Johnny Morris, Bass Pro Shops Outdoor Fund cast $400,000 lifeline to revive Lake George

Johnny Morris, legendary angler, noted conservationist and Bass Pro Shops founder, recently announced a personal donation of $200,000 to the nonprofit Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), which when added to a $200,000 grant from the Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s Outdoor Fund, makes a total donation of $400,000 for the transformative work to restore Lake George.

These announcements, set against the backdrop of the elite competition at the Bassmaster Elite at St. Johns River, come at a critical juncture for Lake George, whose vital aquatic vegetation — a linchpin for the ecosystem and pivotal for prized freshwater fish like the Florida largemouth bass — is under threat. Hurricanes Matthew and Irma significantly damaged the lake’s aquatic vegetation. In response, FWC increased monitoring and restoration efforts to bring back this crucial habitat.

“We are honored and excited to be able to support this important work in one of the most iconic and celebrated fisheries for bass anywhere in the world,” Morris said. “We’re proud to stand alongside our customers in advocating for anglers and outdoor enthusiasts in supporting this important conservation project. Maintaining the health of Lake George will ensure its future for generations of anglers and everyone to enjoy.”

Thanks to this funding, the project will meticulously restore the lake’s submerged vegetation with the construction of protective enclosures around eelgrass to foster its growth. Additional eelgrass will also be planted as needed. These methods were successfully piloted in Lake George previously, thanks to additional funding from the FWC, the foundation and other donors. The additional work is crucial for maintaining the lake’s biodiversity, providing habitat for fish and wildlife and ensuring water quality.

“Facing the daunting challenge of reviving Lake George, a lake prized by freshwater anglers, the generosity of Johnny Morris and the Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s Outdoor Fund, offers hope,” said foundation President and CEO Andrew Walker. “This grant isn’t just funding — it’s a commitment to our shared vision of a vibrant, biodiverse Lake George, offering a lifeline to its underwater communities and, by extension, the entire ecosystem.”

As the restoration work unfolds this year, the revival of Lake George promises to reinvigorate local fishing and enhance tourism. It aims to not only restore the lake’s ecological balance but also to re-establish it as a beacon for anglers and nature lovers alike. Sharing the news at the Bassmaster Elite tournament highlighted the shared commitment to conservation that thrives among fishing enthusiasts and asserted the partnership’s commitment to recreational fishing in Florida.

“This marks a significant milestone in restoration efforts for Lake George,” said Tom Graef, director of FWC’s division of freshwater fisheries management. “The continued support from Johnny Morris, and the support from Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s customers through the Outdoor Fund, makes a difference in maintaining healthy Florida fisheries. By investing in eelgrass restoration, we’re not only protecting individual species but also enhancing the resilience and functionality of the lake’s entire ecosystem.”