Babe Winkelman has built a Minnesota-based Outdoor Empire with the largest fishing television series "Good Fishing" that debuted in 1980 and the largest series on Hunting, "Outdoor Secrets" that debuted in 1988, Social and Digital Platforms, educational books, videos, and several lines of Winkelman branded product that’s marketed internationally. His programs are watched by tens of millions of loyal fans annually. The programs air nationally on a variety of networks.
Donald "Babe" Winkelman grew up on a dairy farm near the small town of Duelm, Minnesota, He learned the value of hard work through his labors on the family farm. He started fishing at age 6 on Stoney Brook, a stream that ran through the family farm. After starting fishing he was on the creek every waking hour that he wasn't doing farm work. It was there that he started to understand how fish moved around through the seasons and there that his "Pattern Approach" to fishing got its roots. Pheasants and Huns were abundant on the farm as well and his hunting career started there with his first pheasant kill at age 8. Deer hunting started as a driver at age 10 and he shot his first buck at age 12. For what ever reason young Babe (nicknamed by his father after Babe Ruth) fell in love with every phase of understanding how all aspects of nature worked, in constant contact with the natural processes of life and death, and the cycles of nature. Through endless hours of hunting and fishing, he polished his skills. During the 1960s, every possible moment was spent at the family cabin on Hay Lake near Longville, where he taught himself refined his "pattern" approach to fishing that he continues to teach others today. He started working construction after graduating 8th grade and continued throughout high school learning the carpentry trade. His father was a master and Babe learned it well. Less than two months after graduating high school he became the youngest person in the history of Minnesota to get his journeyman's Union card. Nights were spent playing lead guitar and singing in bands. Like his father, music was in his bones. In May 1969 he started Winkelman Building Corporation Inc. , a construction company, along with his brother Dennis and Father Don. In February of l970 Johnny Winters called him 3 times for him to go on world tour as lead guitarist for his band. He decided he couldn't leave his Dad and the construction business and his music career was to become a hobby he still practices to this day! By the time he was 25 the company had grown into 6 corporations with nearly 200 employees, but he decided that money was not the thing to strive for in life but rather lifestyle was and sold his interests to embark upon a full-time career in the outdoors.
He started guiding fisherman in l965 and started fishing tournaments in l970. Even with all his business interests going on, every free minute was spent fishing, hunting and learning as much as he could from every source. In l973 he helped found the Minnesota State Bass Federation to get bass tournaments started and served as president for nearly 3 years. 1973 was also the year Babe started writing for outdoor publications and gave his first seminar to teach fishing. Upon starting in the outdoors full-time in 75, Babe guided, fished tournaments, taught at seminars, did promotional work for Lindy/Little Joe tackle, became a field editor for Fishing Facts magazine writing for them and a host of other publications. In the last four decades he's penned scores articles and currently does syndicated columns twice monthly to nearly 20million subscribers through daily newspapers, tabloids and magazines. In l978 he was hired by SC Johnson to introduce a new product to America, "Deep Woods Off". The commercial was Babe, as a professional fisherman, needing a stronger insect repellent because of his outdoor endeavors. The product was an instant huge success fueled by TV commercials that saturated the country on nearly every television station in America during key programing like the nightly news, Movies etc. By the time the campaign finished in l982 everybody in the US knew who Babe was and he became THE instant fishing hero to the baby boomers. Good Fishing first hit the air waves in l980 and exploded in popularity. This prompted him to start Babe Winkelman Productions Inc. and set up his own studio. With a strong element on teaching and involving his entire family, he soon won the hearts of all outdoor enthusiasts. Stations used Babe's show as a lead out of key sports events because he could hold the audience. In one broadcast on Wkyc in Cleveland following the Browns championship game, he garnered an audience of 842,000 HH's per A.C. Nielsen!! The show kept growing in size and covered not only the US but Canada as well. His celebrity status soared and a feature was done on him in the Saturday evening Post in l987, another feature in People magazine in 1988 and scores of other newspaper and magazine articles, radio and TV appearances. Excerpts of Good Fishing appeared 3 times on Married with Children and about a dozen different movies. Babe was also a guest on the Donnie & Marie Osmound show! 1988 was also the year Babe produced his second television series, " Outdoor Secrets" which was the first hunting show that was on the air since l978. With stations like Superstation WGN and the USA network carrying both shows it too became an instant success. Today both programs air on a plethora of networks including NBC Sports, Destination America, The Pursuit Channel, Time Warner Cable, Comcast Cable, the A&G network, Wild TV in Canada and a few dozen local stations.
In 1988 Babe was inducted into the Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame. A few years later into the Minnesota Fishing Hall of Fame. In 1992 he was inducted into the Sports Legends Hall of Fame alongside of Evander Holyfield for boxing, Pete Rose for Baseball and 30 other athletes from around the world. Babe is the only outdoors man ever to be inducted into this hall of fame. In 2007 he was given the Excellence in Craft award by the Outdoor Writers association of America(OWAA), their most prestigious award for his work with television. As a production company, they have won a couple of hundred awards for production excellence, 87 in a two-year span alone! This included the New York Film Festival, the Houston International Film Festival (for a commercial) and about every type of award in production including Teddy's, Addy's, Golden Moose etc. In 2013 Babe and Kris were nominated by Ottertail County as Conservationist's of the Year for the state of Minnesota for all the work they have done at some land they bought for hunting with the whole family in 2002 and turned it into a paradise for all forms of wildlife.