SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – The setup and big reveal were done for maximum affect, and the news hit Louie Stout “like a ton of bricks.”
Stout was voted in for induction into the Bass Fishing Hall of Fame (BFHOF), and John Mazurkiewicz, who is on the hall’s board of directors, wanted to surprise his good friend with the news in a special way. He set up a dinner with Stout’s wife, Deb, then sprung the trap.
“When we got there, he had a packet of stuff from ICAST,” said Stout, who wasn’t able to attend this year. “I’m going through it. There’s a Shimano hat, some flash drives for press kits. I pull this envelop out and there’s pictures of Paul Elias and George Bush. What the heck is this?”
Stout said he put it down promising to look through the rest later, but Mazurkiewicz insisted he continue. The next picture, a shot of Mazurkiewicz at a previous BFHOF banquet, confused Stout even more.
“It was a picture of John presenting someone else,” said Stout, who was told to keep flipping. “The next was a sheet of paper with the BFHOF logo. It read, ‘Congratulations, Louie Stout, you’re going into the Bass Fishing Hall of Fame.’”
There might have been a millisecond of doubt that it was a cruel trick, but the faces at the table told Stout differently.
“I was blown away. I started crying,” he said during last week’s induction ceremony at Johnny Morris’ Wonders of Wildlife National Museum and Aquarium. “Then my phone started blowing up. Murk had timed it so my friends that he had numbers for had sent congratulations.”
“Then my phone rings, and it’s my son Jason (Murk said that got him crying again). I just said, ‘Hang on, I can’t talk right now.’ I just handed it to my wife. I was just so choked up. I was completely flabbergasted. I never dreamed of this.”
Stout should have. He’s been a stalwart in the outdoors press corps for quite some time. He’s written for Bassmaster Magazine since the 1980s, covered tournaments for B.A.S.S. Times for two decades, and he has covered every Bassmaster Classic since 1979. Stout has co-authored three books with Kevin VanDam, continues as an outdoors columnist for his local newspaper, and also runs a regional outdoors website, www.michianaoutdoorsnews.com.
In 2005, Stout was inducted into the National Freshwater Hall of Fame as a Legendary Communicator. In 2013, he was given the Homer Circle Fishing Communicator Award by the American Sportfishing Association.
A story from a recent day of tournament fishing put his induction and place in the sport into perspective. Another angler told him he thought only old-time anglers and legends got in the BFHOF, but Stout said he set him straight.
“I explained to him, the Hall actually honors those it believes have a major impact on the sport, including a few writers, tackle innovators and conservationists who’ve helped make this sport what it is today,” he said. “He said, ‘That’s really cool. I’m proud of you, but I got to tell you it’s a good thing you’re good at what you do, because you suck as a tournament fisherman.’”