james hall

The thing about Ray

“Hello, young man. I’m Ray Scott.” The year was 2003, and I had just taken over the editorship of Bassmaster Magazine. Ray, hat and all, walked into my office in Montgomery, Ala., to introduce himself. Of course, the introduction was not necessary. I had been working for B.A.S.S. for four years by that time and had been reading Bassmaster since I was old enough to unlatch a tacklebox. “I hope you understand the responsibility that has been granted you,” Ray continued. “This magazine is the cornerstone of our industry, and you now control the bricks that shall build upon it. Two great editors came before you, so make them proud.”

No pressure, right?

But that was the thing about Ray. He, like all successful leaders, could bring from within other people a desire to do great things. Just think about some of the guys that built palaces on the ground broken, tilled and fertilized by Ray’s dream of legitimizing professional bass fishing. Johnny Morris likely would not have created Bass Pro Shops. Bill Dance certainly wouldn’t be known as “America’s Favorite Fisherman.” And Ranger Boats, founded in lockstep with B.A.S.S., may not have introduced the modern bass boat to the masses. The list could go on for pages.

I remember when B.A.S.S. hired Ray to come back as a spokesman after ESPN had purchased the organization. The company was having an image issue because of the ESPN takeover, and the powers-that-be thought it would be a good idea to bring the “Bass Boss” back into the fold. It was a very good idea. He made a small speech to the employees when he returned. It went something like this:

“I drove around the parking lot of our building before coming in. I saw some nice trucks. I saw some University of Alabama stickers and Auburn stickers on those trucks. But let me tell you what I did not see. I did not see any B.A.S.S. decals on bumpers or back windows. Now, y’all should be ashamed of yourselves if you don’t have enough pride in our company to put that shield on your truck. It not only stands for conservation, ingenuity and legitimacy, but it stands for the fraternity of anglers out there who depend on you for education, entertainment and advocacy. If you aren’t proud of what you do, you need to find another line of work.” Ray didn’t beat around the bush. It was harsh, but true.

I drove around the parking lot the next day, and there were about 40 B.A.S.S. decals on the back windows of vehicles. Ray reminded us that pride in B.A.S.S. goes beyond the walls of the office and pages in this magazine. It is a lifestyle, a mindset.

The last time I saw Ray was a couple years ago at his home in Pintlala, Ala. I met former Bassmaster editor Bob Cobb there to go fishing on Ray’s Presidents Lake. Ray’s health was failing, so he couldn’t join us on the boat. And it’s not the fishing that I will forever remember. I sat in his office, surrounded by a museum of bass fishing artifacts, and listened as he and Bob recounted stories of the old days. I was so mesmerized by the stories (some not exactly appropriate for publication), I didn’t think to turn on my recorder. That mistake will forever haunt me. That said, Bob agreed to write a farewell to Ray in this issue, and some of those yarns are included. You will also see some never-before-published photos that I found in our archives. 

As you absorb this issue, which is mostly about the life and achievements of Ray Scott, I hope you are inspired. And if you want to honor him, slap a B.A.S.S. decal on the back window of your car. There is no doubt he will be looking down, hat and all, knowing that you, too, can do great things.