Brandon Butler: Bass Pro Shops Worlds Fishing Fair donates $1.5 million to conservation | Outside

Springfield’s original Bass Pro shops have been a special destination for 50 years. From humble beginnings selling small fishing tackle out the back of his father’s Brown Derby liquor store to the empire amassed today, Johnny Morris has always been about selling tackle that help athletes enjoy the outdoors and preserve natural resources for future generations. His continued passion for doing so was on full display as Bass Pro Shops celebrated its 50th anniversary with the World Fishing Fair.

When I was a kid, the Bass Pro Shops catalog was all I needed to make my Christmas list. I had so much Bass Pro branded gear in the beginning. I was proud of my hats, t-shirts, life jacket, tackle box and more. These articles filled me with pride because I knew that anyone who saw me would recognize that I was a serious fisherman. I loved Bass Pro so much as a boy, we took a family trip to the Springfield store from my childhood home in Northwest Indiana. I was 12 years old. I bought my first baitcasting reel that day. I remember it like it was yesterday.

In the early days of the Bass Pro Shops, Morris used to have fishing fairs. Celebrities like Bill Dance, Roland Martin and Jimmy Houston met and greeted customers. It’s been a while since Bass Pro held a fishing show, so to celebrate the 50th anniversary, Morris reunited the old band, filled the store parking lot with giant tents filled with fishing vendors and hunt and brought in some top Country Music Stars – all to celebrate 50 years of Bass Pro Shops and to raise money for conservation.

I have to shake Bill Dance’s hand. For a few seconds, I was 12 again.

It’s safe to say that no company in the outdoor industry has ever done more for conservation than Bass Pro Shops. It would be difficult to name a conservation organization that Bass Pro has not donated to. The corporate generosity extends to state and federal wildlife agencies, as well as many universities. Every time a customer buys something from Bass Pro, they have the option to donate to the Outdoor Fund rounding up to the nearest dollar. These small donations total millions of dollars used to support conservation initiatives across the country. I donate with every purchase and hope you’ll consider doing the same.

Last week, thanks to the success of the World Fisheries Fair, Morris was able to make a significant contribution to conservation when he took the stage with Hank Williams Jr. to announce a $1.5 million contribution to conservation reasons.

“I’ve never felt so proud of our Bass Pro team, suppliers and conservation partners,” Morris said. “Thanks to this collective effort, and with the support of our generous patrons and the City of Springfield, we are able to make this donation which will help other crucial conservation efforts for years to come. The fact that we being able to organize this event and make this donation to help celebrate our 50th anniversary right here in Springfield makes us very proud and very happy!”

It was great to see Morris walking around the vendor tents shaking hands with customers and people working on their stalls. Although he certainly had celebrity status, you could tell he was so happy and humbled to be among the crowd. Like everyone else, he was enjoying the energy of the special event. Like everything he has done over the years, the World Fishing Fair celebrated fishing, hunting and conservation. There were companies with cabs that were associated with Bass Pro for most of the company’s 50 years in business.

Participants came to the World Fisheries Fair from 47 states and Canada. They were able to shop for specials, visit Wonders of Wildlife and the other special on-site museums, and attend country concerts by Luke Combs, Hank Williams Jr. and more. Proceeds from 100 percent of all World Fisheries Fair ticket sales and conservation concerts were used to benefit conservation with $1.5 million. Johnny Morris has done it again.

See you on the trail…

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