(Above) Bob Fisher has devoted 26-years to broadcasting and supporting Clear Lake student-athletes. -Reporter Photo by Chris Barragy.
by Marianne Gasaway
When the Clear Lake football team kicks off the season Friday night, you can bet Bob Fisher will be there. As the voice of the Lions for the past 26 years on KRIB (AM 1490), Fisher has become synonymous with Clear Lake High School sports.
“I consider myself very lucky. I took a chance when I was offered the job and had the opportunity to build KRIB’s relationship with Clear Lake. I feel like it has worked out well for both of us,” said Fisher.
In fact, it was a little bit of luck, some good timing, talent and a lot of hard work that has made Fisher one of the most respected men in radio not only in North Iowa, but throughout the state and beyond. He has been recognized with nearly 100 awards from the Iowa Broadcast News Association in news and sports categories.
Not bad for a guy who never played high school sports.
“I was more of the fine arts person. I did eighth grade football, but after that I didn’t want to play. I played some pick up sports, but that was it.”
Music was, and continues to be a big part of Bob’s life. After graduating from Mason City High School in 1990, the three time All-State musician pursued a degree in music education at the University of Iowa. Through his involvement in the Hawkeye Marching Band he made a friend who was general manager of the student-run radio station in Iowa City. With some encouragement to give radio broadcasting a try, a new career path emerged. He spent one season broadcasting University of Iowa women’s basketball and baseball, with his first play-by-play being former Hawkeye Coach Vivian Stringer’s 500th career coaching victory.
He eventually left school in 1994, returned to Mason City and went to work part-time for KLSS/KRIB. Less than a year later, he landed a full time job in Decorah, Iowa. He had been in Decorah just three months when Mark Hedberg, owner of KLSS/KRIB, created a position to lure Fisher back to North Iowa.
“There were no sports on KRIB at that time. I came back to do news,” he said. “It was a shot in the dark sports would come back.”
When Hedberg was approached by sports boosters from Clear Lake to consider adding CLHS sports to his station, he knew just the man for the job. In the fall of 1995 Fisher was at the mic calling the first of many Lion games.
Each fall he is in the press box offering play by play of Lion football, followed by girls and boys basketball and wrestling in the winter. Springtime is generally an off-season, but by May softball and baseball is already underway.
“Covering high school sports is somewhat similar to wanting to be a high school band director,” Fisher explained. “I’m still involved in the education system and it’s good to see kids working hard to be successful doing what they love — sports, fine arts or whatever.”
Success is something Fisher said he has seen plenty of at Clear Lake. With barely a hesitation he can rattle off memorable moments in CLHS sports history. The 2000 State football championship is the first that comes to mind.
“First, there was the whole storyline of making the championship. Then you are going to face perennial power Harlan and in three overtimes the Lions get the win. Amazing.” The 2013 State baseball quarterfinal with the infamous Tofte triple, was another. And then there was Jacob Hogan’s back to back grand slams in 2015 that sent the Lions to State and an eventual championship.
Great athletes, teams, coaches and administrations have been the recipe for success.
“You’ve got to have coaches that buy into what you are trying to do and their willingness to participate in pre-game and post-game interviews and get player-of-the-week athletes to us is key. There has also been good athletic administrators- from Jim Ahrens to Jay Mathis, Curt Charlson and Dale Ludwig. We have relied on each other and have both benefitted.”
Fisher said he has been honored to be asked by athletic directors to help in ways outside of the broadcast booth. He is an often-called upon Master of Ceremonies for State send-offs and volunteer wrestling tournament organizer to name just a few.
“It has been fun to get to know so many of these kids and see the success they have after they leave here,” he said, pointing to all-around athlete Kristin Keefe’s employment by the state’s Department of Criminal Investigation and Kristle Wolcott’s rise to associate head softball coach at Minnesota State University. A handful of CLHS athletes who have chosen to follow Fisher’s lead also make him proud.
“A lot of people don’t get the importance of extra-curricular activities and what they do in terms of building a student, an athlete, a musician or actor. For some, it’s their only shining light. They can be happy about it and many things they learned in school, sports and fine arts will build their character and organizational skills and help them in life.”
In Fisher’s case, those lessons learned through music have served him well. In 2000, he added the duties of news director to his resume and now overseas the news department for all five of the Alpha Media radio stations in Mason City (KGLO-AM, KRIB-AM, KLSS-FM, KIAI-FM, LYTC-FM).
“We have built a good news product on the air here through time,” he said. “KGLO has had a longstanding reputation for excellence and I built KRIB with Clear Lake, so when they merged it was good for all. I knew the market and what people wanted and that’s what I try to put on the air.”
Despite the fact that Fisher’s days usually begin about 4:15 a.m. and often run late into the night with games and travel, he considers his employment a dream job.
“Parents and student-athletes treat me like part of their family. Not all get to see that level of appreciation for what they do. That’s something that keeps me here.”