to FIELD & STREAM Magazine, he walks with the outdoor gods:
Individuals like Teddy Roosevelt, Rachel Carson and Aldo Leopold. He is
among the “Twenty Who Have Made A Difference” in the American outdoors
over the past century.
Following in the
footsteps of such American legends, Ray W. Scott, Jr. has achieved his
own legacy as the “Bass Boss,” the founder of the Bass Anglers Sportsman
Society (B.A.S.S.), the Whitetail Institute of North America, and as
publisher framed the foundation for successful outdoor publications,
including BASSMASTER Magazine, Southern Outdoors,
Fishing Tackle Retailer, and the award-winning national television
series “The BASSMASTERS”, the highest rated program on The
Nashville Network (TNN).
His climb to the
heights began with a “brainstorm in a rainstorm” in 1967 on a fishing
trip to Jackson, Mississippi. Bunkered in a motel room after being
rained out by a passing storm, Scott, a dedicated bass angler, clicked
the channels on the TV set. To his disappointment finding the only
sport, a professional basketball game.
As he started to dose,
Scott mumbled out loud, “Why doesn’t someone cover fishing on TV.
There’s more folks fishing, than playing basketball?”
Suddenly, the light
went on inside Ray Scott’s mind. He bolted upright in the bed. In a
single instance he experienced a true vision. One that would change the
future of fishing, create a new bass fishing industry, spawn bass
fishing heroes and provide the conservation leadership to protect the
resource for the future.
It was all clear in his
spontaneous revelation. Scott would conduct a competitive fishing
tournament. Not a local “buddy” tournament but a true national bass
fishing tournament. In 1967, this was unplowed ground. Fishing
was for relaxing. Not competition. As to “bass fishing,” the lordly
trout held the high ground and claimed more coverage in the slick “Big
3” outdoor magazines, officed in way off New York City.
The Birth of B.A.S.S.
But, Scott’s keen scope
of understanding had begun to strike “Gold in them Thar Gills.” He has
an uncanny knack for thinking outside the tacklebox.
His marketing plan. “Bubba
Power.” Get the good ol’ boys turned on to the bass fishing sport.
Make it a club – the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society – the acronym
An exclusive club,
dedicated to the black bass only. “If you mess with musky or piddle
with perch, you don’t belong in B.A.S.S.” was Scott’s message.
All-American Invitational Bass Tournament in June 1967 at Beaver Lake in
northwest Arkansas lured 106 anglers from 15 states. A major marketing
coup for the time.
What began with four
names on a 4 x 5 card in a metal box would swell to over 650,000
worldwide members as BASSMASTER Magazine would become respected as the
“Bible of Bass Fishing,” and carry Scott’s bassin’ message around the
During the formative
years of B.A.S.S. in 1968-1970 Scott realized the Bassmaster Tournament
Trail would provide the springboard to turn the bass fishing sport into
an information-age highway long before the advent of the wired-world and
Tournament results, the
on-the-water bass fishing proving grounds, served as a huge funnel of
raw fishing data. What dripped out on the final weigh-in platform was
pure how-to information and priceless proven ways to find and catch more
With his bassin’
brotherhood eager to learn the winning ways, Scott took to the highway.
Town to town and city to city. A 9-month series of 101 one-night bass
fishing seminars from coast to coast. On the program were, the special
secrets from shallow-water expert John Powell, a plastic worm fishing
expert, and a technical Roland Martin, who would become one of the
sport’s all-time great tournament fishermen, winning 19 B.A.S.S. titles
over the next 30 years.
“We were teaching
fishing and preaching anti-pollution,” recalls Scott. And along the way
building an army of over 3,000 conservation-minded bass clubs. Later
the clubs would band into state B.A.S.S. Federations and unite under a
national B.A.S.S. Federation banner to assemble a minuteman army for
numerous conservation causes and achievements for the angling resource.
Such was the efforts of
the fledgling Chattanooga, Tennessee Bass Club and its President Harold
Sharp to “Peg Polluters” in the all-out clean up of the industrial waste
being dumped into his area streams and lakes. The landmark case was the
centerpiece for Scott’s efforts to end the use of the nation’s waterways
as sewers for industrial discharge.
With B.A.S.S. members
on the prowl and on guard for unregulated dumping, Scott and Company
filed over 200 lawsuits against polluters during 1970-71 across Alabama,
Tennessee and Texas. Today, these closed cases of fouled waters provide
many man-hours of fruitful fishing.
Catch and Release
As controversial as
Scott seemed, pitting the bass against all other species, it was a
trout angler that switched on another bright light in Scott’s head.
Attending a Federation of Fly Fisherman’s conclave in Colorado, Scott
watched a fly-rodder catch a small 12-inch trout. Then later he
experienced an awakening as he watched the catch-and-release ceremony
the angler and his fishing companions observed in releasing the trout.
It was then that
Scott’s idea for “Don’t Kill Your Catch” bass fishing tournaments was
born. Among Ray Scott’s many contributions his concept of
catch-and-release may well be the most lasting legacy. Today over 98
percent of the bass weighed-in during national B.A.S.S. tournaments
return alive to the waters and the release percentage is equally high
among other fishing groups, bass clubs and individual anglers.
His way with words and
Southern-brand of Bubba bassin’ caught the attention of SPORTS
ILLUSTRATED Magazine’s writer Robert Boyle, who relayed Scott’s
message. The article, “A Big BASS bash in Arkansas”, (Oct. 20, 1969)
pictured Scott in the bow of a sharp-nosed Skeeter bass rig and the
notation: “Ray Scott rides herd on the watery range of bass fishermen
who are crawling out from behind every stump to join his organization.
Boyle, who in 1999
would write the best-selling book on the life and times of Ray Scott, “Bass
Boss,” observed in his opening paragraph of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED
some 30 years previously:
“When it comes to black bass,
Ray Scott of Montgomery, Ala., has a silver tongue and a golden touch.
Scott is president and chairman of the board of the Bass Anglers
Sportsman Society, succinctly known as BASS, and when he talks about
bass – largemouth, smallmouth and Kentucky spotted – he comes on like a
revival preacher painting the glories of paradise gained.”
Scott took his bass
fishing pulpit to national TV programs like NBC’s “Today Show,”
ABC’s primetime “Dick Cavett Show,” and on the ABC Network’s
acclaimed “20/20” news program.
Famed New York Times
sports columnist Red Smith upon seeing Ray Scott remove his customary
cowboy Stetson and start a tournament with a prayer said: “This Alabama
bassman, Ray Scott, does things in a unique fashion. It’s the first
time I’ve ever seen anyone address the Lord through a bullhorn!”
Scott’s prayer made two
points to the contrary: (1) “Lord, let the bass bite.” (2) And,
“please bring everyone back safely.”
“Boating Safety” rules
as the watchword and guiding principle of the Bassmaster Tournament
Trail. Scott’s concern is more than lip-service. Since 1968 his
tournament rules have required contestants to wear a Coast
Guard-approved life vest anytime the big engine cranked. Scott’s
campaign to install an automatic outboard shut-off device in the event
the driver is thrown from the console, pushed a reluctant outboard
manufacturers in the mid-1970s to make the “kill switch” a standard
President Jimmy Carter
appointed Ray Scott to the U.S. Coast Guard’s National Boating Safety
Advisory Council as evidence of his impact.
Scott is still onboard,
concerning boating safety issues. In 1994, he worked to help pass into
law the nation’s first comprehensive Boating Safety Reform Act in his
home state of Alabama. The law makes boat operator certification
mandatory and requires completion of a written exam to operate a boat in
the state. As a result of the boat operator’s license, deaths on
Alabama’s waterways have been reduced by over 50 percent.
As a long-standing
proponent of personal flotation devices (PFDs) Scott mandated the wear
of life vests in bass fishing tournaments when the big engine was
running. In Scott’s opinion, the next step in boating safety is to pass
a “mandatory lifejacket rule” to require the life vest be worn at all
times while boating.
Scott is best known as
the founder of the world’s largest bass fishing organization (B.A.S.S.),
but boating safety and saving lives may be his legacy. The National
Safe Boating Council honored Scott as a 2002 inductee into the Boating
Safety Hall of Fame. “This distinction honors individuals who have
shown exemplary leadership and performed outstanding service on behalf
of safe boating,” said Virgil Chambers, executive director of the
National Safe Boating Council.
A Legend in His Time
During the summer of
1998, OUTDOOR LIFE celebrated its 100th anniversary,
publishing a special collector’s edition, and honored the “top fishing
innovations of the past 100 years.”
one-cylinder outboard in April 1909 topped the list. “Don’t Row! Throw
the Oars Away!” primed the fishing evolution. Nylon (monofilament)
fishing line by du Pont and the first American-made spinning reel, the “Spinmaster,”
marketed following World War II changed the way folks fished. The
dawning of fiberglass fishing rods, the use of SONAR developed in the
war years and Carl Lowrance’s famous “Little Green Box” changed where
and how bass anglers fished.
Awareness,” the passage of the 1972 Clean Waters Act and the national
ban of DDT credited to zoologist Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring –
warning of impending environmental doom – the reclaiming of the Great
Lakes fishery and massive TVA dam building projects and creation of huge
reservoirs were all heralded in OUTDOOR LIFE’s list of “Ten
But, the “Bass Boom” –
credited to the “flash of brilliant intuition that catapulted insurance
salesman Ray Scott from his motel bed in March 1967” – promoted a
significant change in sportfishing in the next three decades. As writer
Jerry Gibbs noted, “The burgeoning sport triggered a wave of tackle and
boating innovations, and elevated black bass into its position as the
nation’s favorite gamefish.”
Investing in the Future
Perhaps, the OUTDOOR
LIFE list let “one get away” that’s resulted in the investment of
millions of angler’s dollars in the nation’s fisheries. The passage of
the Sport Fish Restoration Act, known as the Wallop-Breaux Fund, in July
1984 allowed a small excise tax on fishing tackle and related marine
items to fund fishing’s future.
Oddly, the marine
industry lobby and some tackle manufacturers opposed the “tax” as a
business albatross. The tax tug-of-war dragged out over seven years
despite the best efforts of the Sportfishing Institute to gain
As head of the world’s
largest fishing organization, Ray Scott lined up with the Sportfishing
Institute’s Carl Sullivan as the strongest supporting voice. But, it
was a comment “about the gridlock” made to then Vice President George
Bush that pulled the legislative strings.
Scott served as
Alabama’s chairman in the 1979 George Bush presidential campaign, a bond
sealed by Bush’s interest in fishing. Later, as national chairman of
“Outdoorsmen and Conservationists for Regan-Bush” election, Scott had
numerous opportunities to discuss conservation and fishing issues with
George Bush during his successful campaign for the White House 1988.
During his presidential
years, George Bush was asked about his favorite reading material. The
President answered: “BASSMASTER Magazine, a fishing periodical.”
An avid angler, President Bush frequently fished for largemouth bass on
Ray Scott’s private 55-acre lake near Pintlala, Alabama. A well-known
trophy bass fishery – that Scott has named the “Presidents Lake” – in
light of the fishing trips by both George Bush and his son, George W.
Bush, also, an avid bass angler. Both the former U.S. Presidents are
lifetime members of the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society.
with the Bush clan continues. He was among a special group invited to
the White House for the “National Safe Boating Week, 2001” proclamation
signing by President George W. Bush. It marked the 30th
anniversary of the Federal Boat Safety Act and called attention to the
North American Safe Boating Campaign of “Boat Smart From the Start!
Wear Your Life Jacket.”
Quality Fishing Water
Next to boating safety
Ray Scott is on a continuing conservation crusade to control the dumping
of aquatic herbicides – “chemical poisons” – in public fishing waters.
Scott’s concerned not only for the safety of “drinking waters,” but the
rampant destruction of fish habitat and destroying of bass fisheries.
Scott’s alternate means
of controlling weeds in reservoirs is by using mechanical harvesters to
reduce unwanted exotic plants rather than herbicides that destroy
valuable habitat. Such is the program being tested, and strongly
supported by Scott, in Texas. A coalition of conservation groups,
called S.M.A.R.T. (Sensible Management of Aquatic Resources Team) has
been instrumental in promoting the safe and sensible approach to the
“War on Weeds” in Texas.
One such “battle” was
avoided at Lake Bastrop, when Scott and the S.M.A.R.T. team stepped in
to stop the dumping of weed killers. As a demonstration, Scott worked
with the TVA (Tennessee Valley Authority) to provide a mechanical weed
harvester to clear “lanes” and launching ramps. Then Governor of Texas
George W. Bush operated the weed harvester and encouraged the lake and
water authorities to consider all safe and sensible means to control
weed problems in public waters.
Ironically, Scott also
organized a fisherman’s protest on Lake Guntersville in north Alabama
over the proposed plan by the TVA to return to using chemical aquatic
herbicides on the Tennessee River impoundment. A 600-boat parade
stopped traffic and halted the proposed chemical spraying of weeds. A
previous program had reduced and destroyed the habitat and in the
opinion of concerned anglers, wiped out a “great trophy bass fishery.”
The compromise with limited spraying around boat docks and launch ramps
and the use of mechanical means has seen a renewal in Guntersville’s
excellent bass fishing.
A Career in Deer
As founder of the
Whitetail Institute of North America, Inc. Ray Scott has returned to the
hunting resource, what “Catch and Release” accomplished for the bass
anglers. Based on reports by Boone & Crockett and Pope and Young record
keepers more “trophy class” bucks have been reported during recent years
than anytime in history. Since Ray started the Whitetail Institute, the
number of big racks has increased over 400 percent.
A great part of the
dramatic change is due to Ray Scott’s funding and research into quality
deer management and making deer hunters aware of nutritional food
supplements for whitetail deer.
As a deer hunter, Scott
planted “food plots” and realized their attraction for luring deer into
shooting range. But, by happenstance, Scott planted a small strip of
“clover” in a field with the traditional forage plantings of wheat and
oats. Much to Scott’s amazement, deer walked over the others to feed on
Scott’s light seems to
always click on brightest with a “why not” idea. So, why not develop a
special product for growing bigger deer. Thus, the Whitetail
Institute’s Imperial Whitetail Clover seed was introduced and has
revolutionized the food plot and deer management business. Continuing
research has provided a year-round nutritional program and
well-researched products for trophy deer management.
The findings of the
Whitetail Institute’s research and field reports and how-to instruction
are published in “WHITETAIL NEWS,” published three times a year
and reaches over an estimated 500,000 readers. The Whitetail Institute
is headquartered on Ray Scott’s ranch near Pintlala, Alabama and
operated by a staff of over 20 with sons, Wilson and Steve Scott, as
vice presidents of Operation and Marketing.
But, it is as “Mr.
B.A.S.S.”, the founder of the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society, that Ray
Scott has most likely left his indelible mark on the outdoors world.
From the Society’s organization in 1968, for over three decades, Ray
Scott was the “face” on the B.A.S.S. patch. He was the master of
ceremonies for the world championship BASS Masters Classic, an event
that debuted as a “mystery location tournament” in 1971 at Lake Mead,
Nevada and went on to achieve “Super Bowl” status for bass fishing
professionals, providing the champion with a potential payout of over $1
million bucks. With Ray Scott on center stage, the Classic weigh-ins
reeled in amazing spectator interest with over 25,000 fans at the indoor
Scott continued his
on-stage role as the “Bass Boss” after selling B.A.S.S. in 1986 to a
group of company investors. But, in 1998 Scott walked off the stage to
launch another long-time “dream.”
A pitchman and salesman
at heart, since his early days of selling “red hot peanuts” at
Montgomery’s Cramton Bowl to football fans, Scott is taking full
advantage of his well-schooled marketing abilities and celebrity
status. Ray Scott Outdoors, Inc., is a full-service marketing and
consulting firm for the best of the fishing tackle and marine industry.
Scott, complete with
his trademark Stetson, is now national spokesman for
Boats of Benson, NC – maker of the revolutionary Twin Troller X10,
of Southbridge, Massachusetts – the largest manufacturer of professional
cutlery in the United States, Kasco Marine of Prescott, Wisconsin – a
leader in products that promote healthy water quality in ponds and
lakes, Nutritek, Inc. of Salem, Oregon – Nutri Shield all natural deet-free
insect repellents, Purina Mills of Gray Summit, Missouri – the U. S.
leader in animal nutrition products, research and innovation, and is the
largest feed manufacturer in the country, Running Moose Publications of
Clinton Township, Michigan – producer of
Adventures with Jonny - a series of books teaching kids the joy of
fishing and Sweeney Enterprises, Inc. of , the oldest
manufacturer of wildlife feeders and automated nutritional feeding
systems for fish and game,
At an age when most
successful entrepreneurs think about retirement, Ray Scott has yet to
pull on the reins. His vision is still a gleaming light and his
personal popularity at its highest.
He is a popular
motivational “no-notes” speaker who has addressed a wide range of
gatherings. Whether he is speaking about his personal marketing
philosophy, fishing, his own rags-to-riches story or delivering an
inspirational message, he has brought audiences to standing ovations.
innovator in the fishing tackle industry, Ray Scott has developed a
Sportackle™ System for light-line fishing, a concept for catching more
bass with 4-pound test line. Scott’s special designed Sportackle™
spinning rods in 6.9-foot single-piece and two-piece are lightweight,
but capable of battling big bass. “Put the sport back in sportfishing”
is Ray’s goal.
As a builder of trophy
bass lakes an expert on big bass management, Ray Scott’s thumbprint is
showing up in residential developments, much as Arnold Palmer or Jack
Nicklaus-designed golf courses surround resort properties.
Properties, Inc. in Birmingham, Alabama made a decision to call in Ray
Scott to design and develop special bass lakes to lure potential home
site customers. Because of Ray Scott’s name recognition and a solid
marketing plan, the third stage of the upscale 1,700-acre Highland Lakes
residential community, including three lakes, is almost sold out.
For do-it-yourself pond
builders or landowners in need of restoring an old lake, Scott has
produced a three-set video series on “Complete Guide to Creating GREAT
SMALL WATERS.” How to build, stock and manage small waters for
trophy-class bass and tips for rehabilitation of older or unproductive
lakes are covered in detail in the over two hours of video instruction.
The expert advice will work in small ponds covering only one acre up to
Robert H. Boyle’s
336-page account of the “Bass Boss” captures the inspiring story
of Ray Scott and the sportfishing industry he created. Both
entertaining and inspiring, it’s the insider’s look at the
personalities, fishing pros, the technology and the events that shaped
the multi-billion dollar bass fishing industry. It’s a story of vision,
determination, perseverance and faith that will inspire anglers and
non-anglers alike. For readers seeking the secret to Ray Scott’s
marketing success, his earlier book, “Prospecting & Selling: From a
Fishing Hole to a Pot of Gold,” is a must read.