Ray Scott’s influence on me

The passing of B.A.S.S. founder Ray Scott has led those of us who love this sport take an introspective look at his influence on each of us.

I am no exception. Had it not been for Ray, I probably wouldn’t own a bass boat business. I might be milking cows or working on cars.

I’m older than most of today’s Bassmaster Elite anglers, so I have a long and appreciative history with Ray. I’m one of only a handful of current Elite anglers who have had Ray Scott weigh their fish on a Bassmaster stage.

My path to owning Phoenix Boats and walking across that stage began when I was 14 years old and my grandmother took to the local drugstore. As I passed the magazine section, a man holding up a big bass on the 1975 Bassmaster Magazine Annual caught my eye. I’d never seen a bass that big.

I was a southwest Missouri farm boy, raised on my dad’s dairy farm. I didn’t know much about bass fishing but had caught a few from farm ponds on a purple Crème Worm.

When I thumbed through the pages, a feature story entitled “Farm Pond Savy” had a picture of a guy climbing a fence with rod in hand.

I was eager to learn more about fishing so we bought the magazine, and I took it home and pored through the pages. Inside, was a card in which I filled out and became a full-fledged B.A.S.S. member. In return, I got a package of tackle, a B.A.S.S. sticker and a wealth of knowledge.

There is no question that – if not for Ray and that magazine – I might not be where I am today.

I went fishing every chance I got and my excitement for bass fishing grew stronger. My brother took me to Bull Shoals to fish for white bass. A couple of tournament guys at my church took me to Toledo Bend when it was in its prime. It was there where I really fell in love with the game.

As a teenager, I had two passions – cars and fishing. I attended vocational tech classes in high school with hopes of becoming an auto mechanic, and the day after graduation, I went to work for the Chevy dealer.

I continued to fish and work. Dave Barnett, the president of the bank in town knew about my love for bass fishing and told me about a bass boat (Bass Charger with a 35 HP Mercury) he had repossessed. I had to have it, so I sold a heifer I raised on the farm and bought the boat. I wasn’t old enough to drive, so dad would tow me to the lake, drop me in and come back and pick me up in the afternoon. I am grateful he and my mother were supportive of my fishing.

So Ray’s Bassmaster Magazine got me hooked on bass fishing and the tournament stories fired me up more. I fished my first Bassmaster Invitational on Lake of the Ozarks in 1981. I drew Randy Behringer, a great Texas angler, who taught me how to flip shallow cover.

Again, it was Ray’s dream of how bass tournaments could help teach people how to fish that helped elevate me to where I am today.

Through the covers of Bassmaster, I gained an admiration for Rick Clunn, a dominate force in those days. Today, Rick and I have a valued friendship that wouldn’t have been possible had it not been for Ray Scott.

The man not only elevated a sport, but he created a huge market in which hundreds of country boys like me could build a livelihood through a business creation, as an employee of such business, or as a pro angler.

I feel fortunate and blessed to go from dairy farming to owning a boat company and fishing the Elites. But that’s a story we’ll save for next month.