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Johnny Morris, the founder of Bass Pro Shops, recently announced an amateur fishing competition with a total payout of $4.3 million.
Photo by Contributed photo
Close to 15 years ago, I fished a bass tournament on Lake Monroe in southern Indiana. It was my first and last participation in competitive fishing.
I found the experience countering to the reasons I fish, which include relaxation and a reprieve from the hustle of everyday life. I vowed not to fish competitively again, and haven't since. But leave it to Bass Pro Shops founder Johnny Morris to have me rethinking my stance as I ponder what I'd do with a million dollars.
The Johnny Morris Bass Pro Shops U.S. Open National Bass Fishing Amateur Team Championships is a competition open to amateur anglers who own Tracker, Ranger, Nitro, Triton, Sun Tracker, Tahoe and MAKO brand boats. These boat brands are all part of Morris' White River Marine Group. Anglers will compete in teams of two for a total guaranteed purse of $4.3 million. The national champions take home $1 million, which is the largest cash payout for any freshwater fishing tournament in history.
In a press release issued by Bass Pro Shops, Morris said, "Fishing in the first national BASS tournament on Table Rock Lake in 1970 rewarded me with friends for life and served as my inspiration to start Bass Pro Shops. Fishing on the BASS Tournament Circuit also helped keep us abreast of the latest emerging trends in fishing and enabled me to stay closely connected to our customers."
I've had the good fortune to know Johnny Morris for the last 10 years or so. The man is a great example of how one should hope to live if afforded enormous success and wealth. The way he gives back to conservation and his efforts to educate both children and adults, through programs like the Wonders of the Ozarks Learning Facility (WOLF) and Wonders of Wildlife National Museum and Aquarium, are testaments to his humble nature and appreciativeness of his good fortune.
It's no surprise he credits others for much of what he has achieved.
"Without our loyal customers and industry-leading independent boat dealers, we simply wouldn't be here today," Morris said. "This tournament is our way of giving thanks and rewarding our customers with the chance to land the catch of a lifetime. Beyond offering the ultimate prize in fishing, we're excited to celebrate our heritage, raise funds for conservation, and have some big fun with people who love fishing as much as we do."
When I fished that tournament all those years ago, I was the back seat angler in a professional's boat. We screamed around the lake, cutting off other anglers and being cut off ourselves. We'd quickly throw a few casts at a likely spot, then zoom to the next one. At the end of the day, I felt exhausted and angry.
This tournament series is set up to have a different feel. As the press release states, the event is being created exclusively for amateurs including serious weekend tournament anglers, parents, grandparents and youngsters, giving everyday anglers, friends and families the chance to win big.
There are three ways teams can qualify to compete in the national championship event, which will be held Nov. 19, 2021, on Table Rock Lake.
Finish in the top 40 at one of eight regional qualifier events hosted around the country.
Win one of several existing fishing competitions across the United States and around the world organized by authorized independent dealers of Tracker, Ranger, Nitro, Triton, Sun Tracker, Tahoe and MAKO brand boats.
Be a winning team from the three major national collegiate championships
Morris is a huge contributor to conservation efforts, and these tournaments are another means of supporting the great outdoors. According to the press release, the tournaments will benefit local fish habitat with proceeds supporting The National Fish Habitat Initiative.
One-third of all entry fees will directly support the project. Bass Pro Shops will match each donation as will Toyota, a longstanding conservation partner, enabling an amount equal to 100 percent of all entry fees —more than $1 million — to benefit conservation. The National Fish Habitat Initiative is a major conservation effort that can trace its roots back to Table Rock Lake. To improve the fisheries habitat that assures high-quality fishing in our lakes.
For more information, visit www.basspro.com/shop/en/usopen.
See you down the trail.
Brandon Butler is an outdoors columnist for the News Tribune. Contact him at [email protected]
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