a much stronger willingness to have more regulations or less harvest on a number of fisheries to ensure we have great fishing going into the future.