Fishing group founder expands marketing ventures

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PINTLALA, Ala. (AP) - Decades after he sold the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society, founder Ray Scott still has plenty of big ideas about how to make money doing what he loves. And he still knows how to bait a hook.

“If someone wants to do something similar to what I’m doing, just get a good product and promote it,” Scott said. “There’s nothing complicated about it. Marketing skills are one thing, but it wouldn’t work without delivering the product.”

The outdoor maven made his name with fishing tournaments, publications and television shows. But that wasn’t why a group from New York traveled to his Pintlala property last week.

Four years ago, Scott stumbled across an article in Outdoor Life that listed his Presidents Lake near Montgomery as one of the top five fishing spots in the nation. “I thought, ‘My gosh, that’s incredible,’” he said. “I could use that as promotional material.”

Now his Trophy Bass Retreat is “booked pretty much solid, wall-to-wall” with groups paying nearly $2,000 for two days of fishing and three nights on the property.

The New York group laughed with Scott last week as they told him about their morning haul while eating a lunch prepared by the staff. It was their fourth visit.

“We take care of them like a wet $20 bill,” Scott said. “That’s why they keep coming back.”

On the other side of the property, a group of about 20 people were taking orders for one of Scott’s other products.

While hunting in the 1980s, he started experimenting with different types of deer food and noticed that animals walked right past his traditional food plots to munch on a test strip of clover. He started researching seed, patented a formula, and the Whitetail Institute of North America was born.

Scott said demand for the food immediately “took off like a rocket,” and they sold more than 1 million pounds in the first six months. “I knew it would work,” he said.

More research has led to a year-round nutritional program and better products for deer management. And the staff keeps busy.

“The phones are burning up, even off season,” Scott said.

That seems a world away from the peaceful lake house nearby, where former President George H.W. Bush and his family have stayed four times. But Scott beams with the same smile as he talks about both, laughing about a conversation he shared with former President George W. Bush while fishing.

He’s also proud of the recent work he’s been doing with another Athens-based fishing group, American Bass Anglers, which he said shares his love of creativity. “That’s where my heart has been all the time, creating,” he said.

Yet the former insurance salesman takes just as much pride in a story about walking Dexter Avenue in Montgomery as a kid to find a business sponsor for his youth football team.

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