Bobby Murray left the tournament trail after a successful 12-year stint and went on to have a flourishing career in the fishing industry. Murray started on the Bassmaster Tournament Trail in 1969, when he finished 13th in the Alabama Invitational at Lake Eufaula.
In the next 12 years, the Hot Springs, Ark., angler won three B.A.S.S. events, including the inaugural Bassmaster Classic in 1971 and the 1978 Classic. He recorded 16 other Top 10 finishes.
Winning the inaugural Classic was the highlight of his tournament career. "That first Classic was something special because it was a pioneer deal," he recalls. "That win at 25 years old gave me an entry into anywhere I wanted to go in the fishing industry.
The second Classic I won was also pretty sweet." Since sponsorships were unavailable to the B.A.S.S. pros during Murray's time on the trail, he had to work full time to supplement his tournament fishing. "Everybody was Team Grandma then and had to fish out of their own back pocket," Murray says.
After serving as vice president of Hydra-Sports Boat Company from 1977 to 1980, Murray joined his twin brother Billy to start their own sales company, Murray and Associates. "We had one of the largest sales companies for fishing tackle in the country for about 10 years," says Bobby.
His commitment to the new company prompted Murray to quit the tournament trail after finishing 22nd in the 1981 Classic. B.A.S.S. founder Ray Scott talked Murray into fishing the 1992 Bassmaster 25th Anniversary Tournament and he entered three Superstars events (1993-95), but the tournament veteran had no interest in making a comeback. "I'm done tournament fishing," says Murray. "I'm not going to be Brett Favre. I retired one time, but if they have an Old Folks League, I'll enter."
The 65-year-old Murray says he has no regrets leaving the tournament trail when he did. "Roland (Martin) has always been telling me I'm an idiot because I quit just when the money started getting good," Murray says. "He said I should have stayed another six or eight years and I would have made it. But I told Roland I made it, but I just did it over here on the other side of the fishing business
. I made it pretty well, in fact." While the tournament paybacks started increasing in the 1980s, Murray and Associates became more prosperous for the brothers.
Their company became the first to sell Bass Pro Shops Bass Tracker aluminum boats through a series of dealerships that eventually spread into eight states. "They called me the Tin Man for three or four years," recalls Murray. The company also became an independent contractor for PRADCO Outdoor Brands, which eventually offered the Murray brothers full-time employment in 1990. The Murray brothers now train employees of Academy Sports + Outdoors, Bass Pro Shops and Cabela's about the PRADCO product line. "It's wonderful because we're teaching fishing all the time," says Bobby, who also trains PRADCO's sales force. "We're not the ones who train them on how to read a spreadsheet or how to send their orders in on the computer, but we train them on the product itself."
The brothers are also promotional specialists for the lure company and dabble in product development. "We work close with all the engineers at PRADCO," Bobby says. "We're out in the public and see the trends and see what people are wanting and what's selling. We try to upgrade our product line all the time and also stay on the leading edge of the profession."
Although he no longer desires to fish competitively, Murray believes he has more passion for fishing than when he was on the tournament trail. "I love the sport," he says. "I love the challenge to solve the puzzle. I don't care that much anymore about winding the fish in or catching 150 fish. I like to find the fish. If I find a school and catch six or eight, then I get bored pretty quick. It's all about finding them."
This B.A.S.S. tournament pioneer has proven he can blaze trails on both sides of the fishing business.