LITTLE FALLS, Minn. — The Fishing Hall of Fame of Minnesota will induct three anglers and two organizations into its 2020 Hall of Fame class.
Inductees in the Individual Legends category are Steve Pennaz, a multispecies angler, TV host, media brand developer, editor and writer; Chip Leer, TV and stage host of the National Walleye Tour, product developer, radio host, promoter and multispecies angler; and Tim Lesmeister, full-time freelance outdoor communicator, radio talk show host and fishing promoter.
Babe Winkelman Productions and Kluge Manufacturing, known for the Kluge ice auger that hit the market in the early 1960s, will join the ranks of Legendary Organizations.
The Hall of Fame annually recognizes up to three individuals and two groups or organizations that have made a major impact on Minnesota’s sportfishing industry.
Individuals must be a Minnesota resident living in the state for a minimum of 25 years, be at least 50 years old and must have made meritorious contributions to the sport of fishing. Businesses and organizations also may be nominated if they are registered in Minnesota and have made similar noteworthy contributions to fishing.
Nominations are accepted from the general public, and the list is reduced to the top 10 by current Hall members, after which finalists are voted on for induction.
The induction ceremony is set for Thursday, April 2, at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, coinciding with the Northwest Sportshow at the nearby Minneapolis Convention Center.
Here’s a closer look at the 2020 inductees.
Steve Pennaz started his career with North American Media group after graduating from the University of Minnesota School of Journalism in 1986. He served as executive director of the North American Fishing Club, which eventually grew to more than 550,000 members. He also oversaw the development and launch of the NAFC’s award-winning North American Fisherman magazine, and served as the publication’s editor for more than 15 years.
Pennaz would go on to oversee the organization’s television and video division, which produced 39 original half hours of national programming and dozens of videos annually, including the organization’s flagship television programs: “North American Outdoors” on ESPN and ESPN2, “North American Fisherman” and “North American Hunter” on ESPN2 and NBC Sports, and several series on the Outdoor Channel, Fox Sports Net and Comcast.
Chip Leer has been in the forefront of sport fishing techniques, tactics and trends working with premier manufacturers in product development while exploring cutting edge fishing with the best anglers on open water and ice. He is an industry influencer who has shaped fishing products and techniques through experience. Over his 30-plus year career, Leer has been the tournament director of the In-Fisherman Professional Walleye Trail, TV host of the FLW Walleye Tour, co-host of the “In-Fisherman Ice Guide TV,” published in numerous regional and national publications, appeared on countless radio programs and shared his knowledge and passion for fishing through his brand, Fishing the Wildside.
Tim Lesmeister has been a full-time freelance outdoor communicator since 1987. He has lived in Minnetonka, Minn., since 1981 and began writing about Minnesota’s resources in 1984 for Outdoor Sports and Recreation magazine with a series of articles, “Up Your Odds.” He became a regular contributor to that magazine, as well as Fishing Facts, MidWest Outdoors, Outdoor News and Minnesota Sportsman. He has also been a regular contributor to Bassmaster, Sports Afield and many other regional and national publications. With his partner, Mark Strand, Lesmeister also published Sportsman’s Quest magazine, and he edited and designed Gary Roach’s Breaklines publication.
Lesmeister has authored more than 3,000 articles, been featured on more than 100 television segments, has broadcast 30,000-plus minutes of radio, and has spoken at more than 250 events on fishing and vacation destinations for fishing. With no plans to retire, he remains an active promoter of Minnesota’s fishing heritage.
Babe Winkelman Productions
Babe Winkelman started Babe Winkelman Productions in 1980 with “Good Fishing Tips” on television as part of the sports block on the 6 and 10 p.m. news. He produced the only fishing teaching system as a four-cassette audio tape set in 1982, started “Babe Winkelman’s Good Fishing” half-hour television series in 1983 and produced the first how-to fishing videos series, “The Facts of Fishing,” in 1984. He produced more than 100 titles over the next several years.
Babe Winkelman Productions trademarked “Teaching America to Fish” in 1985 and brought hunting back to television in 1987 with the debut of “Outdoor Secrets.” The company also trademarked “ Mastering the Patterns of Nature” in 1988.
As of 2017, Winkelman produces an additional program, “Outdoor Secrets,” which with “Good Fishing” airs in the U.S. and internationally on channels such as CBS Sports, American Hero Channel and Destination America.
His programs are also available globally on 25,000 websites across the U.S. and streaming platforms such as Roku, Apple TV, Opera TV, Amazon Fire and Netflix.
Jake Kluge often is referred to as the “father of the portable gas-powered ice auger.” According to his son, Doug, Jake Kluge spent many weekends ice fishing with his neighborhood pals. In those days, ice fishing holes were made using an ice chisel that took considerable chopping. In 1947, Kluge decided to build an electric ice auger using a 6-volt car battery. The idea ended when he first tested the heavy tool and drained the battery before he finished the second hole.
Another 10 years went by before Kluge decided to tackle the problem of making a hole in the ice by drilling instead of chopping. From 1958 through 1960, Kluge designed all of the parts for his gas-powered ice auger. By the first part of 1960, he attempted drilling his first hole. The auger showed great promise but wanted to freeze up and stop cutting. By year’s end, Klug had fixed the cutting problem and was successful at getting his new auger to perform.
Early in 1961, he decided to show Joe of Joe’s Bait his new ice auger. Joe drilled his first hole and was so impressed that he became a big supporter of his new fishing tool. Joe told Kluge he would sell every one of the machines he could make starting in the fall of 1961. Joe kept his promise and wanted more, and so began Kluge Manufacturing of St. Paul.