Barbara Bush, wife and mother to U.S. Presidents, died at 92 last week, leaving the bass fishing world mourning the quick-witted First Lady who worked to advance the cause of universal literacy.
The photo above of Barbara Bush landing a fish with B.A.S.S. founder Ray Scott was posted on the Bass Pro Shops Facebook page after her death on April 17. Bass Pro founder Johnny Morris was a fishing partner and friend to both George H.W. Bush and son, George W. Bush, and Barbara.
“Barbara Bush and her family have long been proud supporters of fishing and conservation. We were saddened to hear of her passing, and we send our heartfelt condolences to all who were close to her,” the Bass Pro Shops post read.
Roland Martin, the nine-time Bassmaster Angler of the Year who traveled the country with Scott in the early days of B.A.S.S., sent out an Instagram photo of Mrs. Bush, whom he met and fished with.
“I’ve been so honored to know Barbara Bush. What a First Lady and the matriarch of the Bush family! She loved to bass fish and would come down to Alabama to fish with her husband and son, George W. The whole world as well as the fishing community will dearly miss her!”
Morris is close to the Bush family. In 2016, he went to the senior Bush’s Presidential Library in College Station, Texas, to present him with an award for a lifetime of contributions to the sport fishing community. As vice president, Bush worked to get the Wallop-Breaux Amendment passed, and it added provisions extending the Dingell-Johnson excise taxes that fund state fishery programs.
Last fall, when the Bass Fishing Hall of Fame opened in Johnny Morris’ Wonders of Wildlife National Museum and Aquarium in Springfield, Mo., Bush returned the sentiment by sending a framed letter to Morris. Bush, who was inducted into the BFHOF the previous year for his lifelong support of sport fishing, offered his congratulations to Morris, from himself and his wife.
“This is another milestone in your accomplished life,” the letter read. “The life whose mission is to share your love of the outdoors. … One thing is sure, the imprint your passion conveyed will endure for generations. What a legacy. Sincerely, your friend, George Bush.”
The Bushes were such avid anglers and regular visitors that Scott named the 55-acre trophy fishery on his Pintlala, Ala., ranch, “Presidents Lake.” A cabin on the property was named “President’s Cabin,” where inside a small bronze plaque read, “George W. Bush slept here.”
The Bushes are all serious anglers, Scott reported, from bass to saltwater species out of the Atlantic while at their Kennebunkport, Maine retreat. Scott, who served as chairman of Bush’s 1980 presidential campaign in Alabama, once came to their defense when a writer questioned H.W.’s prowess because he hadn’t seen any photos of him with fish. Scott set the record straight.
“Serious anglers,” Scott said. “All the Bushes have fished on my lake, including Mama/Wife Barbara who, in 1990, caught the largest bass of all the Bushes. That bass was photographed and released. It weighed 5 pounds, 6 ounces.”
Scott, who sold the property last year, had plenty of photos hanging on the walls of him with the Bushes, and he was known to tease visitors, “You can sleep in George Bush’s bed and we haven’t changed the linens since he was here.”
A story in the UPI archives detailed the happenings on the day of the above photo. Barbara was mocked by her husband for catching a 1-pounder early in the day. Here’s their exchange as reported by then-White House Press Secretary Marlin Fitzwater.
“That’s a cute little one you’ve got,” the president said.
“You’re jealous,” the first lady shot back, asking if he would like to take a picture of it.
“No one wants to take a picture of that little minnow,” Bush said.
In total, the Bushes and National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft caught about 50 bass that day from Scott’s lake, and in the end Barbara exacted her revenge as her big bass beat both men’s best by about a pound.
“They (the president and the first lady) had a friendly argument about it,” Fitzwater said, “but clearly she won.”
As Barbara Bush did throughout her well-lived life.