Arkansas has been a natural fit for BASS founder Scott.
"Who would have thought you'd be hobnobbing on a stage with a bunch of smelly fish and two future presidents," Scott laughed.
The Montgomery, Ala., native celebrated his 74th birthday in Arkansas last week, specifically, at Lake Dardanelle State Park. ESPN now owns BASS (Bass Anglers Sportsman Society), but Ray Scott continues to sell it like it was his.
It was only natural that the Bassmaster Legends tournament, which honored Scott, would be held in The Natural State. Scott is Alabama through and through, but Arkansas was where BASS was born.
Scott had recently read an Outdoor life magazine article about Beaver Lake in 1967 when he had a brainstorm one night while sitting in a Jackson, Miss., motel room. Arkansas and Mississippi had recently been added to his territory as an insurance salesman. Scott had this vision of charging an unheard of $100 entry fee and bringing the best bass fishermen in the country to northwest Arkansas for a tournament.
"When that idea popped into my head, I thought, Beaver Lake," Scott said. "I'd never been there. I never, so help me God, thought about going anywhere else."
The next day Scott drove to Little Rock and introduced himself to Arkansas tourism director Bob Evans as "the president and executive director of All-American Bass Tournaments." Scott was lucky Evans didn't ask him for a business card. Evans gave him the names of the Rogers and Springdale Chamber of Commerce presidents, then Scott went to work doing what he does best--selling.
But even the salesmanship skills of Ray Scott couldn't have pulled off that first tournament without the help of the late Dr. Stanley Applegate. Springdale's chamber expressed interest in Scott's idea but eventually voted not to fund it. Scott was offered a tiny room at the chamber to use as his office.
Just when Scott's prospects were fleakest, Applegate offered him a deal. First he asked Scott about the minimum funding he could get by on. The answer was $2,500. Applegate wrote Scott a personal check for that amount, under the following conditions: "If the tournament works and you actually pull it off, you can give the $2,500 back to me. If it doesn't work, all I ask is that you never tell my wife I gave you the money."
Scott discovered Herman's Rib House in Fayetteville during those days when he was working the telephone, recruiting anglers for his tournament. Owner Herman Tuck fed Scott for free.
"Herman fed me when I was scratching," Scott said in his book, "Bass Boss." "He wasn't much of a fisherman, but he sure was a blessing."
Scott enlisted 106 bass fisherman, including Bill Dance, for that first tournament. Scott lost $600 in the deal, but he went back to Alabama with 500 names on 3-by-5 index cards. He worked that list the following January when BASS was formed and had 2,000 members by the next year.
The annual membership numbers grew to 6,500, then 65,000.
BASS membership eventually topped 650,000.
"here we are, 40 years later, and this has blossomed like nothing I've ever seen in my life," Scott said Aug. 26 in Dardanelle.
Minutes later, Boyd Duckett of Demopolis, Ala., was awarded $250,000 for winning the four-day Bassmater Legends tournament on Lake Dardanelle. In February, Duckett won $ 500,000 for winning the Bassmaster Classic.
The grand prize for Scott's first tournament at Beaver Lake in 1967 was $2,000.
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|Date:||Sep 3, 2007|
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