SPRINGFIELD, MO – With more than 275 people gathered inside the White River Conference Center, including Bass Pro Shops founder Johnny Morris, the Bass Fishing Hall of Fame enshrined three new members last Thursday – Glen Andrews, Bruce Holt and Michael Iaconelli.
Through donations and industry support as well as the online auction that featured fishing trips and other outdoor experiences, pro angler memorabilia and a vast array of fishing tackle, the 2023 version of Celebrate Bass Fishing Week raised more than $200,000, exceeding all previous years.
“The induction ceremony evening and the events and activities leading up to it really showed what the bass fishing world is all about,” said BFHOF Board President John Mazurkiewicz. “It didn’t matter whose tournament circuit you favor, whose boat you ride in or the brand of the tackle you use, we all were able to come together as one to support the Hall’s mission of celebrating, promoting and preserving the sport of bass fishing.”
With 20 Hall of Famers in attendance, all distinguishable by their royal blue blazers, and with new banners hanging from the ceiling to commemorate each induction class, it was an evening to remember for many reasons.
On a night when the Hall’s inductee roster grew to 95 and the fishing industry gathered to collectively celebrate the sport and its icons, Morris revealed during his remarks to start the evening that work will begin later this fall on new additions and features at the Wonders of Wildlife facility that should enhance visitor traffic through the Bass Fishing Hall of Fame space.
“We will be rerouting the traffic so that everyone that comes through Wonders of Wildlife and the aquarium, it’ll be an option for everybody to go through the Bass Fishing Hall of Fame,” Morris said. “As folks exit the Hall, it’ll lead them to some new aquariums and really celebrate bass as a species of fish.”
Andrews, 93, was seated in a wheelchair for much of the evening but he stood tall at the podium during his acceptance speech and displayed a sharp wit as he was celebrated for his pioneering efforts when tournament fishing was still in its infant stages in the 1960s.
“This has got to be one heck of a big extravaganza since it only comes around every 92 years,” Andrews said with a wry grin.
Andrews, from Lead Hill, Ark., is often referred to as the “best bass angler to have ever lived” by the likes of fellow Hall of Famers Bobby Murray and Bill Dance, both of whom counted Andrews as their mentor. He won multiple state bass fishing championships in the 1960s and was a key figure in developing rigging techniques such as the Andrews Slip Sinker Worm (now known as the Texas rig) and establishing the framework of rules that tournament anglers still abide by today.
“I’d give anything to stand up here and tell stories and swap lies with you for the next 30 minutes, but I can’t do that. I may not know as many good stories as Bill Dance, but some of mine are true,” Andrews quipped. “If you’ll forgive me for that, Bill, I’ll say thank you for that 30 minutes you spent on a Zoom call a few months ago to tell me that I was going to be inducted in the Hall of Fame. I thank you and I thank each and every one of you for coming. God bless you.”
Holt, who passed away in 2021, was represented by dozens of family members, former colleagues and industry friends. Bruce’s younger brother, Ryan, accepted his plaque and told the crowd that his older brother would have been in awe of being inducted.
“Bruce would be humbled, thrilled and mostly surprised to receive this honor. He gave his life to fishing and all it represents, but he would never in his wildest dreams believe he’d have been inducted here with all the people he idolized and admired,” Ryan Holt said.
Holt spent more than 30 years with G. Loomis in various positions and played a central role in helping grow the profile of the brand, especially in the bass category.
Following Holt’s induction, it was announced that Shimano (parent company of G. Loomis) will donate $5,000 to the Hall of Fame in Holt’s memory, with the funds to be earmarked for the Hall’s conservation grants, scholarship programs and youth fishing initiatives.
Iaconelli, still an active competitor on the Bassmaster Elite Series, concluded the evening by retracing the steps of what has been a transcendent career on and off the water.
“This is the most amazing feeling. I can’t even put it into words,” said Iaconelli, the only angler to win the B.A.S.S. Nation national championship, the Bassmaster Classic and the Bassmaster Angler of the Year award. “To look out at this sea of people who are my heroes from the fishing industry and not just the fishermen, but the writers, the retailers, my friends … it really feels like my life has come full circle.”
Click below to watch the 2023 induction acceptance speeches.