Amiable Denny Brauer, one of the many nice guys among the nation's professional bass fishermen, thinks his features soon to appear on a Wheaties cereal box will have far-reaching, positive implications for his sport and profession.
Brauer, from Camdenton, Mo., last month earned the distinction of becoming the first fishing champion to be featured on the box by winning the Walmart-FLW Tour points race. The FLW Tour is named in honor of Forrest L. Wood, a pioneer bass boat manufacture from Flippin, Ark.
Brauer will join the ranks of the many sports superstars who, beginning in 1933 with the New York Yankees' Lou Gehrig and a bit later Babe Ruth, endorsed the familiar "Breakfast of Champions" manufactured by General Mills Inc., according to Barton Reed, General Mills' marketing manager for Wheaties brands.
First athlete to appear on the box's front was Bob Richards (1956-70), according to Reed. Others include Bruce Jenner (1977-80), Mary Lou Retton (1984-85), Pete Rose (1985), Walter Payton (1986-87) and Chris Evert (1987).
"Professional bass fishing has never been presented to the masses in this way and I think it will help legitimize our sport," Brauer said during a recent interview.
"I think each day I realize the significance of being there" on the box, joining pro basketball star Michael Jordan (who first appeared on the box in 1988) and pro golfer Tiger Woods (1998). "I am absolutely thrilled to be in the company of the greatest athletes in history," Brauer said.
More than two million of the Brauer boxes will be shipped to the nation's groceries and supermarkets during September and will likely be on the shelves by Oct. 1, according to Reed.
"Who could ever have dreamed it (the points championship) would be worth that right now?" Brauer asked rhetorically.
"At the rate professional fishing is going, in five years nobody will recognize the sport. This type of exposure will be reaching people who have never heard of bass fishing.
"I'm seeing the CBSes of the world taking note when they'd just ignore us in the past. Now we're making headlines in USA Today. I can't help but think all of this will change the sport for the better."
Brauer, 49, also competes on the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society Tournament Trail and qualified for his 16th BASS Masters Classic, to be held on High Rock Lake near Greensboro, N.C., on Aug. 6-8. His 25-year-old son, Chad, will join him as a Classic competitor.
The 6-foot-2, 220-pounder began fishing competitively in 1980 after working in masonry and last year joined the BASS Million-Dollar Club, ranking third in all-time winnings with $1,003,301. He earned the BASS Angler of the Year award in 1987 and came close again this year.
Brauer, who got his bass fishing "education" as a guide on Missouri's Truman Reservoir and the Lake of the Ozarks, hopes that both BASS and Walmart-FLW Tours "will work together for good of the sport and never declare war on one another by scheduling tournaments on the same days. I think it's healthy to have two major tours, but I don't want to be put in a position to have to choose between them."
Brauer, who won his ninth BASS title on Georgia's Richard B. Russell Lake last April, followed by his 10th on North Carolina's Neuse Riuer a short time later, can be seen Saturdays at 9 a.m., on his new Entertainment and Sports Network show, "The Bass Class with Denny Brauer."