Throwback Thursday – Al Lindner – Living Legend

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Al Lindner - with Bass - photo courtesy Lindner's Angling Edge

Al Lindner – with Bass – photo courtesy Lindner’s Angling Edge

Today we continue our look back at some of the pioneers of the sport with our Throwback Thursday visit with Dan O’Sullivan’s Legends of the Sport pieces from his days at Bass West USA magazine.  Today we take a look at another one of those anglers who made the successful transition from competitive angler to television personality in Al Lindner.

Lindner and his brothers have been pushing the boundaries of fishing education and entertainment television for years with their founding of The In Fisherman and now Lindner’s Angling Edge.  He has done it all with a tremendous amount of faith, intelligence and talent, and has become one of the most beloved figures in the sportfishing community today

Let’s take a look at a Living Legend – Al Lindner

by Dan O’Sullivan

According to online dictionaries, the term ‘Legend’ has several meanings, it can mean; ‘an unverified story handed down from earlier times, especially one popularly believed to be historical.’ It might mean; ‘An explanatory table or list of the symbols appearing on a map or chart.’ Or in the case of the bass fishing world, a ‘Legend’ is; ‘one that inspires legends or achieves legendary fame.’

A Legend of the sport is someone who has made significant contributions or achieved uncommon accomplishments en route to leaving an indelible mark on the history of the sport. These are individuals who have set new standards, created new trends and driven the bar to new heights as they have blazed the trails of their careers.

Without these individuals, the sport of bass fishing would have nothing to measure itself against. The industry, minus their involvement, would likely be in a much less advanced state than it is. The drive of dominating competition, on and off the water has left a trail of history that many are witness to, yet few are a component of.

One of those anglers is Al Lindner of Brainerd, Minn.

Lindner by the Numbers
To define Lindner’s career should really only require one word from the dictionary; passion. There may be no better representation of a person who does their job for the sheer love of doing it than the Brainerd, Minn. angler. Lindner has spent his career fishing tournaments, filming television shows and building some of the most successful companies in the industry, and he has done it all from the heart.

Al Linder

Al Linder – photo courtesy B.A.S.S.

As an angler, his B.A.S.S. national tournament career began in November of 1970 when he entered his first of 26 Bassmaster events. The 1970 All American would find the then 26-year-old finishing 15th and cashing a $100 paycheck at the Table Rock Lake tournament.

From his first tournament, Lindner would go on to cherry pick a few B.A.S.S. tournaments until 1974, when he fished his first full season. Lindner would establish his fish catching reputation quickly, as he would cash paychecks in seven of his first ten entries.

The fourth entry of his Bassmaster tournament career came in May of 1974 on Tennessee’s Watts Bar Reservoir. The event marked his first B.A.S.S. win and earned the 29-year-old angler a $3,889 payday. He would go on to post paycheck finishes in 13 of his first 20 B.A.S.S. entries; including the win in Tennessee, but also his other career Bassmaster victory in the Virginia Invitational on Lake Gaston in March of 1977.

His Bassmaster tournament career includes a total of 26 entries, in which he earned 14 paychecks. He collected a career total of $26,338.36, earned three trips to the Bassmaster Classic and posted a total of five top five finishes.

While his Bassmaster tournament career statistics might seem a little slim, he also at that time fished many other circuits including a Canadian one. The full weight of Lindner’s influence, however, has been outside of tournament competition. Being a Minnesota based angler, Lindner and his family have always been adept at catching fish; any species that swims.

Al Linder

Al Lindner and Ray Scott Trophy Presentation from the 1977 Virginia Invitational -photo courtesy B.A.S.S.

Lindner, along with his brother Ron were the founders of In-Fisherman, one of the most influential fishing organizations in the industry. In-Fisherman, which the pair founded in 1974 and sold in 1998 to Prime Media, a publishing conglomerate, who later sold to InterMedia who continues to operate the publication today. In-Fisherman reaches more than 200,000 readers, and the television show can still be found on the Sportsman’s Channel along with numerous broadcast stations.

After finishing up his duties to PrimeMedia following the sale of the company, the Lindners founded a company in 2003 called Lindner’s Angling Edge, an organization dedicated to educating and entertaining anglers across the country. Lindner’s Angling Edge Television can be found on Versus, while Lindner’s Fishing Edge show airs on WFN and broadcast and specialty markets across the US and Canada.

Along with his work in television and media as a whole, the Lindners have also carved a niche in the world of fishing tackle manufacturing and distribution. While the brothers are responsible for the creation of the world famous Lindy brand, they actually started producing tackle in his basement as a high school student.

Al’s accomplishments in the fishing industry have earned him inclusion into several fishing halls of fame. He is a member of the National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame and is enshrined as an educator; he is also in the Minnesota Fishing Hall of Fame, the Professional Bass Fishing Hall of Fame, and the Normark Hall of Fame. He is listed by Bassmaster magazine as one of the 35 most influential persons in fishing.

Like most other Hall of Fame members, Lindner began fishing at an early age, but those who knew him at that time could tell that fishing was not a passing fancy, but instead a way of life.

Lindner’s Early Years
As a boy, the young Lindner’s grandparents had a place on Grindstone lake in northern Wisconsin, and he would spend every waking moment trying to catch fish; watching how they moved in the water, and playing with other aquatic creatures as well. “It was almost like an obsession from the time I was four or five years old,” said Lindner. “My family has said that they always could tell my involvement was no casual thing.”

In-Fisherman 25 Anniversary Cover Al Lindner Ray Scott Johnny Morris

In-Fisherman 25 Anniversary Cover Al Lindner Ray Scott Johnny Morris

Like his family could tell from that young age, Lindner knew early that he wanted to make his living in the fishing industry. “We lived in the Chicago area, yet I spent as much time fishing as I could,” Lindner said. “I was 13 or 14 years old when I realized I wanted to spend my life around fishing, and my parents supported me in it from the beginning.”

Saying that his parents supported him by providing him all of the gear he would need, his brother also helped him experience the outdoors. “My brother Ron always saw to it that I was able to go fishing,” he said. “They all made sure I had the best gear, magazines, learning materials and time to fish.” It didn’t stop with his immediate family; Lindner had a wealthy sportsman uncle that took him everywhere he went as well which included trips to the Arctic.

His love of fishing helped him peak his interest in tackle making as well, and it was while he was in high school that he began experimenting with producing a line of spinners and jigs for musky and bass; he called the brand Lindner Tackle. “I did the work in my parents’ basement,” said Lindner. “I had kids coming over after school to help Ron and I build the products.”

It was while he was peddling his Lindner Tackle brand that he met a man who would become instrumental in the further development of his career; a man named Melvin Olshansky. Melvin and his family built Maurice Sporting Goods, one of the largest distributors in the business. “I met Melvin at a sporting goods store, and I showed him our products,” Lindner described. “He told me that he would help me distribute Lindner Tackle, so we set out to building more tackle.” It was a little while later that Melvin and another buyer would purchase Lindner Tackle.

After the close of the business; and completion of high school, Lindner bought a V8 Ford station wagon and packed up to guide in the Hayward Lakes area in northern Wisconsin. It was while guiding that he became exposed to tournament angling through Hy Perskin and his World Series of Fishing tournament series (a forerunner of Bass). “I started fishing those and the first organized fishing tournaments around,” he said. “I won a major regional tournament on this tour before I got drafted and went to Vietnam (in 1966).”

While he was in the service, his brother set out to buy a fishing camp where they could ply their trade. It was during that scouting that Ron located the town of Brainerd, Minnesota where they would eventually build their careers.

Lindner Brothers Walleye - photo courtesy Lindner's Angling Edge

Lindner Brothers Walleye – photo courtesy Lindner’s Angling Edge

Lindy Tackle
After Al’s tour of duty, the pair eventually settled in Brainerd and opened their guide service to host anglers on what they called “too many lakes in the area.” They called their operation the Lindy Guide Service, and it was during their days on the water with clients that Lindner’s brother developed the idea for a new type of sinker hat would help avoid losing so much tackle on lake beds.

“Ron came up with idea for the Lindy Sinker and we set out to build them locally,” he said. “It was when a local distributor wanted to carry them, and we had some interest in the company by an investor, but we needed some orders, so I turned to Marvin Olshansky again. Marvin wrote me an order for $65,000 in tackle and told me that he knew I was going to be somebody in this business someday.”

With the orders in hand, the brothers got a third partner Nick Adams and it was during that time that Lindner got his first experience with television. “Virgil Ward came up to film one of his Championship Fishing television shows, and asked me to help put him on a bunch of walleye,” said Lindner. “I did, and it was then I realized how much his show had to do with the growth of his company Bass Buster Lures.”

The experience gave him some ideas, so he talked to his brother about doing a show of their own to help grow Lindy Tackle. They bought a camera and went out in their Lund Boat to begin filming. As they say the rest is history. He has been on television for the past 41 consecutive years.

Al and Ron eventually sold Lindy Tackle to Ray-O-Vac Batteries and stayed on for a few years. Deciding not to renew their work contract in 1974 with Ray-O-Vac; the firm who purchased the company, it would be a little while before they would take the full plunge into media.

During these years, Lindner would still spend some seasons guiding across the country and competing in tournaments. “I even spent one year at Sam Rayburn guiding with bass legends Tommy Martin and Harold Allen,” Lindner said. “I was there when Toledo Bend was dammed; it was a great time in the sport.”

At the time, fishing tournaments were relatively new, and there were only a few organizations, so anglers had to travel a little more. For someone looking to build a new magazine, the pursuit of both was becoming a little too difficult. “I fished tournaments in B.A.S.S., Bass Casters of America and American Bass while we were starting up,” he said. “I qualified for a couple of Bassmaster Classics and other tour championships. It was in my last Bassmaster Classic in 1977 that I told my wife I was at a turning point; it was time to get serious about In-Fisherman, or struggle through fishing tournaments, but I couldn’t do both.”

The decision led Lindner to return to the planning and construction of the In-Fisherman Media Network with his brother. The pair had certain things they wanted to accomplish in setting up their new business. “We wanted our shows, and the whole of the business to be a multi species focus,” he remembered. “We wanted it to cover different regions, and help anglers learn to catch fish of any species.” They would launch the Professional Walleye Trail (PWT), the first big money walleye tour.

Lindner's Heads - courtesy Lindner's Angling Edge

Lindner’s Heads – courtesy Lindner’s Angling Edge

Over the next 25 years, the Lindner brothers would turn In-Fisherman into a huge media conglomerate, they had a radio show that was syndicated to more than 800 stations, they produced their magazine, the nationally syndicated television show, books, DVD’s and websites. “I’m really proud of everything we accomplished at In-Fisherman,” he said. “We wanted to help people enjoy the sport more, and we wanted to help them catch more fish, and that was the whole goal.

Lindner’s Angling Edge
After completing the sale of In-Fisherman to Prime Media, Lindner and his brother would spend a few years working in the company helping to keep the train on the proverbial tracks. “I ran things for the better part of three years before my wife Mary had some very serious health issues,” he said. “I wanted to spend more time with her and help her cope with the illness, so I spent some time working myself out of management, and then didn’t do too much for the next year or so.”

By the time his wife recovered, the non-compete agreement they had signed with PrimeMedia had run out, and Linder began to feel the urge to do something again. “It was around this time that I was asking the Lord what I should do,” he said. “I felt like God had told me that I should get back into television.”

So, armed with his conviction, Lindner broached the subject with his wife, his brother, and his nephews James and Daniel who had started a production company of their own. The group felt there was still desire to educate and entertain, so they formed Lindner’s Angling Edge.

Al Lindner - Largemouth - photo courtesy Lindner's Angling Edge

Al Lindner – Largemouth – photo courtesy Lindner’s Angling Edge

Lindner said that his nephews handle the day-to-day operations of the business, and he and a host of friends are mainly on camera talent. “We do 26 segments a year on Lindner’s Angling Edge,” he said. “I also fish five or six tournaments a year, and by the time we get all of that done up here in the north; the season’s over.”

What’s Ahead?
Following the hectic filming and northern fishing season, Lindner said he likes to get away from the cold. “I can only take so many ice fishing days,” he said. “Mary and I like to head to Southern California to spend some time with our youngest son Troy, and Arizona with our oldest son Shawn.”

Troy is a personal trainer who loves to fish, and works with Lindner Media to produce the Fit4Fishing series television tips designed to help anglers avoid some of the injury pitfalls that crop up during a long fishing life. He said his son Shawn has a passion for automobiles, and doesn’t fish very much, but is a wiz under the hood of a car.

Lindner takes his chances to fish as much as he can while he is visiting his sons during their winter vacations in sunny climates, and he has his preferences of lakes. “Lake Havasu is my favorite lake to fish so far, I love the city, and the lake,” he said. “I’ve yet to fish the California Delta, and it is one of those bodies of water that I would really love to fish.”

Aside from the vacations with his wife and his sons, Lindner said that his job still motivates him. “I work out daily to stay in shape so that I can fish, because I still have an intense love for doing fishing shows,” he said. “I am motivated by the folks that have done this before me, and I figure if they can continue to put out shows like they do, then I can do the same.”

“I see guys like Bill Dance doing shows, and Jerry McKinnis buying B.A.S.S. and helping take that into a new realm, and it motivates me to want to do more,” he said. “These are some of the best in our business, and they continue to do it for the love of it. We love what we do, and it is that passion that keeps me going.”

Al also revealed that one of his own personal heroes is Johnny Morris, the founder of Bass Pro Shops. “I have huge respect for Johnny,” Lindner said. “I’ve watched him build his company through lean times and the good times, his commitment to that company is amazing and I respect what he’s done tremendously.”

Al Lindner Firetiger Smallmouth - photo courtesy Lindner's Angling Edge

Al Lindner Firetiger Smallmouth – photo courtesy Lindner’s Angling Edge

The Lindner Legacy
Lindner said that he is intensely proud of the programs that he, his brothers and their cast of friends have built. They have built a reputation as being a group of talented anglers and tireless workers who have made smart move after smart move. “I’m really proud of the things we’ve accomplished as television hosts and businessmen,” said Lindner. “Our goal has always been to educate anglers, and help them catch more fish. While we’ve certainly done that, I am proud of other things that we’ve accomplished.”

Lindner is an intensely faithful man who works to live his faith in front of everyone he comes into contact with. “The two most important parts of my life along with my family are my faith and my walk with God and my love of the fishing industry,” he said. “I’ve spent my whole career trying to integrate them and share both with people.”

One of the ways he did that was to develop an In-Fisherman youth camp that housed 500 beds in the summer near their headquarters in Brainerd. The camp started off as a place for youth to learn fishing and share faith, but it found a way to reach out to some adults as well. “In the summer we would teach kids to fish, and we would have a time of fellowship and worship,” he said. “But, we also opened it up at other times to adults for weekend retreats of the same type, we saw a lot of impact on people’s lives and fishing skills during those outings; I’m really most proud of those times.”

Outside of those times, Lindner said that he is also proud of the professional legacy that he and his family leave behind. “We’ve been a part of helping a lot of people find work and earn their living in fishing,” he said. “Whether it is on the water or in the business of communicating angling; we’ve been a part of a lot of careers, and that is something I’m really proud of.”

Whatever is ahead for Lindner and his family, they will certainly continue to deliver the highest level of professionalism in their entertainment and educational programming. Their in-depth style has been a benchmark that the angling public could count on every time they tuned in to a Lindner production; read a book or magazine; the commitment to quality has always been paramount.

With all of that in mind, he has been a living, breathing example of all that is good in the fishing industry for decades. He has been one of our favored few for so long, and he has done it with a burden to share the passion and lessons with all of us long the way. That’s why he is Al Lindner, professional angler, spokesman, educator, innovator, television host and a Hall of Famer, a man of faith – Legend of the Sport.