Tournament legend Scott wants to build

bzzboyz

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Posted on Wed, Jul. 21, 2004





Tournament legend Scott wants to build fish-oriented communities

BY DON WILSON

The Orlando Sentinel


ORLANDO, Fla. - (KRT) - Bass-fishing legend Ray Scott said he thinks people will pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for a home on a lake smaller than some Florida sinkholes.

That's because Scott, with an almost encyclopedic knowledge of the largemouth bass, can design the 35- to 100-acre lakes to be a fish's version of Shaquille O'Neal's mansion on the Butler Chain.

And he's stocking it with his own strain of bass that's so aggressive it's almost like a piranha - without the teeth.

Scott said there's a need for communities centered on bass fishing, because public waterways have become overcrowded, noisy versions of interstate highways.

He wants to create developments with small lakes, specially sculpted to the needs of the fish, stocked with cross-bred pampered "superbass" that will bite anything cast in front of them. These will be lakes where no noisy gasoline-powered boats would be allowed, only a handful of small electric powered boats. It will be fishing, Florida-style, as it was 60 years ago.

Think it's a pipe dream?

Consider this:

_Near Birmingham, Ala., one man bought a $175,000 lot on one of Scott's lakes just for the fishing privileges, without any intention of building there.

_Here in Central Florida, a man who has lived on Lake Monroe for 37 years paid $70,000 for a lot in the Harmony community east of St. Cloud, just to fish its two natural lakes where gas motors also are banned. Anyone who has tried to fish Lake Monroe on a weekend knows it's about as peaceful as picnicking at an I-4 rest stop.

That person just happened to be Herky Huffman, vice chairman of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

If anyone knows all there is to know about bass fishing and bass fishers, it's Ray Scott. He's the P.T. Barnum of bass fishing.

Scott created the concept of the bass tournament in the late 1960s and built the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society into a multimillion-dollar empire. Before selling it in 1986, he had held tournaments all around the country and managed to pick the brains of thousands of the best bass fishers.

"I don't think there's anyone who's had more experience talking with fishermen about what bass like and don't like than I have," Scott said. "I can take a small, 40-acre lake and create structure and can triple the number of fish that lake will support by creating ridges and other structures."

Scott's idea is to appeal to the affluent bass angler who wants to get away from the noisy, overcrowded public lakes full of personal watercraft, speedboats and the 21-foot-long, 70-mph bass boats that he helped spawn. He's thinking of developments where homes sell in the $200,000-$600,000 range.

And he just has signed a letter of intent to build his first Legacy Lake, a 35-acre lake in Alabama at an upscale community called Cleveland Farms at Cooks Springs. Homes there will sell for $350,000 to $1 million-plus, said Doris Jones, who is developing the property with her husband, John.

Orlando-area developers weren't sure how the idea would work in Florida.

"I'm not a fisherman and don't know what it would entail to be enough to attract an upscale group of people," said Keith Ray, president of Ray Properties Inc. "It's a unique idea. . . . I do think there's no reason it can't be successful for a certain segment of the market."

Arthur Tye, president of Bovus Homes, called Scott's plan "promising."

But not necessarily for Central Florida.

"Our lakes are so good, but I could see it working where you didn't have an abundance of good fishing," he said.

But Scott said Florida is on his list of potential markets.

He has a complete package, from helping design lake-bottom contours and planting fish attractors, to stocking bluegills and other forage fish that will be just meal-sized when the bass are stocked. His package includes installing Lake Life Pump aerators to keep the lake from stagnating, recommending a biologist and a lake-management firm to manage the lake for trophy bass and conducting staff-marketing seminars and later making personal appearances.

All of this is aimed at providing the avid bass fisherman with a lake where he can enjoy a quiet, peaceful fishing trip, catch as many fish as he would care to and maybe have a chance at that lunker he always has wanted.

He just might be in the right place at the right time.

According to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's freshwater fishing statistics, in 2002 there were 10.7 million people who fished for bass, by far the largest fishing group, comprising 24 percent of all fishers. The next largest were panfishers, who only made up 7.9 percent.

If you apply that 24 percent to the $21.3 billion spent by all fishers in a single year, the bass crowd's share would be $5.1 billion. That's big enough to cause some startled looks, even in the NBA.

Although some developers may scoff, Scott realizes the market is out there.

In 1994, he built and stocked four lakes in a community near Birmingham, Ala., called Highland Lakes. Scott used Florida-strain largemouth that he would bred to reach a maximum size in a minimum time.

"It's like taking a 6-foot, 6-inch tall woman and a 6-foot, 9-inch tall man and letting them make some babies," he said. "Sooner or later, you've got some tall people."

Developer Doug Eddleman said fishing wasn't the main marketing tool. The community also was built to appeal to those who like parks and hiking trails.

But buyers paid $700,000 to $1 million for a home on the 43-acre lake, and one gentleman bought a lot just to fish there.

One of the residents is called "Lucky" Lloyd Beard, who sold a chain of photo-finishing stores in Lexington, Ky., to move to Highland Lakes. He got the nickname after catching and releasing the lake-record 11-pound, 8-ounce bass. Lloyd hadn't fished since he was a youth, but after moving, he said, "I've become an avid fisherman."

But there were subtle signs that something was happening under the placid waters of their little lake.

"As those Florida bass grew older, they were harder to catch," Beard said.

George Juneman, the real-estate developer who bought a lakefront lot just for fishing privileges, noticed it, too.

"We didn't know that as Florida bass mature in deep lakes, like Highland Lake, which is 38 feet deep, they're harder to catch," Juneman said.

So the lakefront hard-core anglers spent $9,600 to buy 1,200 fish that were a cross between the more-aggressive northern bass and the Florida-strain bass.

Now they can go out and catch 30 bass a trip. It keeps them occupied and hoping that the greedy Yankee bass might make the 11- to 14-pound Florida-strain fish more eager to keep up with the competition.

And Scott has modified his plan to stock the same hybrids, although in the future, if he works in Florida, he may have to stock only Florida-strain bass. State fisheries officials are worried about changing the genetic makeup of the Florida strain, which grows faster and larger than other bass.

The other sign that Scott may be ahead of his time was Huffman's purchase of that lot in Harmony.

Jim Lentz, developer of the 11,000-acre, self-contained community, said fishing wasn't the main attraction. The community was designed as an environmentally friendly one where families could see unspoiled Florida, a place where deer, wild turkeys and sandhill cranes are common sights.

Fishing is regulated on the two natural lakes. No gas motors are allowed. There is a fleet of electric-powered boats for sightseeing and fishing. All bass must be released unharmed, and only barbless hooks are allowed to keep the barbs from injuring fish when hooks are removed.

"Lake Monroe is still a good bass lake, but we're starting to get crowded by personal watercraft and boaters. It's like a highway," Huffman said. "The first time I fished Buck Lake at Harmony, in three hours we caught 27 bass, and the biggest was 7 pounds. They (Buck and Cat lakes) are magnificent lakes, relatively new lakes with hard sand bottoms and tannin-stained water."

Consider Harmony resident Doug Conklin, 42, a former pro bass angler and later a professional golfer whose career ended when he was rear-ended by a giant sand-hauling dump truck. He and his wife, Cyndi, moved to Harmony for the golf and horseback riding, but he soon came to appreciate the fishing almost as much.

Herniated disks in his neck and back made his right hand and arm numb, and Conklin had to learn to do things left-handed. His career over, Conklin spends most of his time playing inconsistent golf and fishing Cat Lake. It's isolated, has no dock and you have to check out a trolling motor and battery and take them yourself to the 14-foot aluminum boat on its shore.

"It's so much trouble that no one else bothers, and I have the lake to myself," he said. "I've only been here since Christmas Day, but I've already had a 40-fish day."

This day, he'd managed to catch only a few bass, mostly on a white spinnerbait, before the sun broke the tree line and the heat became unpleasant.

Still, he was content.

"When it's peaceful like this, without all the traffic, it makes you think you're somewhere in Canada or out West," he said. "I haven't used my bass boat in months. On most public waters, the jet skiers and boaters have ruined it. Here, there are no (gas) motors allowed, and no jet skis are allowed. It's the way fishing is supposed to be: quiet and peaceful - the way it used to be."

He didn't know it, and Harmony has no connection with Ray Scott or Highland Lakes, but Conklin almost was echoing the sentiments of Highland Lakes' Randy Mazer.

"I moved here in 1997, but I started fishing before that, as soon as I bought the lot," Mazer said. "This is a great thing - the thing of the future."

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Arrowhead

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Ray Scott is also the guy who back in the mid 1980's was caught taking a tank full of Florida Largemouth Bass from a B.A.S.S. Tournament in either Clewiston Florida or Kissimmee, Fl back to his lake in Alabama for a little development work.

The guy is a master salesman.
 

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