SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Bass fishing experienced a historical night Thursday that left a lot of people in the industry happy.
After a decades-long search, the doors of the Bass Fishing Hall of Fame (BFHOF) opened at an actual, spectacular facility. Along with the five inductees of the 2017 class – Shaw Grigsby, Bob Sealy, Morris Sheehan, Louie Stout and Wade Bourne – the man who provided that venue was honored.
“It’s an absolutely incredible feeling that we’re part of Johnny Morris’ Wonders of Wildlife National Museum and Aquarium,” said Donald Howell, president of the BFHOF board of directors. “Johnny has been a big, big supporter ever since we talked about this idea. It’s an honor and a privilege to be a part of this.
“For some of our original board members, it’s been 20 years plus in the making. More importantly, this new home will give us an opportunity to showcase bass fishing and those who’ve made contributions to the sport. It will give us a foundation that will allow us a conservation and education platform for the sport. We’re so excited for that.”
The BFHOF was the only area unfinished when Morris’ 320,000-square-foot celebration of the outdoors opened on Sept. 21. On Thursday, BFHOF co-founder and past president Bill Fletcher was honored to cut the ribbon, allowing about 200 guests inside the walls for the first looks. The visitors, mostly pro anglers and shakers in the industry, viewed the wall of inductees’ plaques and mingled among the displays recording the history of the sport.
“I can’t explain it,” Fletcher said. “I feel like I’m here in a dream world. It’s been an 18-year dream of mine – been through a lot of dry hoops.
“It’s really a Godsend to me. After working on this as long as I have, I came to the conclusion several years ago that the only way this was going to happen was with Johnny Morris.”
The 15 members on the board of directors, including B.A.S.S. employees Dave Precht, Gene Gilliland and Steve Bowman, had worked hard setting up the hall and preparing for the fete. They looked forward to their facility's debut with some anxiousness as well, because its completion went down to the wire. (There's still some outside work to finish.) They were pleased with the outcome.
“All of the comments for our place have been extremely positive,” Howell said. “When you have a guy like Kevin VanDam come into the space and say, ‘Wow, this is incredible!’ It makes you feel really good.”