BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Ray Scott, an accomplished promoter who helped launch professional bass angling and became a fishing buddy to presidents while popularizing the conservation practice of catching and releasing fish, has died, has a longtime aide said on Monday.
Scott died of natural causes Sunday night at a rehabilitation center near Montgomery, said Jim Kientz, who worked for Scott for more than two decades. He was 88 years old.
A member of the Bass Fishing Hall of Fame, Scott founded the first professional bass fishing tournament in the late 1960s. Anglers could win money based on the weight of fish they caught over several days on a lake. or a river, and they were penalized if a fish died.
Professional fishing has spread, and Scott’s Bass Anglers Sportsman Society, or BASS, has become what it describes as the largest fishing organization in the world. Its signature tournament, the Bassmaster Classic, features gear shows that attract thousands of spectators.
For years, Scott – with an ubiquitous cowboy hat and a broad grin – has hosted tournament weigh-in shows where anglers haul in live fish, beating tanks as thousands watch.
“He was one of the few who could walk and light up a stage like no one else,” Kientz said. “He was the ultimate showman.”
Scott’s vision for bass fishing created an entire industry, said Chase Anderson, the current chief executive of BASS, which Scott sold in 1986.
“Ray’s contributions and impact on conservation and his advocacy and passion for anglers and our sport sets the standard for tournament fishing and is something we will always strive to uphold,” he said. said in a statement.
At the height of his success, Scott had a rural tract with a stocked fishing lake in the small central community of Pintlala in Alabama which attracted former Presidents George H. W. Bush and his son George W. Bush.
The late first lady Barbara Bush came on a New Years trip in 1990 and waved a gigantic bar mounted in a boat as Scott laughed nearby. Over the years, Scott has welcomed “a host of other politicians and celebrities along the highway of life,” Kientz said.
Interested in conservation, Scott helped popularize the now common practice of catch-and-release fishing in which sport anglers hook a fish and quickly release it once caught in tournaments. He also advocated for safer boating by requiring tournament participants to wear life jackets and lobbied for safe boating laws before founding a company that sells deer hunting supplies.
Scott retired from business several years ago and still lived in Pintlala, Kientz said. Survivors include his wife, Susan, and four adult children, he said.