Architect of Bass Tournaments Ray Scott Passes
The fishing world, indeed the entire world, lost a legend and a great man when Ray Scott passed away peacefully of natural causes at 11:30 p.m. Sunday, May 8, 2022. The “Bass Boss” was 88 years old.
No person in history influenced bass fishing, perhaps all fishing, more than Ray W. Scott, Jr. Field & Stream magazine once listed Scott with the likes of President Teddy Roosevelt, environmentalist Rachel Carson, and naturalist/conservationist Aldo Leopold as one of the “20 individuals who most influenced outdoor sports during the 20th Century.”
Always a friend to American Bass Anglers, ABA probably would not exist if not for Ray Scott. ABA even named its championship tournament, the Ray Scott Championship, in honor of the Bass Boss.
“It is with heavy heart that I learned of the passing of Ray Scott,” lamented Morris Sheehan, president of American Bass Anglers, Inc. “He has been and will continue to be an icon for me and forever be known as Mr. BASS. Most folks know his background, but to me Ray was not only a good friend, but always there for me and the anglers of American Bass Anglers. Ray always took a special interest in ABA and served as a mentor to me, always guiding me on the necessary pieces of running a bass tournament. The many stories and experiences we shared will forever live in my memory, Rest in Peace Ray.”
Born Aug. 24, 1933, Scott grew up in Montgomery, Ala. during the Great Depression. Always an entrepreneur, the young Scott delivered groceries on his bicycle, cut grass and sold peanuts at baseball games to help his family during the lean times of the Great Depression.
As a young man, he began selling insurance until drafted into the U.S. Army in 1954. After serving two years on active duty, Scott used his G.I. Bill benefits to earn a business degree from Auburn University before resuming his insurance business.
In March 1967, a storm canceled a fishing trip, but Scott experienced what he called a “brainstorm in a rainstorm.” He envisioned a national professional bass fishing trail similar to golf tournaments.
That summer, after selling insurance for more than a decade, he quit his job to organize a bass tournament in Arkansas. That led to the founding of the first national professional fishing trail, the Bassmaster Tournament Trail.
The following year, Scott founded an organization to promote competitive bass fishing, the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society — B.A.S.S. It grew to become the largest fishing organization in the world. B.A.S.S. now counts more than 650,000 people among its members.
Scott invited two dozen bass anglers to fish in a world championship in 1971. He held that first Bassmaster Classic on Lake Mead, Nev. The signature tournament of B.A.S.S., the Bassmaster Classic grew into the largest annual competitive fishing event in the nation. Today, competitive bass fishing is a multi-billion-dollar international industry.
In 1972, Scott began the “Don’t Kill Your Catch” campaign to promote catch and release to keep more bass alive. He mandated live release in every tournament, the standard for most competitive fishing tournaments today. He also pressured boat companies to design and build better livewell systems to help keep more fish alive longer.
“I didn’t invent catch and release,” Scott once said, “but we did make it popular in bass fishing, and that 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.”
Scott entertained many presidents and other dignitaries over the years and often fished with people like George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush, among many others. The Sport Fishing Institute named him its Sport Fisherman of the Year in 1988. Many other honors followed including his induction into the inaugural class of the Bass Fishing Hall of Fame in 2001 and the International Game Fish Association Hall of Fame three years later. In 2003, Scott received the Horatio Alger Award, which honors the achievements of outstanding Americans who have succeeded in spite of adversity.
Scott sold B.A.S.S. in 1986, but continued to serve as the Bassmaster Classic emcee for many years. Although he always loved fishing, he turned his attention to another one of his passions, deer hunting. He founded the Whitetail Institute of North America, Inc. to fund research on white-tailed deer, particularly on nutrition issues and availability in deer food sources. Now, the Whitetail Institute annually distributes millions of pounds in deer feed. He also promoted conservation, boater safety, and keeping waters clean. In 2002, he was inducted into the National Boating Safety Hall of Fame.
This legend of the outdoors will certainly be missed by millions.
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