Bass Pro Finalizes Buy-out

Is it going to be a near-perfect fit as when Baskin teamed up with Robbins, or when Cheech teamed up with Chong? Or is it going to be like trying to put a Ford engine into a Chevy truck? Only time will tell.

In the world of big-box outdoor stores, Johnny Morris’ Bass Pro Shops and Dick Cabela’s Cabela’s stores both rose almost to the top. While established national outdoor product purveyors such as Herter’s, Inc. failed and others, such as Gander Mountain only sputtered along, now going through their second bankruptcy, both BPS and Cabela’s seemed to be thriving.

Still, in the scramble to the top, it’s Bass Pro which has now emerged as numero uno. Over two years ago the negotiations first were made public. Bass Pro Shops wanted to buy Cabela’s.

Since then, the merger has proceeded through courts, government scrutiny and seemingly endless rumors and speculation about what was going on behind the scenes and, if the merger did happen, what the merged BPS/Cabela’s would look like. The speculation is over, the deal is done. Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s are now owned by Johnny Morris.

So what’s the future hold? Not the future for the merged stores financially, what’s in store for millions of outdoorsmen like me who are frequent customer of either or both?

Some of those questions have been answered, some, no doubt will be answered in time.
Here are some of the answers already made public. So far it seems for the better.

One of the stumbling blocks the government threw into the deal had to do with credit cards. Bass Pro and MasterCard were partners (Bass Pro Shops Outdoor Rewards MasterCard). Cabela’s and Visa had their own partnership (Cabela’s CLUB Visa Cards). Both cards offered users benefits when they used the cards anywhere and additional benefits for using them in their respective stores.

The programs weren’t identical and all the details are still being worked out of how to merge them equitably for all card holders. For now, the benefits a card holder would get for using either a BPS or Cabela’s card other than in-store or for catalog sales remains the same as when the card was issued. However, the extra benefit of using a Cabela’s Club card for a Cabela’s purchase has been extended to using the card for purchases from Bass Pro. The same is true for Bass Pro MasterCard holders when shopping at Cabela’s. Expect these differences to be ironed out and the two programs to soon become twins. Chances are, if you are a Cabela’s card holder, the next time a new card is issued, it will come with a Bass Pro Shops logo.

Easier was to merge the two company’s gift card programss. Both stores still sell gift cards with their own ID on them, but henceforth, a new or existing card purchased from either store is valid at both stores. Cabela’s gift cards are good as money at BPS, and BPS cards are accepted at Cabela’s.

Another convenience to customers from either franchise is being able to return Cabela’s purchases to Bass Pro Shops locations or vice versa. Both Cabela’s and BPS have retail stores throughout the Midwest. This could be a great convenience for traveling outdoorsmen.
I’m sure there will be more questions answered moving forward. Currently, no stores are slated to be closed. BPS has announced the Cabela’s general headquarters in Sydney, NE will be moved to Springfield, MO, home of Bass Pro. That won’t affect sportsmen.

Currently, Cabela’s sells both “Cabela’s brand” merchandise as well as brands from other manufacturers. Bass Pro Shops sells several “store brands,” including RedHead, World Wide Angler and others. What will happen to Cabela’s branded merchandise?

I suspect many Cabela’s brand products will go away if there are similar Bass Pro versions, but the Cabela’s name will stay on many items, especially in the hunting and shooting sports departments. You’ll still be able to purchase a Cabela’s brand hunting parka, but not a Cabela’s brand fishing reel.

My guess is most stores will remain open and current Cabela’s stores will be renamed Bass Pro Shops. Johnny Morris once told me “I wish I’d named the store something else when I started it in 1972 because now it’s so much more than just bass fishing supplies.” An exception will likely be the Bass Pro Shops in Portage, IN and the Cabela’s store in Hammond. One will likely close, most likely the Portage facility since BPS only leases the land where it sits while the Cabela’s Hammond Store owns their own site.

Mike Schoonveld
Mike Schoonveld grew up hunting and fishing in rural Northwest Indiana. In 1986 he piggy-backed a career as an outdoor writer onto his already long tenure as a wildlife biologist with the Indiana DNR. Now retired from his DNR position, Schoonveld is a U.S. Coast Guard licensed boat captain, operates Brother Nature Charters on Lake Michigan and spends much of his time trailering his boat to fishing hotspots around Indiana and the Midwest. Mike can be reached through his website or visit Mike's Outdoor World Blog at


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