It’s Real Folks – 40 Years of Service

Ad for Bass Pro Shops first mail order catalog placed in American Bass in 1974.

Ad for Bass Pro Shops first mail order catalog placed in American Bass in 1974.

It’s hard to fathom bass fishing and fishing in general without Johnny Morris’ Bass Pro Shops. In fact, they’ve been around so long there are a couple generations of anglers that haven’t lived without the ability to thumb through the giant catalogs or now venture online and make an order. Hard to believe, huh?

Prior to 1974, Bass Pro Shops had been in business for a couple years but only through the Brown Derby Mercantile in Springfield, MO. Then in ’74, the bass fishing world was turned on its ear when Morris sent out his first mail order catalog.

Prior to this catalog, an angler could order gear from Herters and even Sears and Roebuck but the bass tackle in each of these catalogs wasn’t complete and in the case of the S&R catalog, hidden between toilet bowl wax rings and ladies undergarments.

The Brown Derby Bass Pro Shop featuring seminars by Bill Dance. circa 1974-75.

The Brown Derby Bass Pro Shop featuring seminars by Bill Dance. circa 1974-75.

I’ve never seen a 1974 Bass Pro Shops catalog – my first one was from 1976 – but I can imagine how it was received. I’m sure many a wife lost her husband to the “crapper” for extended amounts of time and their checkbooks probably became a little lighter with checks sent to this once liquor store in Springfield, MO.

Well, after 40 years Johnny Morris has grown Bass Pro Shops and has become part of the American Dream. Take something from nothing and not only grow a good life but an empire. It took a lot of hard work and sound business savvy, I’m sure. What amazes me is in the early days, he competed on the B.A.S.S. Trail and qualified for five straight Bassmaster Classics between 1972 and 1976. He left the Trail in 1977 for what appears to be obvious reasons – he had a heck of a business to run.

Congratulations to Johnny Morris and staff for making it this far. We hope your 40th Anniversary is just the beginning.

  • We were ordering from a pretty decent Okiebug catalog before we ever saw an ad for BPS. And for a few years, either BPS wouldn’t advertise with BASS, or BASS wouldn’t run a BPS ad. Rumor had it that it was BASS “protecting” Don Butler, who was after all, the first life member. But then BASS tried their own hand at running a mail order tackle company — The OutHouse.

  • Hey Rich. You don’t happen to have one of those old Okiebug catalogs do you?