(The following is the introduction to one of my essays in Why We Fish. You can buy the book from Amazon and other booksellers. To buy from Amazon, just click the link on the right side of the page.)
If you fish, you probably know the name “Ray Scott.” And maybe you know that he popularized catch-and-release.
But I doubt that you know how profoundly he and his organization have influenced both why and how we fish.
In 1967, Scott staged his first event, the All-American Bass Fishing Tournament at Beaver Lake in Arkansas. A year later, he founded the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society (B.A.S.S.), which today has more than 500,000 members and is recognized worldwide for its fisheries conservation efforts, as well as its high-profile bass tournaments.
“If we didn’t have B.A.S.S., we would need to create it. It’s a tremendous organization,” Paul Brouha, former executive director of the American Fisheries Society, told me back in 1998, when B.A.S.S. was celebrating its 30th anniversary.
And Steve Moyer, vice president of government affairs for Trout Unlimited, added, “B.A.S.S. clearly represents Middle America in all of the positive senses.
“Because of it, Congress and politicians know that they cannot do harmful things to environmental laws that Middle America cares about and expect to be successful.”
On a more personal level, George Cochran, a two-time Bassmaster Classic winner, told me, “I say my little prayers at night. Not many people can say that they do exactly what they want for a living. B.A.S.S. has made that possible for me.”
Comments like these reflect the legacy of B.A.S.S. and Scott. They help us see the importance of the organization, both directly and indirectly, for bass fishing in particular and sportfishing in general. As they and the following overview of its contributions attest, if not for B.A.S.S., we would have fewer quality fisheries, fewer anglers, poorer resource agencies, and a sportfishing industry worth far less than its estimated $115 billion annually.