Proudly showing our age

With the publication of this issue, I have officially thumbed through every page of every Bassmaster since its inception in 1968. That’s 448 magazines, which equates to roughly 50,000 pages of content. Had I done the math prior to engaging in the project, I might have reconsidered (pretty sure I developed a touch of the carpal tunnels). But in all, I believe I am better for it, and the reader comments we have received from the “50 Milestones” features lead me to believe that the effort was certainly worthwhile. But stepping back from these decade-long highlight reels, I realized just how impressive the 50th birthday of B.A.S.S. really is.

While the lifespan of people is expanding (in 1968 life expectancy in the U.S. was 68 years old, now it’s 80), the lifespan of companies is going the opposite direction. According to a study done by CNBC, the average age of a S&P 500 company is now under 20 years, down from 60 years in the 1950s. A recent piece in the Washington Times discussed the difficulties of keeping a business alive.  The story cited that only 36 percent of companies make it to 10 years. Only 21 percent make it to 20. They didn’t say how many make it to 50 (perhaps the sample size was too small), but it has to be in the single digits.

So, surviving half a century is certainly reason to celebrate. What’s even more interesting is to look at the influence B.A.S.S., as the creator of the sport, has had on the industry that blossomed around it. Cool comparisons include other leagues, like the NFL, MLB and NBA. These sports leagues are much older than B.A.S.S., and are certainly more high profile. Still, not a single one of them influences the economy as much as the followers of Bassmaster.

Take a gander at the annual revenues for the big-three sports leagues: NFL, $13 billion; MLB, $9.5 billion; NBA, $5.2 billion. These are big numbers, to be sure. That said, anglers spend $16 billion annually on bass fishing, according to a study by Southwick Associates. That’s more than MLB and NBA combined!

As for Bassmaster Magazine, it is one of a remarkably few publications to have lasted 50 years. Although there were several outdoor magazines founded before it, only a couple of those still exist (Field&Stream, Outdoor Life, Fur-Fish-Game) and none of them were specifically focused on bass fishing. Bassmaster was the first, and continues to be the world’s largest, vertical fishing publication.

So, why has B.A.S.S. not only survived, but thrived for five decades? In my opinion, it’s because of you. 

There is simply something in the water … at least the water that holds a member of the Micropterus family. Bass anglers, I contend, are the most passionate group of fishermen that exist. And B.A.S.S. members are the most loyal subgroup of these fishermen. Together, B.A.S.S. and bass anglers have not only brought our sport to a level surpassing mainstream stick and ball sports, but we have defied trends in the business and publishing worlds. 

And I’m not going to say there is a correlation between life expectancy increasing in our country with each passing birthday of B.A.S.S., but I’m not going to deny that there is a correlation, either.