Ozark Rotary, Roger Campbell

Roger Campbell Sr., Campbell Ford, with daughter Stephanie Campbell holding the 1978 Bass Pro catalog, and Charlie Campbell, no relation, who designed the first Bass Tracker Boat for the Bass Pro Catalog.

Well, as they say about most fish stories—the big one got away and the rest is history.

But for Charlie Campbell he actually landed the big one—one that didn’t get away and one that brought fame and fortune his way.

It’s an unlikely story most Ozarkers have heard before, but maybe not from Campbell. The quiet unassuming fisherman recently shared his big-fish story with the Ozark Rotary Club.

Holding a fishing rod and the 1978 Bass Pro Catalog, Campbell sojourned through the last three plus decades with a common theme: Fishing.

“The more I fished the better I got at it,” he said.

And the better he got at it, the more fishing tournaments he won. Then the more tournaments he won caused more people to query him on his secrets. That led to a fortuitous relationship with a youngster, Campbell said, who preferred fishing to higher education.

The two fished and fished auditioning different lure with varying results. The good lure found a place in a liquor store in Springfield. And now you probably know that college kid was Johnny Morris who parlayed a bait shop inside his father’s Brown Derby store on Campbell Avenue into the iconic Bass Pro Shops.

What Morris learned from Campbell about fishing landed the Branson man who was a high school coach and a marine shop owner the honor of designing the first Bass Tracker boat.

After tweaking the design, Morris told Campbell he was going to sell the boat from the Bass Pro Catalog.

“I said ‘you’re crazy,’” Campbell chuckled. “’You can’t sell a boat out of a catalog.’”

Not only did Morris sell boats from the catalog, he sold so many at the 1978 $2,995 price that production couldn’t keep up with demand.

“We sold 50 in the first two weeks,” Campbell said. “They couldn’t build them fast enough.”

Campbell worked with Morris at Bass Pro for many years watching one young man’s fancy for fishing turn into 58 stores with more than 19,000 associates.

“Everything that kid did turned to gold,” Campbell said with tears of admiration glistening in his eyes. “One person can do a lot.”

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