50 years and counting

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Legacy Arena in the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex was packed for weigh-ins during the 2014 Bassmaster Classic at Birmingham and Lake Guntersville, and crowds are expected to be even bigger in March 2020.
B.A.S.S.
Legacy Arena in the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex was packed for weigh-ins during the 2014 Bassmaster Classic at Birmingham and Lake Guntersville, and crowds are expected to be even bigger in March 2020.

I was at the press conference when B.A.S.S. announced the site of the 2020 Bassmaster Classic. It was an awesome experience, but not for the reasons you might think. I’m a little bit of a sentimental guy, and that experience made me more of one. 

It wasn’t so much all the hoopla surrounding a Classic that I was thinking about, or even the fact that Lake Guntersville is a perfect venue for our 50th. It was the history and the significance of it all. Let’s be honest for a minute: Who would have thought that a guy back in late 1967 named Ray Scott would have — or could have — started all of this?

Talk about a dream. This was an idea born out of pure fantasy. An organization of good ol’ boys who would fish for bass in competition against each other, and make money doing it? Talk about crazy…

But, you know, it turned out to be not so crazy after all. The fantasy came true. We’re 50 years in and going strong. 

I owe a debt of gratitude to Ray Scott and the early anglers who believed. If it wasn’t for them, I’d probably be working as a fisheries biologist somewhere spending most of my time in an office dealing with paper, computers and people I had to pretend to like so I could keep my job.

And, in truth, I’d be one of the lucky ones. A lot of the guys would be sweating out a living in a factory on an assembly line wishing they could go fishing. It’d be even worse for them.   

Because of all that we’re here fishing the Bassmaster Elite Series catching bass, holding them up for the cameras, putting them on the scales and then turning them loose. And, most of us are earning a darn good living doing it.  

I’m not going to sugarcoat everything about our history. We’ve had our up and our downs. Sometimes our chief adversary was the economy, sometimes the weather, sometimes fate. But at other times it was us. We — the anglers mostly — got ahead of ourselves at times. We wanted too much too fast. We compared ourselves to other sports with bigger fanbases and longer histories.

Others complained that the owners of B.A.S.S. were making money “off” them. Imagine that? The owners of a for-profit business in America made a profit. At the same time, though, those same anglers didn’t complain when they cashed their checks after a tournament or the checks from their sponsors.   

Pushing all that to the side, we prevailed. Here we are almost 50 years later going strong with our heads up and our integrity intact. Because, you see, through it all we’ve taken the high road, and we’re going to continue down that road. It’s the only one we know. 

When next spring rolls around some of us will be at Lake Guntersville fishing the 50th Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods. We’ll spend a fair amount of time congratulating ourselves on making the Classic. Hopefully, I’ll be one of them. 

While I’m talking all that up, though, I’ll be thinking back on how lucky I am to have benefited from Ray Scott’s vision, and the history of B.A.S.S. along with the men and women who poured their time, expertise and money into making this thing called professional bass fishing work.

Yes, I’m a happy angler. I make no apologies for it.