When a business changes ownership, the first changes by the new regime can be interesting as well as revealing.
Bass Anglers Sportsman Society was bought, officially, on Nov. 1 by three investors — Jerry McKinnis, Don Logan and Jim Copeland.
They made a change right off the bat. They brought back the dots.
The subtle name change from BASS to B.A.S.S. is an affirmation of the company’s grass roots, said Little Rock resident McKinnis.
"We want to get this back to being a friendlier organization, a we’re-here-to-do-whatever-we-need-to-do-to-make-you-happy organization," McKinnis said. "To me, that’s what those dots mean. It means we’re back to where we used to be a long time ago … to where we make everybody feel like this is a very warm and fuzzy group of new owners who want to know about the members."
McKinnis, who reached prominence in the cable television outdoor scene, competed as a contestant in one of the early Bassmaster Classics.
Originally the company was the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society, the name founder Ray Scott created for his fledgling startup in 1968. As the company grew, the abbreviation B.A.S.S., spelled with periods and all capital letters, was adopted. After ESPN bought the company in 2001, the periods were removed during a "rebranding" campaign.
Many Federation Nation clubs and state organizations, however, retained the periods in their official names and on patches.
"The Federation Nation is a big part of what I’m talking about," McKinnis said. "They kind of feel like they’ve been forsaken — and by that, I don’t mean to be disparaging about ESPN, because ESPN was wonderful, but they were awfully big folks to be getting down with the Federation Nation and making them feel important."
The name change will be reflected in all B.A.S.S. products. "We’re not going to go chucking all of our letterheads and so on, but over time we’ll have everything changed back to B.A.S.S. — with dots," McKinnis said.
Almost simultaneously with the Nov. 1 purchase from ESPN, B.A.S.S. moved to new quarters just down the street from its former offices in the Orlando area of central Florida. The new address is 1170 Celebration Blvd., Suite 200, Celebration, FL 34747. B.A.S.S. offices had been located in property that also housed several operations of Disney, ESPN’s parent company.
B.A.S.S. was born barely a year after Scott put on the first modern bass tournament on Beaver Lake in northwest Arkansas in 1967. In launching the organization, Scott had more than fishing competitions in mind. He said at the time that outdoor sportsmen, fishermen in particular, needed a voice that could be heard at the highest levels.
Some early B.A.S.S. campaigns resulted in mandatory kill switches for boat operators and for live wells in boats to protect fish that are going to be released after weigh-ins. But the organization also took aim at threats to clean water in various parts of the nation and to loss of aquatic habitat.
McKinnis and his partners also are aware of the drop in membership for B.A.S.S. in recent years. The rolls are down from about 680,000 to somewhere around 500,000.
Along with being a competition organization and an environmental player, B.A.S.S. moved in to several publications, to the Internet and into marketing of assorted merchandise products.
The tournaments now are on several levels, but the Bassmaster Classic remains the feature event, the annual competition that pits the top winners of a series of qualifying events. The Classic field also includes amateur anglers who earn berths through the club or federation ranks.
One question arises and may not be readily answered at this time.
What will B.A.S.S. do about women?
For years, Scott prohibited women from fishing in B.A.S.S. tournaments. This changed in the late 1980s, but women have been few in the entries and have only occasionally earned prize checks. B.A.S.S. operated the Women’s Bassmaster Tour for several years but shut it down in 2009.
Joe Mosby is the retired news editor of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and Arkansas’ best known outdoor writer. His work is distributed by the Arkansas News Bureau in Little Rock. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.