My telephone has been blowing up the past few days over the buzz created when Bass Pro Shops recently purchased Fishing Holdings, LLC from Platinum Equity.
In other words, Bass Pro Shops now owns Ranger, Triton and Stratos boat companies.
Shocking? Sure. But chill out, this could be a good thing.
I’ve been around the fishing business since I began selling Tracker Boats at my brother’s store in 1987. I’ve seen a lot of companies acquire others, and it always creates some uncertainty for anglers. We’ve seen it with lure companies, rod and reel makers and even outboard builders.
It’s inevitable, and we have to learn to adapt. But this one should be embraced.
I’ve been with Bass Pro Shops and Nitro Boats from Day 1 and have seen a lot of changes within both of those companies over the years. When I started, Bass Pro’s only store was in Springfield, Mo., and it offered a very limited line of aluminum and fiberglass boats. Today, there are Bass Pro Shops retail outlets all over the country, and they’re on pace to have 100 within the next few years. It has the No. 1 fishing boat brand in the country with Tracker and Nitro.
For the anglers who have had relationships with all of the brands involved in this acquisition, don’t be overly concerned. This change could be very good for the sport.
Remember that Ranger, Triton and Stratos were owned previously by an international company (Platinum Equity) that was driven solely by the bottom line and whose portfolio investments include a multitude of companies. With no disrespect to any of the brands, things like loyalty, integrity and product quality likely weren’t at the top of the bean counters’ priority list.
Secondly, all three brands purchased by Bass Pro Shops are iconic brands, not the least of which is Ranger. Bass Pro Shops knows the importance of preserving those brands.
Ranger Boats and founder Forrest Wood have done as much for tournament fishing, and bass fishing in general, as anyone. Ranger, for example, was the sole boat sponsor of the Bassmaster Tour and Classic throughout the early years of B.A.S.S. I have great memories of seeing those identically rigged Rangers lined up in the boatyard when I showed up to fish the Classic early in my career.
Even though I’ve been a loyal Nitro user, I have great respect for Forrest Wood and what he has done for fishermen and organizations in and around our industry.
I have equal respect for Earl Bentz, founder of Stratos and Triton Boats. Bass Pro owner Johnny Morris, Forrest Wood and Earl Bentz may have been business competitors, but they’ve also been well respected friends for decades. So, to see this come back to Bass Pro Shops and having three legendary pioneers on the same team should protect our sport for years to come.
Furthermore, you can feel safe knowing that Morris is deeply entrenched in this business. He’s an active conservationist and outdoorsman who cares about the future of those brands he acquired.
His leadership and passion for the sport should make you feel good about this purchase. I’ve known Johnny my entire career, and I have seen many things he’s done for our sport, from his conservation efforts, getting kids involved, improving fishing opportunities and hard work in Washington D.C. to protect outdoorsmen’s interests.
For those who think this acquisition is going to change the philosophies of those companies, or who think additional boat brands will be on Bass Pro Shops’ showroom floors in the near future, are wrong.
The management teams at Ranger, Triton and Stratos will continue to run those companies and utilize the same dealer network as they have in the past.
I also can assure you that I’ll be piloting a Nitro Z21 this coming season and will continue to help keep Nitro as the No. 1 bass boat brand in the country.
So, anyone fretting over this new era in boating can sleep comfortably knowing that these brands are in the hands of the most intelligent, capable and caring people I’ve dealt with during my nearly 30 years in this business.
Of course, there may be a few changes down the road, but I’m convinced these boat companies will continue to support our sport as they have for years.
Ultimately, any changes will be good for the sport, and I believe, in the long run, we’ll all benefit.
Remember, it’s all about the attitude!