The Cast illuminates beginnings of B.A.S.S.

The Cast is a new documentary series coming to FS1 this weekend.

The show was conceived in the months following the passing of Ray Scott, the founder of B.A.S.S. It begins as a look at how tournament bass fishing started from a mostly regional and loose collection of competitions. Often, tournaments played out against a background of rules that were sometimes enforced and often ignored or changed to fit the whims and interests of the promoters.

But beginning in the late 1960s, this scene was changed by a more unified organization, with a mission of standardizing the regulations, recruiting the best talent and promoting the whole enterprise with a zeal that would have put P.T. Barnum to shame.

In other words, the story of how Ray Scott invented the Bass Anglers Sportsman’s Society, created an industry and an entire culture based on a single species of freshwater fish. 

It’s a story that’s been told and retold in bits and pieces from many different perspectives, but as far as I know this is the first concentrated effort at a documentary series that takes the sport from its roots of 60 or more years ago all the way to the present. 

The first episode is an hour-long special that looks at those beginnings through the eyes of anglers like Glen Andrews — long recognized as bass fishing’s greatest early talent and guru — and the stars of Ray’s first pre-Bassmaster tournament series including Bill Dance, Bobby Murray, Johnny Morris and Jimmy Houston. More insight comes from media figures like Bob Cobb, who was essential to the development of Bassmaster Magazine and The Bassmasters on television. 

We also see the birth of what today is the still the sport’s number one property: the world championship Bassmaster Classic. Shown are scenes from the Nevada desert as 24 anglers fished the first “mystery lake” Classic on Lake Mead in 1971.

Conservation also became an early pillar of the B.A.S.S. organization, beginning with Ray’s advocacy of catch and release, first promoted as “don’t kill your catch.” 

It’s a worthy undertaking and a story that takes us from violent dockside confrontations to truly funny anecdotes to B.A.S.S. in the halls of Congress, advocating for habitat and environmental protection to benefit the sport and the people of America. 

Episode No. 2 begins as the second decade of B.A.S.S. arrived, along with a new flight of superstars ready to achieve hero status. Anglers like Larry Nixon, Hank Parker and Denny Brauer were beginning their ascent. And one of the original heroes from that first decade was making his exit from the weigh-in stage and moving to the small screen. Bill Dance tells us the reasons why, and why it was the right decision for him. 

His contemporaries and successors alike offer their recollections of Bill and explain why, after leaving B.A.S.S. tournament fishing, he’s still a giant of the sport and relevant half a century later. 

In 1984, The Bassmasters on television began. A new weekly show was born to capitalize on the popularity of B.A.S.S.’s early forays into television with one-off Classic specials. Cobb talks about jumping into a new kind of media, and we are treated to a love feast in celebration of the 1980s version of The Bassmasters on TV with a memorable highlights reel. 

Helen Sevier explains the popularity of the shows produced a collateral jump in membership. Then we find out what a difference it made for Bassmaster Classic weigh-ins to move indoors. 

Also in the mix is the story of another angler who had distinguished himself in the 1970s with two Bassmaster Classic championships. Rick Clunn added a third Classic in 1984 with a record-setting performance at Pine Bluff, Ark. His winner’s speech onstage with some political heavyweights is memorable. 

Roland Martin, Mike Iaconelli and Jimmy Houston then focus attention on bass fishing’s other huge achievement, the Bassmaster Angler of the Year title. 

Ray steps down later in the decade and turns over the president’s job to Helen Sevier, a job she would hold for the next 15 years. 

With the start of the 90s, B.A.S.S. was rolling on a big wave of momentum from the previous decade. The Classic took giant steps and upped the pageantry and production values in the 80s, and Ray Scott was dedicated to growing this one-of-a-kind event even more in the years after. 

Like Bill Dance at the start of the 80s, Hank Parker announces his retirement in the early 90s to build his own television empire. 

Ray’s new Megabucks format brings bigger paydays to anglers, especially Larry Nixon, who notches wins in four Megabucks tournaments, making it possible for him to become the first B.A.S.S. millionaire after one more regular season win. 

Denny Brauer comes into his own in the 90s with multiple tournament wins, the standout season being 1998 when he won two Top 100s, a Top 150 plus the Bassmaster Classic. 

The aspirational, inspirational story of Bryan Kerchal is recounted, along with more on the B.A.S.S. Nation program from Mike Iaconelli. 

Davy Hite wins the last Classic of the decade and gets us ready for the 2000s.

It’s quite a journey, and the first seven episodes are just the beginning. In the first year of gathering interviews, images and long-lost footage, we can see that in the years to come, The Cast will afford us all the chance to do some fascinating time travel. Hope you’ll take a look.