Bass fishing develops into big business
Saturday, Jul 23, 2005
By Joe Mosby
Irwin Jacobs, Minneapolis entrepreneur and head of FLW Outdoors, has
announced bass fishing's first million-dollar winner's prize is coming
in late 2006.
So a bass tournament with a million-dollar first prize is coming
late in 2006. Chances are that few people are surprised. Scarcely
anyone raised an eyebrow years back when golf issued its first paycheck
for a million.
There are strong Arkansas connections with
professional bass fishing - from the start in its modern concept in
1967 to the inaugural Ranger Owners Championship announced for late
2006. The site is to be revealed later.
This announcement was made in Hot Springs during the FLW Championship a few days ago.
fishing is big business now. Looking around at the trappings and
associated activities at Hot Springs last week reinforces the concept
quite a few years back that Ray Scott honed well. Get the corporate
world and the mass media on board and don't overlook the kids.
growth brings immediately to mind Scott, who put on that first modern
tournament at Beaver Lake nearly four decades ago, and Forrest Wood,
whose development of Ranger Boats and close ties with Scott were key
Now a third name has to be added - Irwin L. Jacobs.
He's the catalyst in the expansion of bass top prizes from six to seven
figures in a decade.
Jacobs lives at Minneapolis and doesn't
drop "y'all" into conversations. He doesn't wear cowboy hats. But his
entrepreneurial skills are responsible for this latest development in
Jacobs had experience with a pro sports franchise
then ventured into bass tournaments along with acquiring a conglomerate
of boat-building companies. One of these was Ranger.
This bass thing nearly didn't get off the ground. Two anecdotes directly from Scott years ago are indicators.
story of scrambling and scratching, hustling and cajoling and putting
together that All-America tournament in 1967 has been told well. Not so
well known is Scott seemingly ready to call it quits not long before
the scheduled tournament.
His money had run out. He had some
fishermen signed up at $100 apiece to compete, but not enough of them.
Expenses were piling up. Scott told of his plight to the late Joe
Robinson of Springdale, who had finished a term on the Arkansas Game
and Fish Commission.
Robinson replied something like, "Let me
see what we can do," and connected Scott with Dr. Stanley Applegate.
The Springdale physician loaned Scott $5,000 on a handshake but with
one condition. Applegate told Scott, "If you can't pay me back, just
don't tell my wife."
That's the gospel, according to Ray Scott.
the tournament, the late John Fleming, outdoor editor of the Arkansas
Gazette, at the time the leading newspaper and media outlet in the
state, drove from Little Rock to Beaver Lake more out of curiosity than
for news coverage.
A state trooper stopped Fleming from
approaching the weigh-in site. Fleming identified himself, the trooper
checked with Scott and shook his head again at Fleming. The newsman
turned his car around and drove back to Little Rock, and that first
tournament was uncovered by the Gazette.
That's the gospel, according to Ray Scott and John Fleming.
years later in the Gazette's sports department in November 1971, a
sports copy editor picked an Associated Press news item off the wire.
It was two paragraphs. He turned to longtime sports editor Orville
Henry and said, "Orville, here's an AP piece on a guy from Hot Springs
who won $10,000 in a bass tournament." Bobby Murray had won the first
BASS Masters Classic at Las Vegas.
Henry replied, "You know something about fishing, don't you? Go down to Hot Springs and do us a feature on this fellow."
just-ended FLW Championship had more media people on hand than
competing fishermen. Satellite dishes sprouted from large trucks,
generators fed power through mazes of cables.
representatives worked until weariness passing out samples,
distributing brochures and talking to potential customers, some of whom
fished, and to the curious - young and old.
Four decades of professional bass fishing are impressive.
Mosby is the retired news editor of the Arkansas Game and Fish
Commission and Arkansas' best known outdoor writer. His work is
distributed by the Arkansas News Bureau in Little Rock. He can be
reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.