Have you ever dreamt of fishing with Jimmy Houston on his ranch? How about bassing with Brandon Palaniuk, Seth Feider? Want to fish Canada with Jeff Gustafson or one of the Johnston brothers? Now’s your chance.
It could become reality as they are among the dozen or so big-name anglers who’ve offered themselves as a bid item to benefit the Bass Fishing Hall of Fame. Because of COVID-19, the Hall moved its 2020 induction ceremony to next year and transitioned its fundraising auction online. This year it’s open to the public for the first time.
“We turned it into the Bass Fishing Hall of Fame week, which officially kicks off Tuesday at 9 a.m. and runs through Friday,” said Casey Shedd, a BFHOF board member. “We’re really here to celebrate the five inductees, but we’ll have to do those formal inductions next year.”
The 2020 class is comprised of Bassmaster Classic champions Jay Yelas and Bryan Kerchal, famed multi-species angler and teacher Ron Linder, media icon Steve Bowman and lure innovator James Heddon. They will be honored alongside the 2021 inductees next September at the BFHOF’s home in Johnny Morris’ Wonders of Wildlife National Museum and Aquarium in Springfield, Mo.
“The other part of the Hall is to raise funds both for the Hall itself, preserving the history of the sport, and then for funds we give as conservation grants,” said Shedd, who chairs BFHOF fundraising and conservation committees. “Another thing is we encourage folks to become members. For $25, you can join and get a commemorative challenge coin that hopefully will turn into a collector’s item.”
There are plenty of collector's items up for auction, including signed jerseys from legends Larry Nixon and Denny Brauer and current Elite pros Keith Combs, Seth Feider, John Crews and Clark Wendlandt. Brauer and Wendlandt are also featured on cereal boxes up for bid. There’s even a Kerchal fish whistle among the listings, and you could win a Hank Cherry signed windshield from his Guntersville Classic win.
Auction items also offer about everything an outdoorsman desires. There’s AFTCO clothing, including a Mossy Oak Reaper hoodie; Falcon and St. Croix rods; Humminbird electronics; Ruger hunting rifles; Lucas Oil gear; Mammoth, Yeti and Onyx coolers; Daiwa combos, reels, lures, line; and more. To see the complete list and bid, click here.
“I got pretty excited the first time I saw all these auction items. The trips with anglers are the biggest items,” Shedd said, noting inductee Yelas’ Oregon Coast fishing adventure. “There’s the signed jerseys, unique pieces of art, a Traeger grill, rainsuits, firearms. We’ve just moved them all online.
“Anyone can sign in and bid on your phone or computer. If you place a bid and someone outbids you, we send you a text so you can bid again.”
Shedd said it will be interesting to see how the general public responds to potentially owning some of the exclusive items. At its induction ceremonies, the Hall has held silent auctions since opening its doors in 2017 at Wonders of Wildlife, which has won best new attraction and best aquarium awards. The Hall’s volunteer board members, all with varied backgrounds in the industry, work their contacts to secure items for the auction that serves as the nonprofit organization’s main fundraising tool.
“It’s a real effective vehicle,” he said. “We don’t have any expenses other than software. The individual board members use their relationships to reach out to folks to collect them all. I’m responsible for a number of items. Everyone is responsible. It’s a real collaborative effort by the whole group.”
The Hall has plaques of all 83 inductees, photos of every winner of the Bassmaster Classic and displays artifacts showing the timeline of bass fishing from its pioneer days to today. Shedd said the Hall has been studying other museums in hopes of developing interactive displays that further its mission.
“We’re looking into a kiosk that tells the story of bass fishing, talking to B.A.S.S. to get a history of the organization in there,” Shedd said. “Maybe by next year we have some sort of digital interactive display.
“That’s where some of the money goes, to reinvest in the Hall itself. Bass Pro and Wonders of Wildlife have been really gracious in the arrangement they’ve set up for us. We would not exist without them. They’ve incurred a lot of the costs and expenses. Going forward, we’ll be taking on some of that burden with these funds and try to further that message.”
Visit the Bass Fishing Hall of Fame website.