Over the previous decade, B.A.S.S. oversight of the Federation Nation (Federation) seemed an ever-changing animal. And when the new B.A.S.S.-ownership group of Jerry McKinnis, Don Logan and Jim Copeland purchased the company last fall, the group made it clear there would be a renewed focus on the Federation moving forward.
The first significant move toward that apparent end was announced today, when B.A.S.S., for the fourth time in its history, appointed Don Corkran as Federation director.
A Brief History
B.A.S.S, as a point of clarification, did not and does not own the various Federations that comprise the Federation Nation.
Corkran first served as Federation director from 1991 to 2000 – and by all accounts did an excellent job – until he decided to run B.A.S.S.'s ill-fated World Championship Fishing events. Shortly after ESPN bought BASS in 2001, Corkran was let go.
Al Smith then served as director but was let go in 2003 amid tension between the Federation and B.A.S.S. At the time, many Federation leaders saw Smith as a "fall guy" for mistakes made by then-B.A.S.S. GM Dean Kessel.
Corkran next rejoined B.A.S.S. as Federation director in 2003 to replace Smith, where Corkran served until B.A.S.S. moved its headquarters to Celebration, Fla. in 2005.
Corkran, along with Ray Scott, was largely credited with saving the Federation during the 2003 crisis. However, a new crisis arose and after Corkran left, the Federation split into the modern B.A.S.S.-affiliated Federation and FLW-affiliated TBF.
From 2005 through May 2007, oversight of B.A.S.S.'s Federation efforts fell to Gary Jones, who was originally hired as a director of angler relations but then renamed to the Federation director position.
Jones left B.A.S.S. in May 2007 and a few weeks later Corkran was hired back once again as director under an estimated 19-month contract.
After Corkran's contract expired in January 2010, the Federation director position went dark and oversight fell to the B.A.S.S. events department – more specifically to Jon Stewart (Federation tournament manager) and Stacy Twiggs (senior manager Federation youth).
Current Staffing Unclear
Along with today's announcement that Corkran was renamed Federation director, B.A.S.S. also noted that Deb Wilkinson will assist Corkran.
Wilkinson wasn't named to a specific position in the announcement. From 2005 to present, she worked within the tournament department as tournament manager and oversaw the now-licensed Weekend Series events and the now-defunct Women's Bassmaster Tour.
However, it's not known whether Stewart or Twiggs are still with B.A.S.S. in a Federation capacity.
When B.A.S.S. was owned by ESPN, a public company, it regularly clarified employment changes, including employee departures. That policy has changed under the new ownership and when asked by BassFan for comment about the current employment status of Stewart and Twiggs, B.A.S.S. communications official Melissa Dixon told BassFan: "We can't actually discuss employment issues. We're excited to have Don back to drive the leadership for the Federation."
Corkran, who after a military career first joined B.A.S.S. in 1990, stated in the official announcement: "I'm happy to be back home. I've been a B.A.S.S. member since the early 1970s, and I feel like I'm going back home now. I'm so excited, and I appreciate this opportunity to come back. I could see how deeply the new ownership of B.A.S.S. is committed to the Federation Nation program. They understand its importance."
McKinnis noted: "We got lucky: Don has agreed to come back to B.A.S.S. In no other person could we have found such depth of knowledge and understanding of the B.A.S.S. Federation Nation. Everyone in the Federation Nation can welcome back Don knowing he's going to work as hard for them as he ever did."
> Shortly after McKinnis, Logan and Copeland purchased B.A.S.S., the Federation became a hot topic and was addressed at a town-hall-style meeting between the new owners and B.A.S.S. employees. For BassFan's coverage of that meeting, click here.