Ray Scott, dubbed the “father of modern bass fishing” for helping to transform a regional recreational sport into an industry with an economic impact of $125 billion a year and related media including magazines, websites and an iconic TV show, died in his sleep on Sunday. overnight at his home in Alabama, according to an announcement on Bassmaster.com. He was 88 years old.
A child of the Great Depression, Scott worked for a decade as an insurance salesman before his light bulb moment.
Caught in the rain on a fishing trip, with basketball being the only sport on TV, he thought to himself, “Why isn’t someone covering fishing on TV? There are more people fishing than playing basketball.
So in 1967, capitalizing on a great idea and a flair for promotion, Scott started the first national professional bass fishing tournament. A year later, he founded what became the world’s largest fishing organization, the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society – or BASS – and Bassmaster magazine, which would eventually have 650,000 subscribers.
The Evangelizing Fisherman was featured on NBC TodayABC Dick Cavett Show and on 20/20.
In 1984, he and then-bassist editor Bob Cobb created The Bassmasters, a TV show that became a hit for The Nashville Network. Today, the program airs on Fox Sports, making it one of the longest-running and most-watched fishing shows in history.
The tournament born in 1967 became known as the Bassmaster Classic – and also known as the Super Bowl of bass fishing. The Classic along with the Bassmaster Elite series and related events such as the Classic Outdoor Expo have grown to attract more than 125,000 fishing enthusiasts each year, according to Field & Stream. They also provided a growing content offering for the Fox Sports TV franchise.
You can watch Scott and Bob Cobb reflect on the 20th anniversary of the Bassmaster Classic in 1990 below.
Scott was an environmental advocate, introducing the catch and release concept to bass fishing, working with BASS to promote clean water, catch watershed polluters and promote safe boating of pleasure.
Among his fans were Presidents George HW Bush and George W. Bush, with whom he fished.
Scott sold BASS to an investment group in 1986, but he continued to serve as the Classic’s emcee for several years.
He is survived by his wife, Hope Susan Scott; four children, Ray Wilson Scott III, Steven Leo Scott, Jennifer Eunice Epperson, Wilson Freeman Scott; 10 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. He was predeceased by two brothers, Daniel and Edward Scott, and his first wife Eunice Hiott Scott.