- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 28, 2002

The godfather of American bass tournament fishing is having an epiphany. Ray Scott says the time has come to put the meaning of the word "sport" back into sport fishing. He suggests that professional tour anglers switch from heavy-duty rods, reels and rope-like line to far more challenging light-line fishing.
"I watched the most boring fishing show the other day," Scott said from his Pintlala, Ala., estate two weeks ago. "Two burly tournament participants were casting their lures when one of the fellows hooked a little ol' bass, and his partner rushed to pick up a big net. He helped his partner by netting a 1-pound bass. Imagine that. It was funny and sad all at the same time."
Scott's solution to tiresome fishing shows: "What if these great fishermen were told they had to use only 4-pound-test line and whenever they hooked a bass they'd have to bring it into the boat without a net? Wouldn't that make for some great TV viewing? As it stands now, the guys cast 20-pound line to a dock, catch a 12-inch bass and either need somebody else to net it or, because they use such strong line, simply flip it into the boat. What's exciting about that? But imagine a competitor hooking a 4- or 5-pound bass on 4-pound line and having to fight it smartly to get it within reach of their hand, not a net."
In the late 1960s, Scott practically invented cast-for-cash bass tournaments that eventually evolved into the huge Bass Anglers Sportsman Society and a national tour comprised of professional fishermen, fishing and trade publications and an international network of amateur anglers that belong to BASS-affiliated state federations. (Scott sold BASS some years ago. The company now is owned by ESPN.)
To this day, the ebullient Scott frequently is viewed as a mixed blessing. He is credited with saving millions of bass all over the United States because his tournaments were the first to observe catch-and-release fishing, along the way turning the practice of the live-release of fish any fish into a national mania.
His absolute insistence that all participants in his BASS-sanctioned events wear life preservers while their boat's motor was running unquestionably saved human lives far beyond the reach of bass contests because other boaters saw the wisdom in Scott's life-saving campaign. In addition, the bass crowd eventually innovated handsome, comfortable zip-up vests. In an age when bulky Mae West-style puffy preservers were all that was available, Scott soon made sure "his" people didn't look like the Michelin man.
But how will Scott be received now that he can do anything he wants and has plenty of money to do it with, along the way suggesting that the very genie he created now needs to be put back into the bottle at least partially?
Scott is careful not to upset his still impressive legions of followers with suggestions that tournament professionals ought to switch from heavy-duty equipment to light-line gear that growing numbers of weekend recreational bass anglers refer to as "finesse" fishing.
"Listen," he says, "I know the tournament fishermen are only doing what's legally permitted. They're not breaking any rules. But let's face it, it's boring."
Already, a number of nationally known tournament pros have indicated that Scott's idea might be worth a try. So far it hasn't created a huge stir, but just before the Hall of Fame World Championship bass tournament on Arkansas' Ouachita and Hamilton lakes from May 22 to 25, there will be a competition in which fishermen will use only 4-pound-test line.
Information and details about the HOF championship are available via the Web at BassFan.com.
As far as 4-pound-line contests are concerned, don't count out Scott just yet. Once his mind is made up, he's not likely to let go.

Look for Gene Mueller's Outdoors column every Sunday and Wednesday, and his Fishing Report every Friday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: [email protected]

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