Bass fishing loses icon in Murski

Funeral services will be held in Dallas, Texas, Friday for Ray Murski, a long-time supporter of B.A.S.S. and an icon within the outdoor industry. Murski died Monday afternoon after his vehicle was involved in an accident near Burnet, Texas.

The family is asking that, in lieu of flowers, donations be made to St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital or the Ray Murski Memorial Fund, Inwood National Bank, Dallas, Texas.

Murski, 72, owner of Murski-Breeding Sales and part owner of Strike King Lure Co., is considered a pioneer in the bass fishing world. In 1967, he was part of the inaugural field of anglers in the first All-American bass tournament — a precursor to the Bassmaster tournament trail —held on Beaver Lake, Ark. Murski finished fourth in that event.

“It’s a tremendous loss,’’ said Kevin VanDam. “There are very, very few people you meet in your life that are as impactful as Ray Murski. He gave a lot to a lot of people.”

VanDam, who was upset over the tragedy, echoed the sentiments of many of the fishing industry's icons.

“Ray Murski is one of us,’’ said Mark Zona. “But what separated him from the rest of us: He introduced so many people to the outdoors. I think a lot of people can learn a valuable lesson from that.”

Bass fishing superstar Denny Brauer, who had become a close friend of Murski’s over the years, said he was having a difficult time accepting the tragic news.

“This is so hard for me and Chad and our families," Brauer said. “Ray did so much good in his life, and most people didn’t know about it. He believed in youth projects, and he and Mandy [Murski’s wife] poured countless dollars into projects to benefit young people.

"Ray wasn’t in it for the glory of it — and that says so much about his character. He was big-hearted financially and emotionally. He is going to be missed by the fishing industry as well as the hunting industry.”

Brauer described Murski as intensely competitive in anything that interested him, especially fishing and hunting.

“Ray excelled at anything he did,” Brauer said. “If he was going to do something, he was going to do it as well as it could be done. He had a natural ability in outdoor sports. If he had elected to tournament fish for a living, he would be a household name in the fishing industry.”

In many ways, Jerry McKinnis, owner of B.A.S.S., believes Murski is a household name.

“A lot of younger people just don’t know the impact he had on our sport,’’ McKinnis said. “He was at those first Bassmaster events and he’s always been about trying to help others. And he was good at it. Today’s standings are full of names, household names, that no one would have ever heard of without Murski.

“And when he did fish, he most often beat you. I’m pretty sure in those early years and for a significant amount of time, Murski was at the top of the money list. He knew how to take a passion and be really good at it.”

Always the innovator, Murski devised efficient ways of positioning his bass boat in the days before “butt seats” and bow-mount trolling motors.

“I’ll never forget the sight of Ray sitting on a tractor seat,” said Ray Scott, founder of B.A.S.S., “which he had welded to the top of his 50-horse Mercury, and steering his trolling motor with his foot.”

“The sport of bass fishing has lost one of its greatest ambassadors.”

Details of Murski’s funeral arrangements are unavailable at this time. But Mark Copley, Strike King spokesman, asks that bass fishing fans, “Please pray for his wife Mandy, son Mike and daughter Sara and the rest of his family as they go through this trying time.”

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