John L. Morris began Bass Pro Shops when he started a fishing section in the back of his father’s Brown Derby liquor store in Missouri in 1971. This small department sold homemade bait and worms.
In 1975 the company established American Rod and Gun (ARG) as a separate wholesale entity.
Today Bass Pro shops operate 56 stores throughout the U.S. and Canada. The stores carry a number of house brands, including Ascend, Bass Pro Shops, Bob Timberlake, Johnny Morris Reels, Natural Reflections, Offshore Angler, Redhead, Uncle Buck’s, White River, Worldwide Sportsman, XPS, and XTS.
Bass Pro Shops is a privately-held retailer of camping, fishing, and hunting gear and other related outdoor recreation equipment. The company’s largest stores are operated under the name Outdoor World. Bass Pro Shops is #93 on the Forbes list of America’s Largest Private Companies and had $4.58 billion in revenue in 2016.
It was rumored in 2015 that the company would buy out competitor Cabela’s.
In October of 2016, it was announced that Bass Pro Shops would acquire Cabela’s for $5.5 billion. This will nearly double the number of stores to 184 locations, as well as increasing the number of employees from 20,000 to 39,000. This is the 5th largest merger in US history and was so complicated that the companies hired no less than 13 banks and law firms to ensure the deal went smoothly.
In mid-2018, Forbes stated that the company is the #2 hottest retailer in America.