RAY W. SCOTT, JR.
According to Field & Stream Magazine, he walks in the company of notables like Teddy Roosevelt, Rachel Carson, Gifford Pinchot and Aldo Leopold some of the Twenty Who Have Made A Difference in the American outdoors over the past century. Hes Ray Scott, the Bass Boss, founder of Bass Anglers Sportsman Society, the Whitetail Institute of North America, and a media group that includes BASSMASTER Magazine, Southern Outdoors, Fishing Tackle Retailer and the award-winning national TV series, The BASSMASTERS.
In 1967, Scott had a vision of building the sport of bass fishing to its rightful place in the first rank of American sports. That vision has led directly to the creation of a new industry that generates sales in the billions of dollars each year, and provides employment for more than 1.7 million people, directly and indirectly.
Not bad for a dreamer who got his start selling peanuts at the famous Cramton Bowl in Montgomery, Alabama in the early 1940s. He learned from that experience just as he has learned from everything hes ever done. A natural entrepreneur, he has an uncanny knack for sifting out the gold from the gravel and moving on to the next challenge.
Now at a point in his life when most men are contemplating retirement, Scott is building toward the peak of his powers. A look back will reveal just how far this man of the lakes and woodlands has come in the past thirty years.
Back in the sixties, Scott was a member of that small, silent brotherhood that pursued the black bass. The more involved he became, the more he saw the need for an organization that could elevate bass fishing to a higher level, and make it available to many more anglers.
He thought the best way to accomplish this was to hold competitive fishing tournaments which would honor and recognize the best bass anglers in the country, attract media attention and consequently build his business. This led to the founding of the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society (B.A.S.S.) and the first ethical, disciplined bass tournament series in the country.
This represented the cornerstone of B.A.S.S. and all that followed was built upon it. The organization has grown to more than 600,000 members, and they read the Bible of bass anglers, BASSMASTER Magazine. The membership is scattered across all 50 states and 59 foreign countries.
Theyre organized into federations and local chapters from Tulsa to Tokyo, and they not only enjoy the pursuit of the bass with their fellow members, they also work hard on environmental matters and introduce youngsters to the sport.
Shortly after Scott conducted his first tournament, he realized that his fledgling group, as well as the entire bass industry, had a bleak future, considering the polluted state of so many of Americas waterways at the time. This inspired Scott to lead a two-pronged attack against water pollution. In 1970 and 1971, he filed more than 200 lawsuits against polluters large and small in Alabama, Texas and Tennessee.
At the same time, he launched a publicity campaign designed to awaken the public to the threat and create a groundswell of support that would encourage the courts to do the right thing. He appeared on NBCs Today Show and ABCs Dick Cavett Show, and later on ABCs 20/20. In between, he was preaching the clean water gospel in literally hundreds of smaller forums local radio and TV shows, and local newspapers across the nation.
The more he preached, the more B.A.S.S. grew. This willingness of the early members to support his environmental crusades helped shape and fuel Scotts continuing leadership role in this arena.
Like many others, Scott was disturbed by the dead fish resulting from early tournaments. Although he went to great lengths to make sure the bass were used by worthy local charities, he knew this was not the answer. This led to his determination to release alive the bass caught in his tournaments. With great effort and at considerable expense, he instituted his Dont Kill Your Catch program. In spite of many obstacles, including the skepticism of fishery biologists and laymen alike, he made his Catch-And-Release program work and become overwhelmingly embraced by non-tournament anglers as well. The bass is now thought of first as a sport fish, not a food fish, and for the past twenty years, more than 95 percent of B.A.S.S. tournament bass have been released alive to thrill again.
In addition, his tournament format and rigidly enforced rules brought honesty and prestige to his tournaments. He also learned the importance of boating safety and passed this on to the membership through rule and example. He outlawed stick steering in bass boats in his tournaments, mandated that an adequate life vest be worn and securely fastened anytime the big motor is running, and required ignition kill switches that shut down engines instantly in case the driver was thrown from the controls.
President Jimmy Carter appointed Scott to the Coast Guards National Boating Safety Advisory Council and he served several years with distinction. In 1994 he helped pass the nations first comprehensive Boating Safety Reform Act in his native Alabama. The new law makes boat operator certification mandatory and requires successful completion of written or oral tests before being permitted to operate a boat in Alabama.
Scott, like most successful men, often appears impatient, geared to action and results. That trait makes even more impressive the long battle to create a perpetual source of new state funding for fisheries improvement nationwide. This project required starting from scratch with a U.S. Congress that cared very little for the idea.
With lots of patience, and a great deal of help from Vice President George Bush and cohorts from the Sportfishing Institute he obtained passage of the Sport Fish Restoration Act, commonly known as the Wallop-Breaux Fund.
Since this bill became law in July 1984, a small excise tax on fishing tackle and related items has provided a fund which pours back literally hundreds of millions of dollars divided among all fifty states for fishery restoration and enhancement. If there is a twin legacy to Catch and Release -- one that will truly epitomize Ray Scotts contributions to sport fishing in the decades ahead -- it will undoubtedly be his dogged determination to pass the Sport Fish Restoration Act. No one who participated in this effort denies the crucial role of Ray Scott over a seven-year period, a remarkable display of patience by an impatient man.
Scotts most recent crusade concerns the use of aquatic herbicides in public waters. He believes that Control, Protection, and Management (CPM) is the safe and sensible approach to the harvest of native and exotic water plants. Scott is encouraging the mechanical harvest in a surgical manner, rather than chemical poison eradication of vital food chain supported and enhanced by such vegetation. He shares with a growing number of others a concern for the mixing of chemical poisons in waters that are often public drinking water sources, and was instrumental in the founding of S.M.A.R.T. (Sensible Management of Aquatic Resources Team). This Texas organization is a coalition of varied environmental groups who are working together toward the abolition of chemical herbicide poisons that are being applied to public waters.
In 1998 Scott ceased his involvement with B.A.S.S. and has established a consulting company called Ray Scott Outdoors. He is in the process of selecting companies he feels best represent the hallmark of various categories of the marine and fishing products. To date, he has consulting and national spokesman contracts with Triton Boats, Mercury Outboards, MotorGuide trolling motors, Sporting Lives, the manufacturer of SOSPENDERS, the Coast Guard-approved inflatable lifevest, U. S. Reel of St. Louis, MO, the maker of Ray Scott's SuperCaster 225 spinning reel and Sweeney Enterprises, Inc., the oldest manufacturer of wildlife feeders and automated nutritional feeding systems for fish and game.
Scott is also founder of the Whitetail Institute of North America, Inc. For fifteen years he has funded specific research and study of the whitetail deer and its interaction with man. Most of this research has centered on forage choices and nutritional variations of the whitetails available food sources.
The Whitetail Institute annually distributes more than five million pounds of its proprietary Imperial Whitetail Clover seed and other forage seed formulations. It also publishes Whitetail Institute News, an instructional periodical dealing with deer hunting and deer management.
Among Scotts on-going efforts is the production and marketing of "Great Small Waters", a three-volume video series on how to design and build, or renovate, small ponds and lakes to make them more productive.
Scott was Alabama chairman of the 1979 Bush presidential campaign, and later became national chairman of Outdoorsmen and Conservationists for the Reagan-Bush campaign. He became a close personal friend of George Bush and family during this period, and he continues to fish with the former president both at Ray's Alabama ranch and at Bushs summer home in Kennebunkport. President Bush and his son Texas Governor George W. Bush are avid outdoorsmen and life members of B.A.S.S.
Scott is a graduate of Auburn University and the author of Prospecting and Selling: From a Fishing Hole to a Pot of Gold, the story of how-to market and prospect in today's business world. He is also a lecturer to groups on sales and marketing topics, sharing the marketing techniques and people skills with which he credits his success.
Ray Scott was a very successful insurance marketer with a young and growing family when the B.A.S.S. bug bite hit. He knew he was risking the financial security he had worked so hard to build, but believed he could make his idea profitable with dedication and hard work. Obviously, he was right. Now at the peak of his powers, he is ready for new challenges in the years ahead.
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