Posted by Z3 MEDIA STAFF on 11/29/2017

Story by Matt Pangrac – Photos courtesy of Rick Morris

Lake Gaston, Virginia - Rick Morris started his career with B.A.S.S.  with a 5th place finish at the 1992 Bassmaster Megabucks on Lake Guntersville.  For the next 22 years, the Virginia pro would have a steady presence in the professional bass fishing scene, competing in the Invitationals, Top 100s, Top 150s, Tour, Opens, and Elite Series.   

During that time, he racked up over $800,000 in career earnings, posted 20 Top 10 finishes, and fished in five Bassmaster Classics (including a 2nd place finish to Luke Clausen in the 2006 Classic on Lake Toho).  

Following the 2014 Elite Series season, B.A.S.S. granted Morris a medical exemption for the 2015 season due to a back injury that required rehabilitation.  When it came time to pay the deposits for the 2016 Elite Series season, Morris’ focus was off the water.  

“I had custody of my daughter who was in high school at the time, and it was important to me that I stayed home and took care of her,” he explained.  Morris’ daughter graduated with high honors and is now a second-year college student at NC State.  

He fished both the Northern and Southern division of the Bassmaster Opens in 2016 before packing up and moving to Florida for the winter where he did overflow guiding on Lake Toho and Kissimmee for several of the established guides in the area.  

This past season, he once again fished both the Northern Opens and the Southern Opens with the goal of returning to the top level of competitive bass fishing.  “I was ready to come back,” Morris stated.  “If I didn’t make it to the Elite Series in 2018, I was going to fish the FLW Tour.  “I’m in good health for my age (55) and I have plenty of knowledge and I’m still plenty strong.”  

In early August, Morris captured the first B.A.S.S. win of his career at the second Bassmaster Northern Open of the 2017 season on the James River.  Less than two months after the Northern Open victory, he closed out the season with a 2nd place finish on Smith Lake at the final Southern Open of the season.  

With Southern Open finishes of 23rd place on the Harris Chain, 51st place on Lake Chickamauga, and 2nd place on Smith Lake, Morris landed in 6th place overall in the final Southern Open point standings.  Current Elite Series pros Justin Lucas and Marty Robinson finished ahead of him in the point standings, meaning that Morris earned an invitation to fish the 2018 Elite Series.  

It was during one of Morris’ guide trips this past winter on Toho where he made a connection with an individual who would be instrumental to his comeback in 2018.    

In January, Morris guided for John Karafa, who is the President/CEO of Leebcor Services LLC, a full service General Contractor and Design-Build firm headquartered in Williamsburg, Virginia.   

The two immediately hit it off.  “We are about the same age and he’s been following my career because we are basically from the same area in Virginia,” explained Morris.  “We spent the day talking about his company, fishing, kids, and careers.”

Morris followed up with Karafa after the guide trip, and the two reached an agreement for Leebcor Services to become Morris’ title sponsor in 2018, regardless of what he was fishing.   

“As a Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Business owner, we provide services to the military and this is part of my long-term strategic plan to give back something meaningful to the troops and their families,” said Karafa, a lifelong angler who started one of the first Jr. B.A.S.S. clubs in history.     

“There are many members of the military with a passion for fishing, so I thought there was some synergy between his (Morris’) desire to get back on the Elite Series and our desire to help in the military community,” Karafa continued.  

With Morris serving as one of the primary means of spreading the word, Leebcor Services is launching a campaign called “Fishing For Our Troops” and is in the process of partnering with a major non-profit.  The plan is to create six to eight events over the course of the year (both related and unrelated to tournaments) where proceeds raised will help improve the quality of life for military veterans and military families in need.       

In an interesting twist, Morris was actually staying at Karafa’s house in Williamsburg, Virginia when he won the Northern Open on the James River.  “The whole company was excited and he was excited.  It was pretty cool,” said Morris.  

With the 2018 season on the Horizon, Morris believes that he’s already ahead of the curve when it comes to preparation for both the Elite Series and the Bassmaster Classic on Lake Hartwell, which he qualified for with his Open victory on the James River.  

“I’m focused on getting in the best shape that I possibly can,” he allowed.  “I’m already exercising and on a diet plan right now just trying to be fully prepared.  It’s a serious undertaking to fish the Elite Series.  You’re away from home for a long time and you’re spending back-to-back weeks on the water.”  

After running a Triton for the duration of his first Elite Series tenure, Morris will be running a Falcon Boat in 2018.  “I can be at their East Coast base in less than five hours and they’ve been awesome to work with,” said Morris. “I went down and met the owners and couldn’t be happier.”  He is also continuing his partnership with Mercury and will be running a Verado during the upcoming season.  

With Leebcor Services as his title sponsor, Lowrance, Gamma, Power-Pole, War Eagle, Uptown Graphics Kentucky, and NorthStar Batteries are also on board for 2018.  He’ll also continue to use the RPM Custom Rods that he designs.  

“I can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward to getting this season started,” he concluded.