Saturday, February 23, 2008

Bass Fishing, Bass Pro Shops ~ Johnny Morris Style

The 1970's saw a major change take place in the fishing scene. Rich people used to go offshore deep sea fishing for tuna and marlin. Rich people used to take there hand crafted split bamboo flyrods, silk lines, and hand tied flies made from exotic feathers up in the mountains to fish for trout in the streams. The average working stiff fished for largemouth bass, had a 14 foot flat bottom boat in the back of his rusty pick-up truck, perhaps a ten horsepower Evinrude to hang on the back, and it was called "bait" casting tackle even though most guys were fishing with various kinds of lures that looked sort of like minnows or frogs, but in colors that never existed in nature. Eventually the name changed to plug casting tackle and companies like Heddon and Creek Chub made made plugs in wood and plastic, big and small, that sputtered and chugged on the surface or dived deep and wiggled. In the 1960's plastic worms came along, again in colors that no self respecting worm would ever dare wear in public, but the bass ate them and the fishermen bought them.

The trouble with this whole thing was that bass fishing was considered as much a way to put food on the table as a sport, football games on TV filled up a lot of weekend time, and 14 foot aluminum boats just ain't where the big bucks lay. Along came people like Johnny Morris, eager to supply the boats, the motors, and the gear. Soon there was a tournament circuit, coverage on cable TV, fancy metal flake finish "bass boats", 18 to 20 foot long with 200 horsepower outboards that'd get up and roar over choppy water at high speed to the next hot spot. The bass were put in live wells, and as you caught a bigger one you released the smallest. Football had some competition.

Entire lines of specialty clothes were designed for the sport, professional fishermen followed the circuit tournament to tournament, and made big money endorsing boats, motors, rods, reels, and lures. The truck manufacturers, the boat manufacturers, tackle makers were all making money. Bassmaster magazine was selling pages of ads.

Bass Pro Shops started with one store and a booming mail order business. Bass fishing was now big money! This store, just south of Fort Lauderdale, sort of has its own exit from I-95, along with a Tri-Rail station for shoppers who don't want to drive. They now carry salt water boats and tackle, guns and ammo, camping gear, and a huge selection of outdoor type clothing. It's right next door to a hotel and the world headquarters of the International Game Fishing Association that keeps track of world record fish. Bass Pro Shops became Outdoor World. A dream come true! They have everything but a barber shop...


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