A lot of fishing fans believe that BASS began with the first modern fishing tournament on Beaver Lake, Ark., in the summer of 1967.
But that's not quite accurate. The truth of the matter is that Ray Scott, the Alabama insurance salesman who would go on to help create a multi-billion dollar sportfishing industry around the bass, conducted that tournament very much on his own and without having fully envisioned the need or niche for an anglers' organization.
It wasn't until several months later that Scott decided the time was right.
As related in his biography, Bass Boss, Scott felt that bass fishermen "represented the heart and soul of America." And he knew that they made up one of the largest groups of active sportsmen in the entire world.
With the idea for an association in mind, Scott needed a name. He knew he wanted an acronym that spelled "BASS," but couldn't come up with anything he liked.
For help, Scott called on an outdoor writer friend, longtime Sports Afield fishing editor Homer Circle, who, in turn, referred him to Bob Steber, the outdoor editor of the Nashville Tennessean. It wasn't long before Steber had a name — the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society ... BASS for short.
As most BASS members know, Don Butler, a Tulsa lumber company owner who fished the All-American on Beaver Lake, was the first official member of BASS. In fact, when Scott approached him about joining the fledgling organization, Butler asked how much a life membership would cost. Unprepared for such a question, Scott said it would be $100, and Butler handed him the cash. Scott keeps the framed receipt for that first membership on the wall of his office at his home in Alabama.
Butler, of course, would go on to win the second Bassmaster Classic and start a lure company (Okiebug). In 2006 and 2007, BASS honored Butler (who died in 2004) by placing his name and likeness on the champion's trophy for the Bassmaster Memorial.