Johnny Morris, founder of Bass Pro Shops and recent addition to the Forbes 400, never intended to rule an outdoor sporting gear empire. When he began selling fishing tackle in the back of his father's Brown Derby liquor store, the five-time Bassmaster Classic tournament pro was 23 and subscribed to the philosophy stuck to the bumpers of his customers' trucks: "I'd rather be fishing."
"My intention at first was to avoid work and fish," says Morris, who graduated in 1970 from Drury College with a business degree. "It's just that there weren't many places to get the lures bass anglers wanted."
Even though he's 65 now and that 8-by-8-foot mini shop in the back of his dad's Springfield, Missouri, store has exploded into a kingdom of 58 stores in 35 states, the only thing Morris flaunts now is his Ozark humility. He remains committed to spending just as time with his reel as he does to expanding his business.
"Johnny Morris is the same guy I knew 40 years ago when we were doing fishing tournaments," says Bill Dance, a former professional bass fisherman who hosts nationally televised shows on freshwater and saltwater angling. "He's the most humble guy you could ever meet. He loves his family, he loves his friends, and he loves fishing."
His title at the $3.3 billion Bass Pro is "Chief Fishing Officer." As he likes to say, "Somebody has to test the product."
We recently hooked Johnny Morris into revealing six of his favorite fishing holes, and here they are.
Alta River, Norway
Just vying for the chance (there's a lottery every year) to fish for Atlantic salmon on this legendary river will set you back $66. Even then, your odds of winning are a measly 5 percent to 10 percent. Of course, you can enter the drawing as many times as you want under the name of your about-to-be-born niece or your 92-year-old shut-in neighbor.
"It's worth it," says Morris. "Having one of these big fish rise to your fly in such beautiful surroundings is a never-to-be-forgotten experience."
During the summer, anglers in the land of the midnight sun can fish at all hours in broad daylight, but according to the late Sampson R. Field, a wealthy American businessman who paid $35,000 every year for the exclusive rights to fish the Alta in July, the best fishing is when the sun is low on the horizon. Even if you don't get one of the up to 100-pound Atlantic salmon, Alta's gorge is worth a visit. Call ahead to enter the lottery. [visitnorway.com]