Early Days of the Empire

1982 Bass Pro Shops ad and offer

1982 Bass Pro Shops ad and offer

We’ve spent a bit of time looking back at some of the first ads from Bass Pro Shops, with the majority of those items being dated from the mid- to late-1970s. Today, we have another old Bass Pro ad to share with you, this one from 1982, just a few years later than those earliest ones. This was a 2-page ad that appeared in Field & Stream magazine, but one I find rather interesting from several different perspectives – not the least of which is the headline to start the ad off, “We’re out to get your fishing tackle business.” Oh, how telling, but that’s just the beginning.

First of all is a very young Johnny Morris, clad in business suit, appearing directly in the ad. Considering this was right about 33 years ago, it would have made him about 33 at the time of the ad.

1982 Bass Pro ad offer, Page 2

1982 Bass Pro ad offer, Page 2

Next, like most companies did back in those days, it was a direct sales advertisement, where if you clipped and filled out the coupon, and sent it along with your money directly to Bass Pro Springfield, you’d get all the items listed. I’m not 100% certain when this type of advertising went out of favor, but I do know I have a lot of old magazines with pages that have been “coupon clipped” from all the offers people took advantage of at the time. Oddly enough, this is probably the one thing I miss most about the old days of fishing magazines.

So, you send in your $10 if you want the catalog included, or just $8 if you only want the items offered, and what do you get?

  • 4 more seasonal flyers/catalogs
  • a 1982 bass action photograph calendar, with moon phases, and pictures and pages suitable for framing
  • over $300 in coupons to be used on future purchases from Bass Pro
  • a “Deluxe” fishing hat – what mail-in fishing offer didn’t include a hat or decal/patch back then
  • and finally, a 41-piece pro lure assortment

The lure assortment is pretty interesting in itself, as it’s a look back at some of the popular baits at the time, several of which we have covered in separate posts.

  • Mister Twister’s “Hawg Frog”
  • Mann’s Auger Tail worm – a long-time favorite for many anglers, and still available today. Check out the color; looks like Scuppernong
  • Mann’s Cajun Crawdad – one we haven’t talked about, but a curly-clawed soft plastic crawdad replica very reminiscent of today’s popular baits like the Rage Craw
  • Uncle Buck’s bass bug – from the picture, a live rubber jig at the time when the “jig n pig” was gaining national notoriety
  • Mister Twister flake “Phenom” worm – another gold standard in soft plastic worms. What bass angler didn’t own at least a pack or two of Mister Twister Phenoms at the time?
  • Mann’s Hackleback Crawfish – My favorite in the Hackleback line-up, and a lure I used to catch an aweful lot of bass with, including my first ever “intentional” reservoir bass
  • Mann’s Craw George – a cousin to the venerable “Little George” tailspinner from Mann’s, this one sporting a cool looking lead craw body – I had a bunch
  • BPS snake bait, squirmin worm, squirmin worm heads
Johnny Morris, today

Johnny Morris, today

Also of note is the mention of the 400-page catalog. This years version, in case you haven’t looked or received yours yet, is now 725 pages. I have no idea just how successful the Bass Pro venture was back then, having only been around for roughly 7-8 years at the time, or whether Mr. Morris had any inkling of how successful it would become, but it is an interesting reflection back. Considering the recent acquisition of Ranger/Triton/Stratos boat lines by the Bass Pro Group, 2013 revenue estimates of 4 billion dollars, now 88 brick-and-mortar stores, as well as a Forbes “live listing” that puts Johnny’s net worth at 5.1 billion (ranked #110 on the Forbes 400 list, as well as #375 among all billionaires), it’s kind of amazing to look back at this ad and try and put it all into perspective. There is no doubt, they achieved the purpose they set out to do and stated in the ad.


  • Pete Robbins

    I remember looking at that ad as a kid and thinking that if I could just scratch together the 10 bucks, I’d have all the tackle I needed for a long time. Thousands of dollars in Johnny’s pockets down the road, I’ve proven myself wrong.