Records Set by the Big Fish of Freshwater Conservation
The inaugural Johnny Morris Bass Pro Shops U.S. Open National Bass Fishing Amateur Team Championships was historic, to include $1.58 million raised for American fisheries conservation.
Eighty of the 700 tournament contestants who participated in the all-amateur 2021 U.S. Open finals and festival were top finishers at one of eight regional fishing events held earlier in the year. White River Marine Group dealers nominated the rest of the championship field, with teams representing 34 states and six foreign counties. The U.S. Open hosted owners of Tracker, Ranger, Nitro, Triton, Sun Tracker, Tahoe and MAKO brand boats at Big Cedar Lodge Long Creek Marina on Table Rock Lake in Missouri.
Logan Parks, 23, and Tucker Smith, 20, Auburn University students from Shoal Creek, AL, capped their three-day Open Championship on Sunday, November 21 with a 16.41-pound, five-fish bag. The pair was awarded $1 million, 2022 Toyota Tundra trucks and Z-21 Nitro bass boats.
The Open purse was valued at $4.3 million, including prizes for kids, juniors and veterans.
Entry fees from all Open events were matched by Bass Pro Shops (BPS) and Toyota to fund a $1.58 million donation to the National Fish Habitat Partnership, currently the most comprehensive freshwater conservation program in the United States. Co-initiated in 2007 by BPS Founder Johnny Morris and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the partnership has supported over 1,000 conservation projects in all 50 states, restoring tens-of-thousands of acres of habitat, impacting freshwater reservoirs and over 2,000 miles of rivers.
The National Fish Habitat Partnership was launched on Table Rock Lake. Since then, together with resources from the Missouri Department of Conservation and the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, BPS and the Corps have strategically positioned more than 2,100 mega-size fish structures in the lake using barges made by Tracker Boats. The pilot project established a national model for reservoir habitat vitalizations and soon began converting beautiful Table Rock Lake into a bass-producing beast.
The creative idea that formed Bass Pro Shops, which will celebrate its 50th Anniversary through 2022, came while fishing the 1970 All-American Bass Tournament on Table Rock Lake:
“Fishing in the first national B.A.S.S. tournament on Table Rock Lake, many years ago, rewarded me with friends for life and served as my inspiration to start Bass Pro Shops,” said Morris. “Without our loyal customers and industry-leading independent boat dealers, we simply wouldn’t be here today.
“This tournament is our way of saluting and rewarding our customers with the chance to land the catch of a lifetime. It was exciting and thrilling to celebrate 50 years of heritage, advance important conservation initiatives and have some big fun with people who love fishing as much as we do,” he said.