The International Game Fish Association announced the strategic sale of its building and the south parcel of its property to Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s, and the north parcel of its property to Baywood Hotels. This transformative tri-party deal, valued at nearly $20 million, includes $15.5 million toward the IGFA’s endowment and an additional $4.4 million of 12.5 years of prepaid rent, marking a pivotal moment in the organization’s storied history dedicated to the conservation of game fish and the promotion of responsible, ethical angling practices.
This sale comes as a result of a collaborative effort years in the making between the IGFA and Bass Pro Shops founder and IGFA trustee emeritus, Johnny Morris. Originally opened in 1999 thanks to a generous land donation made by Morris, the IGFA’s headquarters sits within Sportsman’s Park, adjacent to Bass Pro Shops and notably features the IGFA Fishing Hall of Fame. Thanks to its strong network of supporters, the IGFA paid off the building mortgage in 2008.
Following dwindling attendance numbers and the loss of a $1 million tax credit from the state of Florida, the IGFA made a visionary move in 2015 to relocate the Fishing Hall of Fame to Johnny Morris’ Wonders of Wildlife National Museum and Aquarium in Springfield, Missouri, ahead of its 2017 grand opening. Voted “America’s Best Aquarium” by the readers of USA Today an unprecedented five times, the 350,000-square-foot museum and aquarium has attracted more than 6 million visitors since opening in 2017, greatly outpacing the Hall of Fame’s previous attendance records in Florida.
“By transforming the bricks and mortar that once housed the IGFA Fishing Hall of Fame into an endowment, we are securing the continued growth of the IGFA’s mission-driven programs in perpetuity,” said Jason Schratwieser, IGFA president. “This is a monumental step not only for our members and representatives, but for everyone who loves the sport of fishing.”
The transformative sale underscores a milestone in the IGFA’s strategic vision for global conservation, youth education, and angler recognition efforts. By redirecting underutilized resources from its physical headquarters, the organization fortifies its commitment to a future where game fish conservation transcends geographical boundaries. This move marks a shift toward an era of global expansion for the IGFA, emphasizing wide-reaching programs that will make the organization’s resources and initiatives accessible to a broader international audience. The bolstered endowment ensures not only the continuation but the vigorous expansion of the IGFA’s work in safeguarding game fish and their habitats, promoting ethical angling, and fostering a new generation of conservationists, irrespective of their location.
The longstanding partnership between the IGFA and Bass Pro Shops has resulted in impactful conservation and youth education programs, including Passports to Fishing, a global youth education initiative that has taught more than 100,000 children to fish, and the IGFA Great Marlin Race, a cutting-edge research and conservation initiative that has deployed more than 600 satellite tags on billfish worldwide. With this bolstered endowment, the IGFA cements its status as the world’s largest game fish conservation nonprofit, poised to amplify its impact on a global scale.
“Conservation and inspiring young anglers to be the next generation of outdoor stewards are vital to the future of our beloved sport and the habitats that sustain it,” said Johnny Morris, Bass Pro Shops founder. “We’re incredibly proud to further our commitment to the IGFA and its noble mission.”
As part of the agreement, the IGFA will continue to occupy its current executive offices and the E.K. Harry Library of Fishes rent-free for the next 12.5 years, ensuring its enduring presence in South Florida, a location with rich angling history and deep ties to the IGFA’s origins.
“This historic sale is more than a financial transaction; it’s a testament to our unwavering dedication to game fish conservation and the global angling community,” said Roy Cronacher, IGFA chairman. “We are fortifying our legacy while setting the stage for an innovative future, ensuring the sport of fishing thrives for generations to come.”
The IGFA extended its deepest gratitude to Johnny Morris, Bass Pro Shops, and Baywood Hotels for their roles in the historic transition, and to its dedicated network of supporters who have steadfastly championed its mission since its inception in 1939.