From the beginning, Ray Scott, a carnival barker to the core, knew that in order to grow his fledgling B.A.S.S. organization he’d have to court traditional media. That meant inviting them to mystery lake Classics and finding other means of gaining their support.
Surprisingly, Sports Illustrated gave Scott’s crew a fair amount of support in the early years. In the pre-ESPN, pre-internet era, SI was everything, the final arbiter of what was legit and what was not. For the most part the magazine’s coverage of Ray’s brainchild was positive.
The first feature, entitled “A Big Bass Bash in Arkansas,” was published in 1969 and featured the following choice nuggets:
- “People are hongry for information,” Scott says. “We don’t give you seven paragraphs about azure sunrises. We go for know-how.”
- “Any member bound for unfamiliar territory could contact Scott to get not only the “names of the best nearby bass lakes, motels, marinas and guide services,” but also “ contact information for a local B.A.S.S. member.
- Scott purposely placed the All-American Invitational on Lake Ouachita at a time of year when fishing was difficult. “We want a real test,” he told SI.
- Bill Dance’s favorites lure was reported to be “a purple plastic floating Crème worm rigged behind a sliding slip sinker.” He left his job as a furniture salesman to work for Creme.
- “Bill Dance hits close to 50 mph in his 16-foot Ranger powered by a 120-hp Chrysler. Ron Bobrow’s customized 13-foot Boston Whaler, equipped with 80 horses, all but flies.”
Here’s a brief bibliography of SI features about tournament fishing and big bass hunting after Ray created B.A.S.S.:
October 20, 1969
A Big Bass Bash In Arkansas by Robert H. Boyle
Ray Scott rides herd on the watery range of bass fishermen who are crawling out from behind every stump to join his organization
July 16, 1973
Off In A Hurry To Hook Those Hawgs by Hugh D. Whall
November 05, 1973
Hawg Hunt For The Bass Masters by Robert H. Boyle
The mystery lake Classic brought 26 pro fishermen to South Carolina to cast for largemouth bass—and a $15,000 purse
May 13, 1974
At Home Away From Home by Larry Green
Transplanted Florida largemouth bass thrive in California, where competitive anglers vie for a world record—plus fame and riches
April 26, 1976
5,760 Casts A Day: Now That’s Plugging by Roy Blount Jr.
Angling for contracts as well as prize money, tournament bass pros must work as fast as possible at “getting the meat in”
June 16, 1986
August 24, 1998
Reeling In Dough by Jack McCallum
Thanks to rival tours and big-bucks sponsorships, bass-fishing pros are becoming millionaires in a sport that could turn into the next NASCAR
December 05, 2005
Kickin’ Some Bass! by Chris Ballard
Mike Iaconelli has been accused of “thuggin’ up” bass fishing, but ESPN is betting (and praying) he can hook the Pimp My Ride crowd … if some mullet-headed good ol’ boy doesn’t gut him first.
Sports Illustrated has done a wide variety of fishing articles on non-tournament topics, such as a profile of Bill Plummer (November 13, 1978), designer of one of the early weedless frogs. For the record, the article noted that “Plummer detests tournaments.” One can only wonder what he would have thought if he’d known Dean Rojas at the time.
For the record, it appears that the famous SI cover curse has not yet impacted the fishing world.