Johnny Morris

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Johnny Morris1948 -
2005 Inductee

Johnny Morris is the founder of Bass Pro Shops, one of America’s premier outdoor retailers. Born in Springfield, Morris developed a passion for fishing from his father, John A. In 1970, while Morris was attending college, working in his dad’s liquor stores, and doing some guiding, Ray Scott held a bass tournament on Table Rock Lake. Morris entered that tournament and went on to qualify for five straight prestigious Bassmaster Classics. On the professional circuit he met anglers and lure makers from all over the country, witnessed the changes taking place in tackle, and quickly realized the importance of having the newest gear and gadgets. Back home, Johnny brought a list of this new equipment to Gibson’s Department Store. When Gibson’s manager couldn’t get permission from his corporate office to carry the items, Morris went to his father and asked to stock some things in the store near Table Rock Lake. With John A.’s support and an instinctive understanding of the market, Johnny and a friend set out to fill up a U-Haul at the best bass tackle stores in the country. That was 1971 and the beginning of Bass Pro Shops. Morris had no long-term plan, just a love for bass and an innovative idea to provide one-stop shopping for specialized tackle not found elsewhere. Tournament winners were considered heroes; anglers were reading about them and about the equipment and lures they were using in B assmaster magazine. Ray Scott was creating a bass fishing frenzy, the demand for tackle was tremendous, and Morris’ business took off. Bass Pro Shops published its first mail-order catalog in 1974 in response to orders received from fishermen clamoring to re-stock their tackle boxes when they got home. The catalog, 180 pages and 1,500 items, was an ingenious concept: fishing tackle that was just a phone call away. In 1978 Morris revolutionized the marine industry when he introduced his Bass Tracker “fish-ready package” -- the first professionally-rigged boat, motor and trailer. Today Tracker Marine Group brands, including Nitro, Fisher, Pro Craft, Kenner, Mako, and SeaCraft, are among America’s best-selling boats. Johnny Morris is an ardent conservationist. “Conservation is the future of fishing and it is of vital importance that we invest in the future – in conservation,” he has said. “It doesn’t matter what new products our vendors create, or what great marketing campaigns they develop. Nor does it matter how many catalogs we mail or new stores we build. If fishermen, our customers, can’t catch fish and enjoy exciting success in public waters, then our sport and our industry are doomed.” Morris is the recipient of numerous honors, including the Teddy Roosevelt Conservationist Award (1990), the Sport Fishing Institute’s “1992 Fisherman of the Year,” and the International Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies President’s Award (1996). A Trustee Emeritus of the International Game Fish Association, Morris’ generous donation of land adjacent to his Outdoor World store in Dania Beach, FL provided a fitting site for the IGFA Fishing Hall of Fame & Museum. More than 30 years ago, Morris put newly-purchased bass gear in a U-Haul, secured it with a 79-cent padlock, and parked it in a hotel parking lot. The next morning the trailer was still there. Johnny marvels about that close call, for if someone had made off with that trailer, it would have been the end of Bass Pro Shops. But no one did – and it was just the beginning. IGFA is proud to honor Johnny Morris for his outstanding accomplishments,for living every angler’s dream, and for continuing to give back to the sport he loves.