Bass Pro Shops (Outdoor World) is an American privately held retailer of hunting, fishing, camping and related outdoor recreation merchandise, known for stocking a wide selection of gear. Bass Pro Shops supports and sells merchandise for the National Audubon Society.
The majority owner, John Morris, began his career in sporting goods with a fishing section in the back of a Brown Derby liquor store owned by his father, located in Springfield MO on the road to Table Rock Lake and Branson, Missouri. That small fishing department sold homemade bait and worms, proving popular enough that Bass Pro Shops was incorporated in 1971. These homemade baits were so popular that many people wanted the opportunity to buy these when they had returned home. Thus began the Bass Pro Shops catalog, first mailed in 1974. Soon, it became the world’s largest mail order sporting goods store.
In 1975, to meet the burgeoning demand for Bass Pro Shops exclusive products, American Rod and Gun was established. Acting as a separate wholesaling entity ARG serves more than 7,000 independently owned retail stores worldwide. In 1977, Bass Pro Shops introduced the first fish-ready complete boat motor and trailer package with the Bass Tracker. In 1984, construction began on the Outdoor World Catalog Showroom in Springfield, Missouri. Big Cedar Lodge opened in 1988 on Table Rock Lake.
In 1995, Bass Pro Shops Sportsman’s Warehouse opened in Atlanta, Georgia, its first store outside the state of Missouri. In November 2001, taking advantage of Outdoor World’s popularity as a tourist destination, the Wonders of Wildlife museum was opened next door to the store in Springfield. The Wonders of Wildlife Museum & Aquarium closed for renovation in 2007. As of October 2016 it is still closed with an expected reopening by the end of the year.
In 2015, Bass Pro Shops opened a store inside the Memphis Pyramid, a former sports arena and concert venue in Memphis, Tennessee. In addition to the retail store itself, the building houses two restaurants, a bowling alley, a 100-room hotel, an observation deck, and the tallest free-standing elevator in America. At 535,000 sq ft, The Pyramid is Bass Pro’s largest store.
In October 2016 Bass Pro Shops announced that they had reached a deal to acquire competitor Cabela’s for $5.5 billion. The deal is being financed via preferred equity financing from Goldman Sachs and Pamplona. Goldman Sachs will contribute $1.8 billion towards financing and Pamplona will contribute the remainder for a total commitment of $2.4 billion. The new entity is expected to be formed and in operation in Q1 or Q2 of 2017. The new entity will keep Cabela’s base in Sidney and Lincoln, Nebraska. Johnny Morris will continue as CEO of the new entity. He will also be the majority shareholder of the new privately held entity. Tommy Milner stressed that the company had reviewed a range of options that would maximize value, with the board choosing to go the route of Bass Pro Shops.
Bass Pro Shops carries a number of house brands. Among these are:
Bass Pro Shops
Johnny Morris Reels