Part 2: Rex Hunt “Yibbida Yibbida, that’s all folks!”

Rex Hunt Fishing Adventures: How are Rex, Starlo and Bushy?

The Rex Hunt TV show was immensely popular in Australia through the ’90s and into the new millennium, but many Aussies might not have realised was how huge it also became around the globe!

Aired in more than 160 countries and translated into dozens of language’s, Rex’s benchmark program was an international hit… Nowhere more so than in the Netherlands! To this day, Rex, Starlo and Bushy remain well-recognised figures throughout the Dutch angling world… So much so that acclaimed Dutch fishing journalist, Jeroen Schoondergang, was commissioned in 2021 to write a major, two-part feature for leading European fishing magazine “Zee Hengelsport”, bringing readers up to speed on the lives and times of those three popular Aussie TV presenters in the years since the show ended. Here’s the second part of that double-header, with the original magazine pages on the left, and Jeroen’s translation into English on the right… Enjoy! (If you missed Part One, you can read it here.)

For over 14 years Rex Hunt Fishing Adventures was one of the most popular fishing shows worldwide. In part two we get to hear from ‘The Bearded Burbler’ himself. Rex gives full disclosure about the show, his special moments and catches, and he tells us what he’s up to today.

It is the dream of every TV-maker: a show that isn’t just popular in your own backyard, but also scores high ratings in 158 countries worldwide. “Rex Hunt Fishing Adventures” managed to pull this off for 14 straight seasons. In large part, that popularity was due to the big man himself: larger-than-life character Rex Hunt. The ex-Aussie Rules Football star always loved fishing. Rex sometimes looked more like an entertainer than a fishing show host, but he did know what he was talking about when it came to fishing.

Fishing and Footy

It is understandable to think that casting Rex Hunt for a fishing show or any TV-show, had everything to do with his status as a celebrity. Rex is the first to explain that there is a bit more nuance to it.

“I have been fishing since I was a toddler. Like most things in my life, I’ve been very competitive at it. For quite a few years I competed in tournaments organised by the Australian Anglers Association. That took a lot of hard work. The competitions I won added up to a nice fishing resumé.”

Long before “Rex Hunt Fishing Adventures” aired, Rex was active in fishing as a media personality. “In early 1981 I started with a radio show on sportfishing in my home state Victoria, on Channel 10 Melbourne. Despite its popularity, the show was cancelled when the local network was incorporated in a national network. Later, when I really felt comfortable as a footy presenter, I did use my status to start a national fishing show. And the rest, as they say, is history.”

Yibbida Yibbida

When “Rex Hunt Fishing Adventures” started on Dutch TV (on Discovery Channel), the show was an instant success. And it wasn’t just fishers who followed the antics of Rex, Bushy and Starlo. People with no fishing interest whatsoever discovered this weird giant of a man with his very short shorts.

Rex’s ‘gift of the gab’ and his catchy one-liners helped to popularise the show. Most famous was his: “yibbida yibbida, that’s all folks!”. A line that dates back to Rex’s childhood years. “When I was seven years old, TV had just been introduced in Australia. I loved the cartoons it showed: Looney Tunes with Bugs Bunny and Porky Pig, who always ended his cartoon with ‘Abidi abidi, that’s all folks!’.

I tried to imitate it, but as I didn’t have any front teeth yet it became: ‘yibbida yibbida’. I decided to stay with that.”

It was only one of a wide range of one-liners by the ‘Bearded Burbler’. Who doesn’t remember his “Wagons hoooo!”, while he and Bushy were parading a tropical beach, carrying a gigantic barracuda under their arms? Or the “thank your mother for the rabbits”, after a day as a guest on a charter vessel… Or after a fish had been netted by a mate.

Bread and Butter Fish

When fishing his home waters, Rex often used the term ‘bread and butter fish’, referring to fish that are easy to catch and that make a decent meal.

“If I could only fish for one species of fish to take home and eat, it would be King George whiting,” Rex says. “And not only for the wonderful fillets, also because it is a very versatile fish. You can catch them in so many different ways. It contains an important message for the young fans of the show. When you start out with fishing, don’t just dream about faraway, exotic places. Invest in the fishery at your doorstep. And better still: concentrate on a certain species of fish until you know everything there is to know about it. Pay specific attention to its feeding habits. And spend your pocket money wisely; buy the best tackle you can afford. If you do that, the result will come and you’ll be a fishing fanatic in no time.”

Getting kids and non-fishers fishing: that was one of the assignment Rex gave himself when he started the show. “Creating interest in fishing is one of my personal goals, but it was also a way to get as many viewers possible. Without viewers, no sponsors, and without sponsors no show. Besides, it was also a boost for the fishing tackle industry.”

Short segments about tourist attractions and a chef who prepared fish dishes, were all meant to draw non-fishers into the wonderful world of “Rex Hunt Fishing Adventures”. Kids may have found Rex the biggest attraction of the show. “Loud and colourful,” co-presenter Steve Starling calls him. You could compare Rex with a fire truck. Kids are a bit afraid of the loud noises and colours, but are also fascinated about it.

Getting kids to watch the show was a no-brainer for Rex. “When children like your show and talk about it, you are doing something right in the TV-world. Besides, I like children… I used to be one myself!”

Kiss and Release

If ever there was any criticism about Rex Hunt Fishing Adventures, it might be that some fishermen think Rex handles the fish pretty roughly. Especially his characteristic ‘kiss and release’ doesn’t go down well with the ‘catch and release mob’ in our country. But exactly that action got fishers all over Australia talking about catch and release and proper fish handling. Rex: “From the start of the show, I was aware of a small anti-fishing group that wanted to get recreational fishing banned in Australia. This group used anything to get their message across. They went as far as to harass and even threaten fishermen. Being a well-known fishing personality, I could only come up with one response: treat my catch with respect. The kiss may have been overdoing it a bit, but it worked. Especially with kids. Kiss and release made it very clear that if you aren’t going to kill and eat your catch, you need to treat it with care and respect. The popularity of catch and release is growing among Australian fishermen. I like to think that our show helped with that.”

A Different Fishing Culture

After so many years on TV visiting numerous destinations all over the world, Rex has collected books filled with memories. Too many to choose from?

“It is hard to pick one or two from all these wonderful memories the crew and I had over the years. Going national for the first time with our fishing show certainly is one of them. The positive reactions were overwhelming. Besides all the wonderful shows we did all over Australia, we visited a lot of countries. Some of them became very special to me. And everywhere we went, people seemed to know us. Even abroad Rexie, Starlo and Bushy were household names. That gave us goosebumps.”

John Wilson

Rex holds warm memories of shooting episodes in England, where he spent some time with that other fishing legend: John Wilson. Rex and John fished a lake that John had dug on his estate.

“One of my fondest memories must be our trip to Japan,” recalls Rex. “During that visit we were confronted with a sportfishing culture that completely differed from ours. We travelled to the mountains where we fished for ayu, a member of the smelt family. Japanese fisherman use long poles to fish for them and they don’t bait their hooks. Instead they attach another ayu on a special hook. Because this species is very territorial, resident ayu try to scare away the hooked fish and hook themselves. This type of fishing is all about style: rod handling and netting the fish. It is highly regarded in Asia, while we hardly know anything about it over here.

“Besides Ayu in the mountains, we were treated to demonstrations by cormorant fishermen. When it comes to fishing, Japan is full of surprises.”

Trout on a Four Weight

Rex never visited The Netherlands to shoot episodes for “Rex Hunt Fishing Adventures”. But he did visit our country later. 

“I immediately felt at home. The Dutch and Australians are very much alike. We have similar, uncomplicated views at life in general and fishing in particular. It creates a bond and it makes me even more grateful that our show was so successful in The Netherlands.”

Nowadays, Rex doesn’t appear in the limelight as much as he used to. “I am 72 years old and I feel I can take it easy. But I am still a fanatic when it comes to fishing. Lately, I love to take a fly rod to the local mountain streams and lakes. Today I had a wonderful session with my four-weight and a Woolly Bugger. I took five nice trout and some fat redfin perch. I really enjoy days like that, without all the commotion around you.”

Rex on YouTube

Although Rex tries to take it easy at his advanced age, broadcasting is in his blood. He started a popular YouTube channel that airs most episodes of the show. Besides that, the Bearded Burbler gets in front of the camera every now again to talk to his fans.

Rex: “It is fun to see that quite a few Dutch viewers have found my channel. But there is room for more. Just go to YouTube, type Rex Hunt in the search bar and: Yibbida yibbida, that’s all folks!”