Any time the business of hunting, angling, boating and the shooting sports is recognized in the mainstream corporate world, it’s a good thing for the future of the pursuits we cherish.

Earlier this week, John L. (Johnny) Morris, founder of mega-outdoors retailer Bass Pro Shops, was named “Innovator of the Year” by the National Retail Federation, the world’s largest retail trade association.


Morris was formally recognized by the NRF on January 15 during the association’s Annual Convention and Expo in New York City.

Morris opened the first Bass Pro Shops in his hometown of Springfield, Mo. in 1971, where the flagship retail facility remains today.

As an avid bass fisherman in the Missouri Ozarks in 1970, Morris said he was unable to find the fishing equipment he had seen while competing in bass tournaments there. He subsequently opened a room in the back of one of the liquor stores owned by his father and began selling new lures and innovative fishing tackle.

“I was looking for an excuse to stay close to fishing,” he said in a recent interview. “At the time, I was just trying to get the shelves stocked everyday and have some fun while we were doing it.”

From its first catalog mailing in 1974, Bass Pro Shops has built an enterprise that now serves millions of hunters and anglers around the globe. Today, Bass Pro mails more than 125 million catalogs and sales flyers annually, and its Web site has more than 2.5 million visitors monthly.

Other NRF honorees included Terry Lundgren, Chairman and CEO of Macy’s, Inc., with the Gold Medal Award and Lane Crawford, an Asian retailer, with the International Retailer of the Year Award.

“This year’s retail award winners have continued to keep up with their customers by providing some of the most advanced, innovative ideas around to handle their demands,” said NRF President and CEO Tracy Mullin. “We are thrilled to honor these visionaries for all they’ve accomplished in the ever-changing world of retail.”