Ann Lewis, former media relations manager for BASS, died Tuesday in Birmingham, Ala., after a lengthy illness.
Lewis managed publicity and news services for the Bassmaster Tournament Trail from 1983 through 1999, and she was directly responsible for gaining coverage of professional bass fishing in major newspapers and general interest magazines throughout the country.
Over the years, she earned the respect of the outdoor media as well as professional anglers, many of whose careers she enhanced through her articles and news releases.
Early in her career, Lewis served as public relations director in the Alabama governor's office, and she worked as general manager of a radio station in Montgomery, Ala., shortly before joining BASS.
Outdoor writer Alan Clemons of the Huntsville Times, remembers Lewis as "a professional in every sense of the word. She was one of the good ones, one of the early pioneers who helped professional fishing grow to what it is today."
Dave Precht, senior director of BASS Publications, worked with Lewis during her tenure at BASS and said, "Although she didn't have much of a background in sportfishing, you'd never know that from the news releases she turned out. She had a good grasp of the language and nuances of bass fishing that earned the respect of anglers and fishing writers alike. What really impressed me was her grace under pressure. She endured long road trips covering BASS tournaments across the nation, weathered rain and cold weather alongside the pros and took controversies easily in stride. She never complained — even in the midst of her recent illness — and she never lost her trademark smile."
BASS Founder Ray Scott, who hired Lewis in 1983, described her as "a highly refined, dignified, feminine woman who could write hairy-legged copy with gusto. She shared the passion for bass fishing with the men in the sport. She had a big vision for BASS, getting us publicity in publications such as Sports Illustrated and U.S. News & World Report, when we needed it most. She wasn't satisfied to work just local media or the outdoor writers. Ann had a big vision for BASS."
After leaving the company in 1999, Lewis handled publicity and media relations for Ray Scott Outdoors, and later, the Buckmasters organization in Montgomery.
As much as she loved working with outdoor sports, Lewis found the most fulfillment in the last few years of her life as communications/evangelism director for Christchurch in Montgomery, where she also served as Web editor.
In a note to her close friend, Gerald Crawford, who recently retired as BASS' chief photographer, Lewis said, "If someone had explained Jesus Christ to me the way they did, I'd have made it a career field right out of college. I love what I'm doing."
Crawford said upon hearing of Lewis' death, "We have lost a good friend."
So, too, has the bass fishing community.
Lewis is survived by her parents, Charley and Gladys Smith. A graveside service was planned for Friday in Hueytown, Ala., and Christchurch (301 Dexter Ave. in Montgomery) is planning a memorial service for her at 1:30 p.m. Sunday.