Ray Scott was the father of tournament bass fishing and responsible for establishing its catch and release ethic – a monumental success both for sport fishing and for conservation.
Teddy Roosevelt didn’t start off aiming to be America’s conservation hero, it just sort of evolved. He was a hunter who valued and respected his quarry and held in disdain those who killed wildlife just for the sake of it. After his election, President Roosevelt caught wind of men in Florida wantonly killing pelicans just to shoot something. He decided to take action and when advised he could stop this slaughter with a stroke of his pen, he did. He declared Pelican Island, a small mangrove island home to thousands of these awesome birds, a national wildlife refuge and prohibited their slaughter. National Parks and other National Wildlife Refuges would come after, but the die was cast. Thanks to this and his continuing commitment to conservation, today Teddy is universally held in the highest conservation esteem.
Ray Scott passed away last week and sport fishing lost a monumental hero.
I only met Ray one time. Talking to him was easy – he was a regular guy. Ray was a bass fisherman and promoter who had a vision and was not afraid to pursue it with tenacity and passion. Ray started running bass tournament fishing some 5 decades ago. That vision and tenacity turned the calamity of early bass fishing into what is now a billion dollar showcase of not only NASCAR style boats and outfits, but importantly a deep, lasting conservation ethic that rewards attention to our natural resources and with an adherence that now stretches across the entire angling community. All of this came about thanks to Ray’s leadership in establishing the catch and release model as the cornerstone of tournament bass fishing. Ray took bass fishing from a byline in the back of the sports section to the front page and well beyond. Ray scrapped against the odds to pursue his dream and along the way fostered an ethic just as Teddy did. Think about it! This humble, but visionary leader took an infant industry and turned it into an art form. More importantly, today this commitment to conservation has expanded to anglers across our country. Take what you need, then put one back for the next guy – a fish is too valuable to be caught just once. Thank you Ray.