Ray Scott, the outdoorsman, conservationist and internationally renowned businessman known as “Mr. Bass,” has died.
Bassmaster Magazine published on Monday that Scott died Sunday evening around 11:30 p.m. “…peacefully in his sleep of natural causes. He was 88 years old.
A native and natural Montgomery salesman and storyteller, Scott is credited with being the “godfather” of professional bass fishing. He founded the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society in 1968. From those humble beginnings, BASS now has 510,000 members from 39 countries and chapters in 46 states as well as Canada, Mexico, Italy, South Africa and Zimbabwe. , according to the BASS website.
Along the way, Scott’s efforts are credited with helping to make sport fishing a multi-billion dollar a year industry, beginning the “catch and release” practice of releasing fish alive. and to emphasize boating safety.
His influence was felt across the country and around the world. Johnny Morris was 22 when he entered the first tournament sponsored by BASS in 1967. He came in 21st, according to a Forbes biography of the billionaire founder of Bass Pro Shops.
“Ray has been a mentor and a friend,” Morris said. “It’s no exaggeration to say that without Ray Scott, there would never have been Bass Pro Shops.”
Morris started selling fishing lures from his father’s shop in Missouri in 1972. He had 8 square feet of table space. He built his empire over the years. In 2017, Bass Pro bought Cabela’s, another outdoor retail giant, for more than $5 billion, according to an article published at the time in USA Today. The resulting company has more than 200 stores across the country and in Canada.
“Ray meant so much to so many people,” Morris said. “It’s not just what he’s done for bass fishing. He made boating safety a priority; you must wear a life jacket when the boat is using the outboard in all BASS tournaments. Boats must have a circuit breaker.
“He started the catch and release effort to protect the resource. I have relied on him for years for his guidance and friendship.
The legend began just north of Prattville nearly nine decades ago.
Scott’s father paid for a membership for the family at the Bridge Creek Fishing Club in Autauga County. As he repeatedly told the Autauga County public, he was fishing for bream one day under the weir of the lake, with a cane pole and a box of worms. He caught a fish that fought like crazy and jumped out of the water several times.
It was not a sea bream. After landing the fish, he ran to the family cabin and his mother told him it was a largemouth bass.
“I was hooked, literally, from that point on,” Scott said.
After graduating from high school, he worked three years in Montgomery as an insurance salesman. He was drafted into the army in 1954. After serving a two-year enlistment, the GI Bill allowed him to attend Auburn University where he earned a business degree. He went back to selling insurance.
It was this natural selling ability that laid the foundation for BASS. His Hail Fellow Well Met outlook was as much a part of his image and personality as his cowboy hat and neckerchief.
Scott tells his story best. He credits a storm for canceling a 1967 fishing trip for his “brainstorming in a rainstorm” moment, he told Alabama Living Magazine. His vision, a series of professional bass fishing tournaments across the country, similar to professional golf tournaments.
“The concept of a bass organization was born out of my idea of a real professional bass fishing tournament with strict rules and a big purse,” he told the magazine. “My first tournament in Beaver Lake, Ark. proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that the passion for an organization was there. Bass anglers across the country were hungry, not only to compete, but to come together and share their knowledge. The energy and passion of that 1967 tournament was unbelievable.
Along the way, Scott was instrumental in passing the Wallup-Breaux Sport Fishing Act of 1984. An excise tax is levied on the sale of all fishing gear. The law required that a certain portion be returned to the states to improve the fishery. It generates over $600 million annually for conservation efforts.
Scott sold BASS in 1986, but stayed on as a consultant and tournament emcee. In 1988, he branched out to form an organization dealing with another of his outdoor passions, deer hunting. He founded the Whitetail Institute of North America and brought science as a management tool to “the working man,” as he called it then.
He wanted to give everyday hunters access to information from wildlife biologists and other professionals when it came to managing deer herds on properties large and small.
His sprawling 200-acre Pintlala retreat has hosted two presidents, George HW Bush and his son George W. Bush. There are three lakes on the property, including 55-acre Presidents Lake, which Outdoor Life named in 2010 one of the top five bass lakes in the country.
Scott designed the lakes as a bass paradise, with pumps that regulate the level of oxygen in the water and top-notch accommodations. He sold the property to a Montgomery attorney in 2017 for an undisclosed amount.
Brad Harper contributed to this report. Contact Montgomery Advertiser reporter Marty Roney at [email protected]