Rick Morris had been a B.A.S.S. Iron Man until an ailing back caused him to take a medical leave from the Bassmaster Elite Series in 2014.
Morris claimed he had never missed a single day of 228 B.A.S.S. tournaments in 23 years before taking the medical leave. While his back was on the mend, Morris became the sole guardian of his 14-year-old daughter Sabrina, who came to live with him. The Virginia pro said his back was well enough to return to the tournament trail after a year, but he felt obligated to stay at home with his daughter.
“It was a bad time for me to go back on the road and leave her,” he said. “After spending a year with her it was just too hard for me to say goodbye to her and tell her she was going to have a babysitter while she was a teenager in high school.”
Spending two years without fishing the Elite Series was a “very depressing time,” for Morris. He started fishing Southern and Northern Opens again in 2016 and experienced one of the highlights of his career when he recorded his first B.A.S.S. win in the 2017 Bassmaster Northern Open on the James River. The high point of Morris’ career occurred later that year when he qualified again for the Elite Series by finishing sixth in the 2017 Southern Open Angler of the Year standings.
The Virginia pro recalls his earliest fishing trips were with his dad when he was 6 years old. “I was dragging a Mepps spinnerbait on a piece of string out of the back of my dad’s rowboat while he was rowing,” he said.
While growing up in Virginia Beach, Morris would fish several sand pits in the area. “I had a little johnboat and I would go to all those places,” he said. When he was in his 20s, Morris bought his first bass boat, a 1983 Winner Z880 with an Evinrude 150 XP engine, and joined the Virginia Bassmasters B.A.S.S. Federation club.
Morris recalls starting out in the club as a non-boater and then switching to a boater the following year. “The guys in the club were really knowledgeable and really good,” Morris said. “So I learned a lot from them.” He recalls fishing in several Mr. Bass events and Virginia B.A.S.S. Federation team championships throughout the 1980s.
During his club years, Morris worked for his brother as a glass artist making glass sculptures. He eventually became a master glass artist instructor and taught glass art classes until he committed to fishing full time.
A fifth-place finish as a non-boater in the 1992 Bassmaster Megabucks event on Lake Guntersville gave Morris his first taste of fishing with the pros. The next year he fished the Megabucks event again and entered three Bassmaster Invitationals. He dropped out of the club and committed to fishing the all of the invitationals and Bassmaster Top 100 tournaments in 1994.
“I was spending all my vacation time and money for a trophy (in club events),” Morris said. “I figured if I was going to do that I might as well try something where I could make some money.”
Making money was tough for Morris in his early days on the Bassmaster trail as he failed to earn a check in his first four invitationals in 1993 and 1994. “I was really green and I had a lot to learn,” he said. “I was young and when you are young you think you can do anything.”
Morris finally won money in the 1994 Alabama Invitational at Lake Eufaula where he finished 27th and then collected checks in his next two invitationals before moving up to the Top 100 events.
Throughout his B.A.S.S. career, Morris’ biggest supporter has been his mom, Patricia, who has watched him weigh in at several events. She was at the 2006 Bassmaster Classic cheering on Morris when he finished second at Lake Tohopekaliga.
His runner-up performance in the 2006 Classic was the second time a B.A.S.S. victory had eluded him. Morris also finished second in the 2005 Bassmaster Open Championship on the Alabama River. After winning the 2017 Northern Open for his first B.A.S.S. victory, Morris recorded another second-place finish in the 2017 Southern Open on Smith Lake.
His Northern Open victory helped Morris get the monkey off his back of winning a B.A.S.S. event. Winning a Bassmaster Classic has always been his number one goal and Morris feels confident he can accomplish the feat. “I have been that close to winning it so I know it can happen,” he said.
Looking back on his career, Morris is unable to determine a turning point when he knew he had arrived as a pro. “It has just been an up and down crazy career the whole way,” he said. “It’s been a lot of hard work and a lot of sacrifices.”
Now a veteran of professional bass fishing, Morris believes he has matured and grown with the sport. “I am highly competitive but I know there is only so many circumstances a fisherman can control so what I really got out of the tournaments is it gave me a life of travel and meeting people all over the place,” he said. “I have met a lot of great families and lifelong friends.”
A return to the Elite Series gives Morris another chance to enjoy travelling and meeting people across the country.