By John Johnson
BassFan Senior Editor
Right around the time he turned 70 this past July, Dave Precht wrapped up a 40-year career with B.A.S.S. His employment spanned all five of the organization's owners to date – Ray Scott, Helen Sevier, ESPN, the Jerry McKinnis/Don Logan/Jim Copeland triumvirate and the Anderson group.
"I never really had a long-term plan for when I was going to retire," said Precht, a 2011 inductee into the Bass Fishing Hall of Fame who served as editor of Bassmaster Magazine for almost two decades and concluded his run with the organization as vice president of editorial and communications. "I talked about it with Jim Copeland one time and he said I'd know when the time was right.
"A couple of years ago, I started feeling like age 70 would be a good time. I've been blessed to have had the job I did because this is such a wholesome sport and the vast majority of the people involved in it are out to enjoy and appreciate God's creation through fishing. I couldn't have asked for anything different – it was my dream from grade school to be a magazine editor and I love bass fishing."
He said the industry hasn't seen the last of him, though – or his byline.
"So far my days have been filled with piddling around doing yard work and taking care of personal business. Eventually I plan to get back in somehow, doing freelance writing or whatever. Maybe nobody will buy my writing, but I plan to make the offer in a few months."
Association Goes Way Back
Precht, a Louisiana native, covered his first Bassmaster Classic in 1978 for the Houston Post, where he was the outdoor writer. He also began freelancing for Southern Outdoors, another magazine owned by B.A.S.S. founder Ray Scott, at that time. Tom Gresham, son of legendary outdoorsman and former Bassmaster columnist Grits Gresham who's gone on to become a household name in the firearms media realm, was a fraternity brother of Precht's at Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, La. and was editing that publication at the time, and Gresham's successor continued to purchase his work.
"I'd done some outdoor writing in the early '70s for the paper in Lafayette, La. and I'd written a little bit about the phenomenon of bass tournaments that was starting to develop, so I'd been aware of it almost from the beginning," he said.
His full-time job for most of that decade was as a reporter from the now-defunct Houston Post. He worked his way through several beats (suburban, city council, etc.) before spending the last year and a half of his six-year stint as the outdoor writer.
Through his coverage of the Classic, he'd become fairly well acquainted with Scott, and in late '78 the B.A.S.S. Boss invited him to Birmingham, Ala. for a job interview. He accepted and moved to that city the in February of the following year.
He'd met Linda, his wife of 42 years, while working in Houston.
"When we got married I was working more or less regular hours, but then when I became the outdoor writer I was on the road a lot and she didn't sign up for that," he said. "After we moved to Birmingham I was able to spend more time with her."
The couple raised three children and now have six grandchildren.
Tech Boom Changed Everything
When asked to identify the most significant changes to competitive bass fishing that he witnessed over the course of his long career, Precht pointed to the advent of digital communications.
"Way back when, the way you obtained magazine subscribers or members of an organization was through direct mail," he said. "Helen was very successful at that and B.A.S.S. grew to over 600,000 members, but the cost of entry into the magazine business has always been very steep – not just anybody could start a magazine.
"More recently, anybody can start a website and capture some type of audience – it's made everything a lot more accessible to more people. All the video stuff has had a huge impact; right after I took over as editor of Bassmaster, Bob Cobb started the TV show and we got a big jump in memberships. People saw what tournament fishing was like on TV and it just caught fire, and it's the same thing with all the websites, YouTube and everything we have now."
All in all, be believes the sport is in pretty good shape. His one desire is for more places to partake in it.
"Through the excise taxes, catch and release and some other factors, most of our lakes and rivers are still good and in some cases maybe better than they've ever been," he said. "The one drawback is it's getting crowded in some areas.
"I just wish we had a way to build more fisheries."