By Howard Meyerson
It might be hard to imagine a fishing trip as providence, but Sam Frank and his brothers, Mike and Tom, might see things otherwise. The summer of 2012 was tough for the Frank family.
David Frank, their father, passed away in June. He was 64 and a resident of Byron Center. Sam, the oldest son, called him his “best friend.” It was not the best of times.
Sam had about given up on a crazy idea his brother Tom had hatched of trying to get them all on a reality fishing show called Bass2Billfish on NBC Sports, hosted by Peter Miller, three-time sailfish tournament world champion. The brothers had submitted audition videos. Months had passed with only silence.
Then, one day, an email arrived that raised their spirits. Their videos had producers excited. The brothers, all fishing fanatics who gig on “talking trash” to each other, were to be flown to Miami, transported to Islamorada in the Florida Keys, lodged and fed at the luxury Cheeca Lodge Resort & Spa and spend two full-days saltwater fishing — all expenses paid.
“I was completely caught off guard,” said Sam, who lives in Grand Rapids with his wife, Beth, and their two children. “It had been a tough summer.
“But Peter had in mind doing a more hard-core trip with us, going out for sailfish and maybe deep waters for swordfish. It was the greatest adventure of our lives.”
The exciting results will air on NBC Sports in a special two-part series starting at the end of the month. Part one airs Jan. 26 at 9:30 a.m. and re-airs Jan. 30 at 2:30 p.m. Part two airs Feb. 2 at 9:30 a.m. and re-airs Feb. 5 at 2:30 p.m. The website for the show is bass2billfish.com .
“What I liked about these guys was their sense of humor and wit,” said show host Peter Miller in a phone interview from his Florida office. “I picked them from the moment the (audition) video started. The competition between them was very strong, and that makes a good storyline.
“The majority who audition haven’t had the chance to come to Florida or go fishing. We pick them because we want to introduce them to fishing. Or the other extreme is we get people who are really hard-core and (too) serious.
“This was an opportunity to get seasoned anglers on the show. We loved their reactions and their humor.”
“Normally, we go out and wrap it up, but to have three brothers each with an epic catch and amazing personalities, it was too much footage for one show,” Miller said.
Epic catches, indeed. Tommy Frank lands a 500-pound hammerhead shark hooked in
1,500 feet of water. Sam Frank lands a 350-pound dusky shark and worries about getting pulled overboard. Mike Frank lands a sailfish in the gloaming of the last day and has a big emotional reaction.
The Frank brothers end up working hard for their five-star suppers. But I don’t want to give it all away. The episodes are built on the total experience, including superb dining, lodging and, well, you’ll just have to watch the rest.
“When I saw the hammerhead, I got a bit intimidated,” said Tom Frank, the youngest of the trio, from Fishers, Indiana.
“I could see it at 60 to 70 feet down, and it kept getting bigger and bigger,” Tom said. “Then, to get it up to the boat and have its head out of water and see its business end, I thought ‘This is the first thing I’ve caught that could do damage to me.’ It was an absolute thrill.”
Sam Frank, an avid steelheader, said landing a 350-pound dusky shark took every bit of his concentration.
“You have this harness on, and the rod is locked into the harness. They have the drag set (so line can go out), but if there is a glitch, you could get pulled over,” Frank said. “It’s an adrenaline-pumping fight. There were times when I wanted to give up. But I said: ‘This is national TV, and I can’t go out like this.’”
“I was thinking about my dad watching down on us,” Frank said, “that the most important thing here was spending time with my brothers fishing; it’s my favorite thing to do.”
Mike Frank agrees. He’s the middle brother, from Indianapolis, the one who lands a 45-
inch barracuda and caps the show with a sailfish.
“This was the trip of a lifetime, and catching the sailfish was perfect,” Mike Frank said. “Tom caught the biggest fish. Sam caught the nastiest fish, and I caught the prettiest fish. It’s hard to say who really won.”
It was that spirit of egging each other on that captured Miller’s imagination. And that the dream fishing trip of a lifetime should follow family tragedy … well, I will leave it to you to decide. Mike Frank has his own thoughts about it.
“Hands down, it was one of those things that God had a part in — a lot of things have happened to our family. I put those (audition) videos out a year ago, but we couldn’t have done it earlier with all that happened. We had to do it. This is the memory of a lifetime.”
Be sure to tune in and enjoy it.
ON THE AIR
What:The Bass2Billfish two-part Frank Brothers episodes will run on cable channel NBC Sports.
When: : Part I airs Jan. 26 at 9:30 a.m. and re-airs Jan. 30 at 2:30 p.m. Part II airs Feb. 2 at 9:30 a.m. and re-airs Feb. 5 at 2:30 p.m.
More details: bass2billfish.com
Email Howard Meyerson at email@example.com