My introduction to Bass Pro Shops was through Bassmaster and Western Bass magazine ads around 1974 when I joined both organizations at the age of 10. The ads were usually a couple pages and offered some good prices and that was the extent of my BPS knowledge.
Then, at the age of 12, I went to small shop in Rowland Heights, CA, Anglers West, for a seminar that featured Don Iovino, Don Siefert and Guy Skinner. The shop was a Bass Pro Shops Affiliate shop that sold some of the BPS catalog items. As I was paying for the hand-poured plastic worms and painted sinkers, I noticed a Bass Pro Shops master catalog on the counter. I added it to my purchase and thus my fascination with Bass Pro Shops and Johnny Morris began. I went through that catalog cover to cover every day and dreamed of the tackle I wanted to add to my slowly building arsenal.
Going to Bass Pro Shops Ground Zero was always a bucket list item for me. I think it is for every serious bass angler. Then, in 2008, I made it to Springfield on the way to pick up my new Bass Cat Boat. We stopped at the Springfield store, spent a few hours in it, and I checked that off my bucket list, or so I thought.
A few years later, after starting this site, I determined the original Brown Derby Bass Pro Shops was a few blocks away from the new BPS. If I ever got back to Springfield, I’d have to find the original.
Well, this past September, I was headed to Springfield for the 2021 Bass Fishing Hall of Fame Induction Dinner. My chance to tie it all together was going to happen.
The day after the dinner, my family and I went through the Bass Pro Shops Museum, which is located within the BPS store. This part of the museum is free and houses a mockup of the original Brown Derby Bass Pro Shops as well as a history of Johnny Morris. In the video link below, I take you through the mockup and discuss a lot of the memorabilia Morris has stuffed in this display.
After the museum tour, I was bent on finding the original Brown Derby. For those of you who haven’t been to this part of Missouri, the Brown Derby is a liquor store chain in the area. Almost every corner has one. I used my old Bass Pro Shops Ad from 1972 to find the original location at 3543 S. Campbell. Google got me there and what I found was a heartbreaker. The store had been closed and the sign out front was in disrepair. Still, I was at Ground Zero, the place it all began.
It’s truly amazing what Johnny Morris did with a few square feet of space in his father’s liquor store and a dream. If you’re a bass fishing history freak like all of us here at the bass Fishing Archives, the journey to where it all began is a definite bucket list item.
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