It's now a cliché, but when people say, “Fishing is a humbling sport,” there is an overwhelming truth in that.
There is no other sport in the world that I can think of that has such polarizing ups and downs – emotionally, physically and when it comes to careers.
Whether it's tournament anglers, entrepreneurs or other influential people, with this roller coaster ride of an industry, I've noticed that some of the biggest names are also the most grounded and most humble of them all.
At the most recent Bass Fishing Hall of Fame induction ceremony, during the Classic week, I was fortunate enough to witness a shining example of this with the induction of three class-act ambassadors for our sport – Billy Murray, George H.W. Bush and Gary Yamamoto.
Just Another Event
The Bass Fishing Hall of Fame banquet started off like any other such event, with the obligatory meet-and-greet reception with all the industry's finest.
I honestly considered it no more than a great opportunity to reconnect with friends and meet some new ones, as well as finally see what a Hall of Fame ceremony was like. And yes, I must admit, I'm a sucker for a free meal, too.
Once the reception ended and we were seated at our table for the induction ceremony to commence, it started to dawn on me how misplaced I really was, and how much of an honor it was that I was able to be part of such an event.
Here I am, someone who’s just in the beginning stages of building a career in the sport, and I’m surrounded by many of my heroes who’ve paved the way for future generations such as myself. From veteran tournament pros to industry leaders, I was sitting amongst bass fishing royalty.
King Of Bass Class
Introduced by none other than Jerry McKinnis, Billy Murray was the first to come to the stage to say some words about his induction into the Hall of Fame.
For those who are not aware of Billy’s impact on the sport of bass fishing, all I can say is that there are few people that have had more influence on the sport, while remaining relatively incognito.
Billy was a pioneer in educating the country on bass fishing by creating the Bass Fishing Institute, which incorporated a massive 30-foot aquarium of Billy’s design, that he pulled all around the nation in an effort to teach people about bass fishing.
Though many in the sport would define greatness by a tournament ledger, I’m sure that most would agree that Billy’s accomplishments in the name of improving public perception of bass fishing have a much more lasting and meaningful impact on the sport.
With all that he has done, you would think that he would have a lot to say about himself. Not the case.
Instead of spending his time on stage talking about his accomplishments, he spent every moment thanking a long list of other people, and sharing their accomplishments with the crowd.
With such a warm presence and the demeanor reminiscent of an old friend, I was an even bigger Billy Murray fan than I was before that night began.
POTUS for Fishing
The next inductee was George H. W. Bush, who was not able to attend the ceremony. Even so, I have heard first-hand accounts of the former President’s character from my father, who had breakfast with him while he was in office, and from Ray Scott, with whom he shares a long history in fishing, as well as in politics. All were positive accounts and described a man with a passion for fishing.
President Bush not only loved fishing, but also used his political power to protect the rights of fishermen, as well as protect the environment. It is safe to say that without his efforts the natural resources that we enjoy today would not be in the fine condition they are.
To accept the induction on behalf of the former President was Johnny Morris.
Johnny needs no introduction. We have all seen his name on the logo of the outdoorsman’s favorite retail stores – Bass Pro Shops.
Though he was up there accepting for George H.W. Bush, I couldn’t help but be captivated by Johnny himself. As a man who has done so many great things as an entrepreneur, and even greater things as a conservationist, he was surprisingly modest, friendly and soft-spoken when speaking of his friend, the former President.
The final inductee was Gary Yamamoto.
Though Ray Scott is rightly considered by many as the father of the modern bass fishing industry in the United States, Gary is considered by many to be the father of the modern bass fishing industry on a global scale. By pioneering global distribution of his products, Yamamoto has established huge bass fishing markets in countries across the globe, which has obvious spill-over effects to the overall industry everywhere.
Once again, a legend of the sport that I have so much reverence for spoke not of himself, but of the people that helped him along the way. When mentioning something he had done, his voice was very low, but when he spoke of others his tone went up a decibel or two.
The main people he thanked were the Native American workers whom he credits for maintaining the quality in his products.
By the end of the evening, I once again was amazed by the quality of people who have made this sport great.
Watching Billy, Johnny, and Gary, I realized that tournament success, or how much they were worth, wasn’t the reason for their fame or success, but rather a relentless passion for fishing and their eagerness to improve it, and share it with others.
Their humbleness, modesty and friendliness impressed me that night, and seeing that makes me want to live up to those standards to whatever degree I can in my life as a sportsman. I feel confident that this sport tends to bring out the best in people, which makes me proud to be part of it.
Many say that nice guys finish last. Apparently the people making a difference in the sport of bass fishing didn’t get the memo.
(Miles "Sonar" Burghoff is an aspiring tour pro and co-host of the TV series "Sweetwater." To visit his website, click here. You can also visit him on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube (SonarFishing) and Instagram (@sonarfishing).