(Editor's note: Following is a Web-exclusive interview by BASS Senior Editor Ken Duke with newly appointed BASS General Manager Tom Ricks.)
Tom, as BASS' new general manager, everyone's interested in learning more about you and your background. Tell us about your childhood and how you got into the sport of fishing?
I grew up right outside of Atlanta, in a little town called Forest Park. The South is the land of bass fishing, and I spent my youth fishing every body of water within miles of my home. The first fishing trip I can remember with my father was spent chasing bluegills at the age of four or five. On that same trip I caught a three-pound bass, and I was hooked from that point forward. Bass were the only fish I wanted to fish for after that. I nagged my dad every day of the week to take me fishing. It was a big part of my childhood and a big part of my relationship with my father as I was growing up. We fished every weekend together during the spring and summer and hunted and fished in the fall and winter.
Tell us about your education. I understand you have a degree in finance.
Yes, that's right. I graduated with a degree in finance from the University of Georgia. Growing up, my passions were bass fishing and the Georgia Bulldogs. Along with my family, that's still true today. When I started college, I wanted to get into the world of wildlife and fisheries biology. But at the urging of my parents I shifted into business and corporate finance. That decision really served me well and gave me the business fundamentals that have contributed a lot to my success.
It's no secret that ESPN interviewed a lot of people for this job. Why do you think you were selected?
That may be a better question for the people at ESPN, but I'd say that I have a passion for the sport, a passion for the industry and a passion for BASS as an organization. I also think the fundamentals of business leadership that I've developed over my career were a factor in the decision.
Tell us about your work background. How long did you work for Pure Fishing, and what positions did you have with the company?
I worked for a large consumer products company before taking a job with Pure Fishing. One day I came home from work and told my wife that life's too short not to do things that you enjoy. I had always had a desire to combine my work with one of my passions. So I started looking for opportunities in the outdoors, and I found the position with Pure Fishing. Ultimately, I was offered the job and started my career in the fishing industry.
At Pure Fishing, I started out as a senior marketing manager. Very soon after taking the job, I was put in charge of global marketing for their rods and reels business and served as a general manager for their North American rods and reels business. Basically, I was responsible for marketing, product development and driving new processes within the organization to elevate the business entity within the fishing industry
What are your top priorities as the General Manager of BASS?
First of all, my personal priorities are to establish a relationship and build trust with the BASS team. Second, from a business perspective, my priority is to serve the people who support BASS. We're deeply committed to our members, the anglers who fish our events, our publications and our sponsors. We're going to run BASS efficiently and successfully so that everyone benefits.
What's your impression of BASS' position in the industry right now?
BASS commands a leadership position within the industry. We're committed to growing the sport and serving our supporters. We're going to elevate and grow the sport for all concerned.
You've been quoted as being a strong supporter of Pure Fishing's conservation efforts. How important is BASS' involvement in conservation in your view?
It's as important today as it's ever been! BASS has historically been the leader in fishing conservation — from promoting catch and release to sponsoring important legislation. BASS will continue to support conservation so that tomorrow's anglers can enjoy the sport just as we have and so we can pass the sport along to our children and grandchildren.
What impresses you most about BASS?
There are several things, but I'd have to say it's the people. Not just the people who work at BASS, but also our members, our anglers, our sponsors and all of the other people who share a passion for the sport. They motivate me because they have the same passion that I have for bass fishing.
If you had to pick just one message to convey to the BASS members, professional anglers and the sponsors who support BASS, what would it be?
I want them to know that as the new General Manager of BASS, I feel a duty and responsibility to serve them. I also want our Federation Nation anglers to know that we're committed to them and to continuing the fine tradition of competition, conservation and youth initiatives that we've enjoyed for more than 30 years. It's an honor and privilege to serve as BASS' leader, and I'm looking forward to the opportunity.