Our Founder, Johnny Morris
Omnichannel Retail: Bass Pro Shops
Johnny pioneered the concept of destination retail and created Bass Pro Shops, an outdoor gear enterprise that is one of the most beloved and well-recognized brands in North America. Today, Bass Pro Shops has nearly 200 retail stores and marine centers across North America and Outfitters welcome more than 200 million visitors annually.
Bass Pro Shops locations are more than just stores – they are true destination experiences that draw tourists and visitors from across the country.
Today Bass Pro Shops stores are the No. 1 tourist destinations in three states – including its flagship “grandaddy” store in Springfield, Missouri that welcomes more than 4 million visitors annually – and is in the top five tourist destinations in nine states.
In addition to giant aquariums teeming with live fish and extensive wildlife mounts and dioramas, many locations feature unique restaurants and entertainment. Another Morris creation is Uncle Buck’s Fishbowl and Grill, nautical-themed underwater restaurants with ocean-themed bowling adventures.
Bass Pro Shops at the Pyramid
Bass Pro Shops at the Pyramid, one of the most dynamic, immersive retail experiences in the world, opened in downtown Memphis in 2015. Located along the banks of the Mississippi River, Morris and his team transformed the massive sports arena into a national “must-see” experience for families and outdoor enthusiasts. In addition to a vast assortment of outdoor gear, the Pyramid includes a wilderness-themed hotel called Big Cypress Lodge, nearly 600,000 gallons of water features, a cypress swamp with 100-foot-tall trees, the interactive Ducks Unlimited National Waterfowling Heritage Center, and The Lookout, a glass-floored cantilevering observation deck at the top of the 32-story steel Pyramid. More than 3 million visitors experienced the Pyramid in its first year of operation.
A fish tale in the making, Johnny contemplated the project while fishing in the shadow of the Pyramid with longtime friend Bill Dance – a world-famous fisherman and local Memphian – as well as the late Jack Emmitt, the company’s first fishing manager. Johnny said if they caught a 30-pound or heavier catfish that day he would commit to the Pyramid transformation. As the legend goes, they caught a 34-pound catfish and the rest is history.
Manufacturing: White River Marine Group
In 1978, Johnny Morris revolutionized the marine industry when he introduced the Bass Tracker, the world’s first “fish ready” professionally rigged and nationally marketed boat, motor and trailer package. For the first time, fishermen could buy quality fishing boats “factory direct” at tremendous savings, allowing thousands of families to access the water for the first time. The development allowed Tracker to compete aggressively against larger, more established brands.
- For more than 40 years running, Tracker has remained the No. 1-selling fishing boat brand in America. In 2010, Tracker Marine Group surpassed Brunswick to become the leading boat manufacturer in the world.
- Today the company’s Ascend kayaks are the No. 1-selling brand in the world.
- In 2015, the company acquired Fishing Holdings, LLC, a leading manufacturer of premier fishing boat brands, including Ranger and Triton along with an industry-leading dealer network and formed White River Marine Group.
- In 2019, more than 40 years after revolutionizing the boating industry, Morris aligned with Textron Specialized Vehicles, Inc. to do the same thing again in the ATV and side-by-side industry, introducing TRACKER Off Road, a bold new line of high-performance all-terrain vehicles and side-by-sides offering breakthrough performance, service and value.
Hospitality: Big Cedar Lodge, America’s Premier Wilderness Resort
More than 30 years ago, Johnny began development on what is now Big Cedar Lodge. Today the nature-based resort hosts more than 1 million guests annually. Nestled in its own wooded hollow on more than 4,600 acres, Big Cedar Lodge rests on the shores of the sparkling 50,000-acre Table Rock Lake and features a collection of lodges, cottages and cabins rooted in rustic elegance that come with all the modern comforts. Big Cedar also offers four restaurants, a world-class spa, five swimming pools, more than 20,000 square feet of flexible meeting space, and dynamic land and water adventures ranging from bass fishing, water skiing and lake cruises to campfire wagon tours and horseback riding.
Big Cedar Lodge continually ranks among the nation’s leading resorts, with recognition from industry authorities including Travel + Leisure, Condé Nast Traveler, Midwest Living, Southern Living and Golf Digest.
A Bright Future: Uniting with Cabela’s
In September 2017 Johnny completed ambitious plans for the next exciting chapter in Bass Pro Shops history – uniting with Cabela’s and bringing together two iconic American outdoor companies with similar humble origins and a shared goal to better serve those who love the outdoors.
Founded in 1961 by Dick, Mary and Jim Cabela, Cabela’s is a highly-respected retailer of hunting, fishing, camping, shooting sports and related outdoor merchandise.
Bass Pro Shops, Cabela’s and White River Marine Group represent the best of American entrepreneurship, innovation and devotion to customers. The combined companies will strive to provide a remarkably enhanced experience for customers, increased opportunities for team members and greater support for conservation activities.