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Contributed photoLongtime fisherman and outdoors television show host Benny Hull holds two crappie out of a group he caught in an outing on Reelfoot Lake. His "Southern Sportsman" show has won a 2015 Telly Award.

Benny Hull bills his "Southern Sportsman" television program as America's longest-running "all-species" fishing show.

Now it's a Telly Award winner.

Hull recently was informed that the show had earned a 2015 bronze Telly statuette — silver is the only higher level — in the sports category for local TV and local cable. His production partner, Mike Earnhart, also won bronze for a 30-second local-market commercial spot for a clothing store.

The many categories of Tellys don't involve competition against other entries. Instead, each submission is evaluated by judges respected in the industry, and about 10 percent get approved for silver quality and about 25 percent get bronze affirmation, according to a spokesman at the corporate office in New York City. The rest essentially get "Thanks for entering. Try again."

According to its website, the Telly Awards program "honors the very best film and video productions, groundbreaking video content and outstanding local, regional and cable TV commercials and programs."

Anyone receiving silver or bronze recognition can receive a statuette, which is nearly a foot tall and is designed by the same company that makes the Oscar and Emmy awards.

When he got the letter of congratulations, he said, "I was surprised, really. I've tried before. They're hard to get."

At 75 years old, the lifetime Chattanooga-area resident has been televising fishing and hunting adventures and tips, mostly fishing, for a long time. And he clearly know his stuff: He has six world fishing records — he used to have two others — and has been in the Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame since 1972.

Two of his records are all-line-class standards: a 38-inch-long rock hybrid he caught a few years ago in Watts Bar Lake and a 54 1/2-pound freshwater drum he caught below Nickajack Dam in 1972 — "when there were giant drums in the river," he said.

He's had a show for three decades, beginning with "American Angler," followed by "Stump Bumper Outdoors." That one went national for a while in the early years of the Outdoor Channel.

Hull, who lives on a farm with a Chickamauga address in Chattanooga Valley, has been working for nearly three years with Earnhart of Rocky Face.

"He comes up with the ideas and topics, and he films a lot of it. His wife, Phyllis, helps with that, and their grandson (Erik) and a couple of other people," Earnhart said. "When I can, I go with him.

"He sends me the raw footage and makes the decisions on what needs to be in the show and what doesn't. He's the head producer. I edit it down and make sure the right commercials get in and everything else gets done that needs to be, and I make sure it gets to the TV stations.

"He's had a lot of good help over the years, but he wanted some extra help, so I came in," said Earnhart, who has 18 years of video production experience.

"Benny Hull's Southern Sportsman" can be seen every Saturday at 6:30 a.m. on the CW Chattanooga (WFLI-53) and every Sunday at 8 p.m. on Comcast cable 96. A new show is created every two weeks.

Hull most recently has been working on a show about how, contrary to many anglers' beliefs, this a good time to fish for smallmouth bass.

"People don't realize that you can catch smallmouth as well or better in the summer as the winter," Hull said, explaining that the key is trolling. "Not a lot of people around here troll.

"I call it lazy man's fishing," he added with a laugh, "but it's effective if you know what you're doing."

Hull said that a little more than half of his shows are shot within a 200-mile radius of Chattanooga, but he often has gone way beyond that.

"I fish from the Rockies to Key West and a lot of places in between," he said. "Most fishing shows are about bass, but ours is an all-species show. I fish for trout in the Snake River in Idaho and the Grand Tetons, and I go to Florida for salt-water fish. I've been to Mexico a couple of times, but Kentucky's about as far north as I go."

Contact Ron Bush at rbush@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6291.

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