This week Ray Scott’s first bass tournament turns golden. It’s the 50th anniversary of the B.A.S.S. founder’s inaugural event.
On June 5, 1967, the All-American Invitational Bass Tournament launched on Arkansas’ Beaver Lake, with 106 anglers from 14 states heading out for Day 1 of No. 1. Each paid $100 for a shot at $5,000 of prize money, and Stan Sloan, of Nashville, Tenn., weighed 37 pounds, 8 ounces over three days to win $2,000 and a trip to Acapulco.
Fishing legend Bill Dance, sporting one of the fastest motors at 60 horsepower, finished second, and he laid claim to the first fish caught. He didn’t go far and landed a bass on his first cast, then noticed everyone else still running to their spots. That’s his story and he’s stuck to it.
After the event was deemed a success, Scott ran with it. He rolled it into the idea of an organization, and by January 1968 he began signing up members for his Bass Anglers Sportsman Society (B.A.S.S.), which blossomed into the largest bass fishing organization on the planet.
Stories celebrating the 50 years have started, but the floodgates will open with full-on anniversary coverage in January. All Bassmaster platforms will present a plethora of special content in 2018.
'BRAINSTORM IN A RAINSTORM'
In March 1967, 33-year-old Scott left his home in Montgomery, Ala., for an insurance sales trip to Jackson, Miss. An avid angler, he planned to get in some bass fishing at Ross Barnett, but rain sent him back to the Ramada Inn. As the story goes the idea of a big-time event came to him in some sort of premonition as he watched a basketball game on TV -- he knew more people fished than played basketball and thought it should have big-time events.
“In a microsecond, I saw it all,” Scott said for a Sports Illustrated report. “I saw the lake I had just gotten blown off. I saw a hundred bass fishermen competing, tournament-style. It just came to me. I knew it would work."
He immediately began hustling to make his “brainstorm in a rainstorm” come to fruition. His first move was flying to Little Rock to learn about how to go about putting on a fishing tournament on newly impounded Beaver Lake in the northwest part of the state.
In the next several months, there were a couple of snags that might have sent Scott home with tail tucked, and the first was financing.