WOW is the venue as well as the feeling most will have Thursday as the Bass Fishing Hall of Fame (BFHOF) inducts its class of 2017 at its first home.
“We’re pretty excited about how everything is coming together. It’s a really big night for our organization,” said Donald Howell, president of the BFHOF board of directors. “When you’ve got the opportunity to be a part of Johnny Morris’ Wonders of Wildlife, it’s incredible.”
That’s right, the Bass Fishing Hall of Fame, which for years has searched for a physical landing place, is inside the Bass Pro Shop mogul’s enormous, new outdoors museum that opened in September.
“Johnny Morris has done an outstanding job in creating Wonders of Wildlife in representing all forms of game and fish,” Howell said. “It’s an honor for our organization to be a part of that. It’s great to finally have a permanent home.”
On Thursday, there will be a ribbon cutting ceremony for the BFHOF at 4 p.m. as its doors open within the sprawling Wonders of Wildlife complex for the first time. At 6 p.m., the festivities move over to the adjacent Bass Pro Shops banquet hall for the dinner and induction ceremony of Shaw Grigsby, Louie Stout, Wade Bourne, Bob Sealy and Morris Sheehan.
Howell said the membership is ecstatic the BFHOF is housed in such a remarkable facility, which includes 320,000 square feet of wildlife galleries, a 1.5-million gallon aquarium and 35,000 live fish, mammals, reptiles, amphibians and birds.
“Wonders of Wildlife is a museum and aquarium that has 2.7 miles of walking trails through all of the exhibits,” he said. “It was designed to showcase wildlife from all over the world, to give people a visual perspective of what game and or fish may be like in another part of the world.
“When you put that in perspective, the Bass Fishing Hall of Fame is being showcased and its members recognized so that all the visitors can get a real-life perspective about bass fishing.”
There will be artifacts and information on the 62 inductees, the anglers, media members and industry people who have made major contributions to the sport of bass fishing. Displays include things like Rick Clunn’s trophies and Jerry McKinnis’ film equipment he used on The Fishin’ Hole. There are also tanks showing the different species of bass.
“It’s a hall of fame, but from a bass fishing standpoint, it’s a museum,” board member Steve Bowman said. “This is our past, this is our present and really, this is our future. It will show how the sport was created, and we can see all the lines going from the very beginning, before Ray Scott, and to him and beyond. It’s the whole story of the bass fishing world.”
“We now actually can say we have a home. Just being connected and associated with Wonders of Wildlife is a privilege for us,” Howell said. “Our organization, now we’ll need to leverage the opportunities that having a new home presents us.”
The BFHOF was the only segment not completed during Wonders of Wildlife’s grand opening on Sept. 21, a star-studded affair with expansive live web coverage. Expect a who’s who of the bass fishing world for Thursday’s fete, including emcee Dave Mercer and Bassmaster TV’s Mark Zona and Davy Hite, along with plenty of Elite anglers from Clunn, Greg Hackney, Paul Elias and many more.
Tickets to the dinner/ceremony are available to the general public for $100, with proceeds going to the hall. Admission also includes membership into the BFHOF with nominating/voting privileges. Each year since its founding in 2000, the non-profit BFHOF has taken nominations from its members, and the board compiles a ballot to be voted on.
“It’s going to be the coolest night in bass fishing in a very long time,” Bowman said.
For more information, go to BassfishingHOF.com.