Here’s an interesting plot for you all to ponder. Was Ray Scott content in running Bassmaster Tournament Trail and his magazines? By 1973 he pretty much owned those parts of the market. Was there anything else he wanted in his empire? Evidently he wanted to expand into the tackle business and thus, the story of Ray Scott and the Out House mail-order catalog.
There was just one small problem, though, by the name of Johnny Morris. What happened in the early 70s mail-order tackle business seems to have pit Ray Scott vs Johnny Morris. Was it a war? I have no clue. You never heard about it in the magazines or news. But here’s the backstory from an outside point of view.
As we all know, Johnny Morris started his Bass Pro Shops empire with a few square feet of pegboard, a $10,000 loan and some space in his father’s Brown Derby Liquor store in Springfield, MO around 1970. As the tale goes, Johnny would travel the tournament circuit, stop into local tackle stores and buy locally made tackle that worked and then go home and make orders to stock his store. He became known in the Springfield area as having hard-to-get professional-grade tackle. Soon after, he started a mail-order newsletter and that was all she wrote. By 1974 Johnny had a 300+ page glossy catalog and quit the tournament scene after five consecutive Classics in 1976.
But let’s now switch gears to the other subject in this piece, Ray Scott and the Out House.
By this time, Scott had been conducting top-tier bass tournaments since 1967, had a successful magazine, Bassmaster, as well as a few other magazines, Southern Outdoors was one, if I remember correctly. It seems to me that with that much going on, there wouldn’t be time to even think about another business much less start one. But around the 1973/4 time frame, Scott got the idea to start his own Outdoor Specialist mail-order company by the name of “the Out House.”
It makes you wonder if he saw Johnny’s early success and wondered if he could do the same, maybe even do it better than Johnny. I’ve talked to Ray a number of times over the years and unfortunately, I haven’t brought this subject up with him. I can tell you one thing, though, the Out House didn’t last through the 1970s. Was it because he had too much on his plate with the parts of the business that paid the rent, or was it something else? In all intents and purposes, we may never know the answer to that question.
The reason I bring all this up is due to a couple catalogs I recently got. Specifically, a 1977 and a 1979 “the Out House catalogs”. I’d only ever seen the advertisements in Bassmaster Magazine for “the Out House” mail-order business. If I was ordering tackle from a mail-order company, I ordered from BPS. So, when these catalogs showed up at my house, I was eager to check them out.
The 1977 version of the catalog was 100 pages in length and packed with everything you’d expect a good bassin’ catalog to have and more. First off, you flip the cover and are greeted by a note from Ray thanking you for choosing to shop The Out House. The next page touts the Out House Sweepstakes III, I assume the Sweepstakes started in 1975, where Ray was giving away a couple Hydra-Sports boats to the winner, a Bassmaster Classic boat for second place and a bunch of other things all valued at $53,000.
Turn another page and there’s a two-page spread of the Bass Master Classic series rods. These rods were fiberglass and consisted of four casting rods and a spinning rod for $29.99 each. They’re touted as being “custom made” but they don’t look like any custom rod I was making during this time.
The next page is another two-page advertisement of the Ray Scott Silver series rods, essentially the same model numbers, actions and lengths. The only difference I see is the blank color and the handles. These rods were offered for $19.95 each. But wait, there’s more.
Turn the page one more time and you’re greeted to the Ray Scott 100% Graphite rod series for $49.99 each. In this lineup, he changed the model numbers but only offered three casting models and a spinning model. Are you starting to get the idea this is a Ray Scott catalog? I sure was, but then again, Johnny Morris did the same thing in his Bass Pro catalog.
Finally on page 10, other manufacturers start showing up. Fenwick, ABU and Heddon are the next few pages. Then it moves into fishing attire. The cool thing about this compared to Johnny’s catalog is the models are all recognizable. Rick Clunn fishing out of an America’s Cup lifevest, Jimmy Houston sporting a red jumpsuit, Tom Mann, not to be outdone, in a green jumpsuit. Jack Hains, Tommy Martin, Ricky Green and Roger Moore all sporting B.A.S.S. or “the Out House hats.” Ray Scott himself looking quite dapper in his B.A.S.S. Pro Jacket by Swingster – I wonder if there were any copyright infringements in that ad?
Next you have Tom Mann and Elroy Krueger in sports shirt, Roland Martin in a chamois shirt, Tom Mann in a B.A.S.S. windbreaker and Bill Dance in a B.A.S.S. Sport Shell. Nope, Mr. Bass is back center stage and proud.
Throughout the catalog there is a ton of gear, including a bunch of B.A.S.S. memorabilia I own or I wish I owned. Just in patches there’s Harry and Charlie, Don’t Kill Your Catch, Peg-a-Polluter, the Out House, B.A.S.S. Lunker Club and a slew of others. Then there are prints, books, tumblers, you name it, just like a Bass Pro Shops catalog.
Once you weed through all that ephemera, you finally get to the good stuff – the baits. I have roughly half the catalog scanned at this time so I’ll share that now and add the rest in another piece. Until then, I hope you have fun looking back at Ray Scott’s attempt at mail order. Do you think Ray Scott and the Out House was a shot over Johnny’s bow?