Editor’s note: 2018 marks the 50th anniversary of B.A.S.S. As part of our celebration we’re publishing stories, videos and photos about the history of the sport, including the one below.
Following his All-American Bass tournament held in the fall of 1967 on Alabama’s Smith Lake, Ray Scott knew he was on to something. For the second time in four months, he convinced more than 100 die-hard bass fishermen to pay 100 bucks apiece to compete in what was billed as an exclusive, invitation-only tournament.
While promoting the tournaments, Scott kicked around in his mind the idea of creating a membership organization fueled by the competitive spirit of bass fishing. The first move was to give his farfetched idea a name. After Nashville outdoor editor Bob Steber suggested that Scott call the organization B.A.S.S., the abbreviation for the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society, the name stuck, and Scott went to work.
“All I knew was that I was going to print a magazine,” Scott recounted. “I was going to have the first issue ready before I tried to sign up the first member, because I knew I had to offer something more than a patch and a handshake to join B.A.S.S.”
In the first issue of Bassmaster, Scott wrote: “It is my plan that we lift bass fishing up to public par with golf, bowling and pocket billiards. It’s high time the public found out we exist.
Fifty years later, mission accomplished. These events molded a fledgling sport into a multibillion-dollar industry, and turned the pastime of a few into a lifestyle of millions.
Don Butler becomes the first B.A.S.S. member after paying $100 for a life membership in January. The first issue of Bassmaster is printed that month. The first of five B.A.S.S. invitational tournaments is held in February, or less than one year following the 1967 All American.
The Chattanooga Bass Club becomes the first to affiliate with the B.A.S.S. Chapter Federation. The move adds 19 anglers to a membership consisting of only Oklahoman Don Butler. Addressing water pollution at the grass-roots level is the first mission. Conservation initiatives and youth programs are the cornerstones of today’s B.A.S.S. Nation, with affiliated clubs throughout the U.S. and abroad in 9 countries.
Ray Scott enacts a rule requiring tournament contestants to wear a secured personal flotation device when the outboard is running. The rule influences the U.S. Coast Guard law requiring a PFD for each passenger aboard a motorized vessel.
A tournament angler rigs what becomes the first kill switch. His peers adopt the invention as a means of disconnecting the outboard ignition if the boat driver goes overboard. The concept becomes a B.A.S.S. rule still followed today.
Bob Cobb, outdoors editor of the Tulsa Tribune, becomes the first full time B.A.S.S. employee and editor of Bassmaster.
The B.A.S.S. conservation movement begins when B.A.S.S. takes 250 water-polluting companies to court for allegedly violating the seldom-used Federal Refuse Acts of 1899.
Ray Scott launches a seminar tour with rising stars Bill Dance, Roland Martin and Tom Mann as the speakers. The group travels in a RV from Bangor, Maine, to Los Angeles, conducting 101 seminars in 10 months. The tour is credited for adding 10,000 new B.A.S.S. members.
Harold Sharp is hired as tournament director and Helen Sevier becomes director of marketing. Sharp’s ideas and rules shape tournaments for the next 17 years, while memberships in the 1990s grow to 650,000 under the marketing genius of Sevier.
Bill Dance becomes the first Bassmaster Angler of the Year. Forty-eight years later there are 22 anglers on the list. Roland Martin’s name appears the most at 9 times.
A jetliner leaves Atlanta with 24 anglers for the first Bassmaster Classic, destination unknown. The plane reaches cruising altitude, and Ray Scott announces the destination is Las Vegas. At Lake Mead, Bobby Murray wins the first Classic and its $10,000-prize purse.
The “Don’t Kill Your Catch” campaign is launched out of concern for the future of conserving bass populations.
B.A.S.S. establishes Anglers for Clean Waters, a nonprofit arm to combat water pollution and habitat loss.
The first catch-and-release tournament is the Florida National. Innovative pros rig crude aerator systems fashioned from garden hoses and sprinklers to conform to the new catch-and-release rule. Aerated livewells become standard as bass boat manufacturers embrace the idea of conserving the resource.
Ray Scott testifies in Senate hearings against user fees on U.S. Army Corps of Engineers lakes. Congress overturns the charges after overwhelming response from B.A.S.S. members and anglers.
Using a 7 1/2-foot rod with precision accuracy to swing baits into tight cover, Californian Dee Thomas catches 35 pounds of bass from Arkansas’ Bull Shoals Lake to win the Arkansas Invitational. He calls the technique flipping; the news is printed in Bassmaster, and the rest is history.
Ray Scott is appointed to the U.S. Coast Guard Boating Safety Advisory Council. He uses the post to lobby for safety reforms such as positive upright and level floatation in boats. The Coast Guard adopts the recommendations and passes them into Federal law.
The Classic “mystery flights” end and the date and location are announced in advance. B.A.S.S. makes the move to recognize increased media and fan attention.
With the Classic gaining media attention, B.A.S.S. holds the world championship in upstate New York on the St. Lawrence River. Two months later, on Thanksgiving evening, ABC’s 20/20 prime time ratings hit telecasts a feature surrounding the hoopla of Classic X.
B.A.S.S. debuts Fishing Tackle Retailer, the definitive trade publication for independent tackle retailers and the industry.
A crowd estimated at 3,500 attends the first Classic indoor weigh-in at the Montgomery Civic Center. More history is made in the adjacent convention center with the first Classic Outdoor Show. Since then, the Classic weigh-in has had an outdoor affair only once, in 2000, at Chicago’s famed Soldier Field.
B.A.S.S. launches the “Acid Rain Burns My Bass” campaign to raise public awareness of the dangers of acid rain to the nation’s fisheries.
Paul Elias adopts the “kneel-and-reel” technique to deep crank his way to Classic victory on Alabama’s Lake Montgomery. As a result, crankbaits designed to run at depths of 20 feet or more hit the market.
B.A.S.S. membership tops 400,000.
With mixed support from the marine industry, B.A.S.S. lobbies successfully for the Wallop-Breaux Amendment to expand the federal Dingell-Johnson Act. The legislation clears the way for billions of dollars to be appropriated for state fishery efforts.
Rick Clunn wins his third Classic title on the Arkansas River. He sets the standing record for largest margin of victory at 25 pounds, 8 ounces, and with a winning weight of 75-9. Clunn goes on to win a fourth Classic in 1990.
The Bassmasters TV series debuts on The Nashville Network (TNN). The next year, live coverage of the Classic is shown for the first time, and again the following year. Bob Cobb becomes executive producer.
Helen Sevier and a group of investors purchase B.A.S.S. from founder Ray Scott, who remains as consultant and tournament emcee.
The concept of an exclusive made-for-TV tournament is launched as B.A.S.S. MegaBucks after the ratings success of The Bassmasters.
Adweek declares Bassmaster one of the “10 Hottest Magazines of 1988,” along with Vanity Fair, Parade and U.S. News & World Report. B.A.S.S. Inc. also publishes Southern Outdoors, Southern Saltwater, Fishing Tackle Retailer, and later B.A.S.S. Fishing Techniques, Guns & Gear, Bassmaster Tour and CastingKids.
B.A.S.S. Times, the newsletter for B.A.S.S. club members, is transformed into a tabloid newspaper offering “News & How-To Information for the Serious Bass Fisherman.” The publication provides comprehensive tournament coverage and environmental news.
B.A.S.S. launches the Top 100 Super B.A.S.S. Pro-Am Tournament circuit, with the Top 100 pros sharing their boats with 100 amateurs in a four-event schedule. The format is the forerunner to the current Bassmaster Elite Series. That same year, B.A.S.S. raises the bar on pro fishing by creating the Association of B.A.S.S. Professionals, which provides a retirement fund for pros.
B.A.S.S. hosts 13 leading scientists in the fields of water quality, fisheries and aquatic environment at the B.A.S.S. Living Waters Symposium. Findings form the basis for the first “Living Waters” section in Bassmaster.
B.A.S.S. membership totals 525,000.
Concerned by the decline in youth fishing, B.A.S.S. holds a trial Bassmaster CastingKids contest. A decade later the program reaches 1.5 million youths, with annual events held nationwide by the B.A.S.S. Nation.
Larry Nixon wins a fourth B.A.S.S. MegaBucks and becomes the first angler to earn $1 million in B.A.S.S. prizes. Fifty years later there are over three-dozen anglers in the “millionaire’s club” of cash and winnings. Kevin VanDam tops the list with over $6 million.
Connecticut B.A.S.S. Nation angler Bryan Kerchal, a member of the Housatonic Bassmasters, becomes the first club angler to win the Classic. He dies just five months later in a commuter airplane crash.
B.A.S.S. offices house 160 staffers working in three buildings. The company has its own zip code: 36141. Membership exceeds 660,000.
First place prize money for the Bassmaster Classic is raised from $50,000 to $100,000.
B.A.S.S. sanctions World Championship Fishing, a competitive format that adds boat-handling skills to traditional fishing contests.
Mark Tyler catches a 14-pound, 9-ounce largemouth bass at the California Western Invitational on the California Delta. It is the largest bass ever caught in B.A.S.S. competition.
ESPN acquires B.A.S.S. as the cornerstone for its new ESPN Outdoors initiative, which includes the Great Outdoor Games and the network’s popular block of outdoor programming. The following year, the Classic airs live on ESPN.
B.A.S.S. doubles the first prize for the Classic to $200,000, and restructures the tournament trail with the Bassmaster Open and Tour formats, each designed to create a true professional playing field. A record $9.2 million will be paid out for the 2002-03 trail, a 44 percent increase in payout.
Dean Rojas shatters B.A.S.S. records for single day and four day catch weights at Florida’s Lake Toho. Rojas weighs 45-2 for the single day mark and an amazing 108-12 for the overall tournament win. (Both records are for five fish limits.)
The first ever Bassmaster Junior World Championship is held in conjunction with the Classic. Youths compete in 11-14 and 15-17 age divisions. The champions are Bradley Roy and Sean Alarid. Roy eventually qualifies for the Bassmaster Elite Series in 2010 at age 19.
BassCenter debuts on ESPN2, becoming the first program to borrow the “Center” name and the SportsCenter theme music. Rick Clunn wins ESPN’s Greatest Angler Debate. Roland Martin finishes second.
An app and technology used to track angler locations using GPS and cellular signals debuts at the Classic. Called BASSTrakk, the positioning system becomes part of the live coverage on ESPN and later Bassmaster.com.
The Bassmaster Elite Series is introduced as the world’s premier professional bass angling circuit. The concept is to bring the best anglers to the best waters at the best times of year. First place prize money for the Classic is raised from $200,000 to $550,000.
The Women’s Bassmaster Tour is launched. Tammy Richardson wins the inaugural event and later wins the ESPY Award for “Best Angler.” The WBT runs through 2010.
Records are shattered at the Bassmaster Elite Series on Falcon Lake in Texas. The top 12 anglers finish with over 100 pounds apiece. The top 5 anglers enter the record books for Heaviest Total Weights (five-bass limit). Those anglers and weights are Paul Elias (132-8), Terry Scroggins (132-4), Byron Velvick (131-15), Aaron Martens (129-7) and Mark Davis (128-15).
Kim Bain becomes the first woman to qualify for the Classic in its 38-year history. Bain qualifies when she wins the Toyota Tundra Women’s Bassmaster Tour Angler of the Year award.
Don Logan, Jim Copeland and Jerry McKinnis acquire B.A.S.S. from ESPN.
Andrew Upshaw of Stephen F. Austin University in Texas becomes the first angler to qualify for the Classic through the Bassmaster College Series.
BASSTrakk becomes part of the Elite Series live coverage on Bassmaster.com. The coverage includes a live blog, photo galleries, video and features.
The B.A.S.S. High School Nation program begins as an initiative to bridge the gap between youth and adult tournament participation, while fostering the conservation and community goals of the B.A.S.S. Nation. The first high school championship is held the next year.
Bassmaster LIVE launches at the Classic on Lake Hartwell, bringing reality to the concept of truly live on-water tournament coverage. LIVE makes its Elite Series debut at the Chesapeake Bay event.
The B.A.S.S. High School Nation has 4,000 participants enrolled at 300 high schools. Competing in the second high school championship are 134 teams from 37 states.
Anderson Media, a 100-year-old family business founded in Alabama, acquires a majority interest in B.A.S.S., LLC.
Kevin VanDam scores a 24th career win at the Elite Series on the St. Lawrence River in New York. Roland Martin is second on the list with 19 career wins.
Bassmaster.com sets a record with 28.5 million total visits to the website this year. The Elite Series has continuous daily coverage from takeoff through weigh-in with photo galleries, articles, live blogs, BASSCam videos and BASSTrakk angler tracking. For the Classic and Elite tournaments Bassmaster LIVE airs 18 hours of live studio and on-water video coverage leading up to the live streamed weigh-ins, broadcast on Bassmaster.com and the WatchESPN app.
Originally posted on Bassmaster Go to Source
Author: Craig Lamb
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