Jessica Collins to appear in ‘Majesty Outdoors’
ENGLEWOOD — Lemon Bay High School student athlete Jessica Collins, who lives an active life participating as a captain in varsity swimming and a utility fielder in junior varsity softball, is aspiring to a life in marine biology. A call from the NBC Sports TV show, “Majesty Outdoors,” was probably one of the last things the young woman, who lives with a guardian, ever expected.
“Majesty Outdoors” is a 30-minute hunting and fishing program hosted by Bill Blodgett. As a fatherless child himself, Blodgett features fatherless teens each show to take them to their first outdoor adventure. Blodgett runs “Majesty Outdoors” as a nonprofit organization.
Jessica was discovered after a sponsor of Capt. Chris O’Neill’s radio program, “Reel Saltwater Outdoors Radio Show” on WENG, mentioned her when he was looking for subjects for the TV show in April. O’Neill, a friend of Blodgett, is featured as a guide on the show.
“It took us three days to shoot,” O’Neill said. “I couldn’t have had a better experience. We shot the show in July, because that’s when people come out to see the goliath grouper, snook, tarpon, among others.”
O’Neill runs Tail Chaser Fishing Charters in Boca Grande.
“It was really exciting,” Jessica said. “Chris was fun to be with. Everyone was enjoyable.”
Cast and crew stayed at the Weston’s Wanna B Inn on Manasota Key and departed from Gasparilla Marina to the Gulf to shoot the show.
“One of the things I took from my time on the show was that I think you have a better chance to catch a bigger and a better variety of fish if you fish offshore,” Jessica said.
The footage was edited into two shows, which will air on the NBC Sports Network at 1 p.m. today, and at 1 p.m. Jan. 18.
“The first day, we did the introduction, then we fished for trout and grouper,” Blodgett said. “The second day, we fished for tarpon and snook.”
Blodgett’s wife Susan acted as chaperone for Jessica during the shoot.
“Bill was fun and funny,” she said. “He and his wife are very nice Christian folks who love the outdoors.”
Blodgett credits Jessica for impressive handling of the tarpon and grouper.
“Jessica spent 45 minutes catching a tarpon that weighed more than she did,” Blodgett said. “She really showed her athleticism in that struggle. She was sore (from catching a) massive 300-pound grouper the day before.”
As a swimmer, Jessica specializes in the 200-meter individual medley and butterfly stroke. She’s been on the varsity team for three years and served as captain since her sophomore year. She was previously part of the Charlotte County Swimming Blue Fins. She plays for the Manta Rays’ JV softball team as a shortstop, second baseman and outfielder.
Jessica’s athletic career is on hold while she recovers from a wrist injury she sustained snowboarding in Vermont. The Englewood resident and honor student aspires to be a marine biologist.
“Once I graduate, I’ll attend a college that’s either out of state or on the opposite coast,” she said. “I’m hoping for a swim scholarship. I’m looking at Florida State University and … Texas A&M as a possibility.”