John Morris, founder of Bass Pro Shops, and Scott Deal, president of Maverick Boat Co., this spring shared the Eddie Smith Manufacturer of the Year Award, which is presented by the Center for Coastal Conservation to leaders in conservation advocacy.
“We wanted to honor them equally because they’ve done an excellent job bringing together the fishing and boating communities in their fight for fisheries conservation,” says Jeff Angers, president of the conservation center.
Eddie Smith Jr. is the longtime owner of Grady-White Boats and a pioneer and advocate for marine conservation. Morris and Deal were honored at a luncheon at the American Boating Congress in Washington, D.C., on May 6. “These are two men at the intersection of saltwater fishing politics and the implementation of sound marine fisheries management,” says Thom Dammrich, president of the National Marine Manufacturers Association and a board member of the conservation center. “They are the two distinguished gentlemen who led America’s recreational fishing and boating community in the last year to lay out the vision we have been talking about for good conservation and management. Our honorees are two of America’s most famous anglers and boaters.”
Morris and Deal are co-chairmen of the Commission on Saltwater Recreational Fisheries Management, which produced a spring 2014 report — “A Vision for Managing America’s Saltwater Recreational Fisheries” — that outlines the nation’s most important fisheries management issues, particularly the reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, which governs the nation’s marine fisheries.
Morris and Deal received a bronze-framed sextant “from the mid-19th century that would have been used by a deepwater shipmaster for long-distance voyages and came from Down East Maine,” Dammrich told several hundred lunch attendees at the Liaison Capitol Hill. He joked that the honorees probably will not use the sextant. “Our honorees know how to use their GPS,” he said.
Deal’s Fort Pierce, Fla., company includes the brands Maverick, Hewes, Pathfinder and Cobia. He graduated from Princeton University in 1982, but “his avocation was destined to be his vocation,” Dammrich said. When he was 24, Deal bought the molds of an 18-foot flats boat to launch his career.
Morris, who is also the founder of Tracker Marine Group, started selling “homemade bait and worms in the back of his dad’s liquor store in 1971, and in 1974 Bass Pro Shops sent its first catalog through the mail,” Dammrich said. Bass Pro Shops has 84 stores across the United States and Canada and employs more than 21,000.
Morris and Deal have been key players in the industry’s efforts to get the Magnuson-Stevens Act reauthorized. “We are finding most of the priorities of the Morris-Deal commission embedded in the act,” Dammrich said.
“A Vision for Managing America’s Saltwater Recreational Fisheries,” a 16-page report, was first presented at the Miami International Boat Show last February. It recommends “steps needed to improve the Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Act in a manner that finally addresses the needs of the saltwater recreational fishing community.”
This article originally appeared in the July 2014 issue.