Ray Scott’s bittersweet birthday

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From top left: Dave Precht, Steve Bowman, Bob Cobb and Ray Scott recently met for a 50th anniversary interview.

Someone once commented to me that most big accomplishments are done by people in their 30s. I can think of enough exceptions to disprove that rule, but it certainly applied to Ray Scott and his founding of the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society.

Scott was 33 when he conducted the groundbreaking All-American Bass Tournament on Beaver Lake, Arkansas, in June 1967. He was 34 when he founded B.A.S.S., launched Bassmaster Magazine and created the B.A.S.S. Tournament Trail.

By the time he turned 40, Scott had already conducted the first couple of Bassmaster Classics, introduced catch and release to bass fishing and laid the foundation for what would become the multibillion-dollar bass fishing industry. 

His contributions to sportfishing continued long after 40, of course, but in conversations these days, he most enjoys reflecting on the early, formative years. 

The “Don’t Kill Your Catch” movement he started in 1972 is a favorite topic. “I didn’t invent catch and release,” he told me recently. “But we did make it popular in bass fishing, and that has changed the sport in so many ways.

“We preached that a bass is too valuable to be caught only once. We helped fishermen learn how great it felt to catch a 5- or 6-pound bass and then lean over and let it go and watch it swim away, hopefully to be caught again. It’s a heady experience.”

He believes catch and release is a primary reason so many of our bass fisheries are at least as productive today as they were back in the good ol’ days, and I couldn’t agree more. 

Scott turned 84 today. He loves birthday celebrations, and if this were a typical birthday he would be surrounded by friends and family, eating his favorite Chris’ hot dogs and receiving phone calls from friends around the country.

Instead, Scott is traveling today, attending the funeral of his brother, Eddie, in Nashville. In addition to your remembering Ray on his birthday, he could use your prayers.

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