In the few days since Forrest Wood passed away, thousands of people have taken to social media to share their favorite “Forrest Wood story” in public tribute to one of bass fishing’s most iconic men.
The steady stream of personal accounts, whether of meeting Forrest or working with him in some capacity, quickly illustrated how big his impact was – not only on the fishing industry, but on everyone he met. You simply couldn’t meet him without coming away with your own Forrest Wood story.
In keeping with the trend, we reached out to people within the FLW family and the broader fishing industry and invited them to share a Forrest Wood story or two (or more; it’s hard to know Forrest and not have a lot of stories to tell), or to reflect on what Forrest meant to them. We also collected a few statements from government officials who recently recognized Forrest for his charitable work and contributions to business and conservation in northwest Arkansas. Their responses are below.
Feel free to share your own Forrest Wood story in the comments section at the bottom of the page, or email them to flwfi[email protected] for possible inclusion in an upcoming Bass Fishing magazine feature.
(Editor’s note: We’ll continue to update this article with stories as we receive them. Funeral services for Forrest L. Wood will be held at noon Wednesday at Flippin (Ark.) First Baptist Church.)
Kathy Fennel, Friend of Forrest Wood
It’s hard to choose a favorite memory with Forrest because every memory with him is special. I was 20 years old the first time I met Forrest, and 38 years later I am just as in awe of him as I was that day. Our first meeting was during a visit to Ranger. I was there with other Operation Bass staff to pick up a boat to take to a tournament. Forrest and Nina knew we were coming, and when we arrived, they presented us with beautiful and highly coveted satin jackets. Mine was royal blue with those famous words “Ranger Boats, Flippin, Ark.” across the back. Like all others who received those jackets throughout the years, I wore it with pride. It made me feel special, just like Forrest made everyone he came into contact with feel special.
Larry Nixon, Professional Angler
I was 18 years old when I first heard of Forrest Wood. I had just graduated from high school, and daddy told me he was going up to Flippin, Ark., to meet some guy with a cowboy hat and look at a boat. I thought, yeah right. I was just a little old kid, but I thought daddy ain’t got no money. Then when he came home he had one of those brand-new Ranger boats. It wasn’t long after that I met Forrest for the first time and have known him ever since. Anywhere you looked, if there was an important occasion in bass fishing, Mr. Wood was there. He and Nina were mainstays in the fishing world. He’s going to be someone we all miss for a long time.
Dave Washburn, FLW Vice President of Operations
One of my favorite memories with Forrest Wood is from an All-American on the Potomac River in Washington, D.C. Despite numerous trips to our nation’s capital, Forrest had never had a chance to tour the monuments. We took care of that one afternoon prior to weigh-in.
To stand beside Forrest at the foot of the Washington Monument as he soaked in the occasion on a brilliant summer afternoon is a surreal experience if ever there was one. Forrest was a true patriot. To stand beside a living legend as he paid tribute to the legendary leaders and national heroes who came before him is a memory I will always cherish.
Mike Huckabee, Former Governor of Arkansas
Forrest L. Wood lived the American Dream. He worked hard and lived by the Golden Rule Jesus gave us to “treat others as we would wish to be treated.” The only things he loved more than fishing and hunting were God, his wonderful wife, Nina, and his daughters and grandchildren. Some people make a living. Forrest made a life, and he did it by creating a better mousetrap, but in his case the mousetrap was an innovative fishing boat that revolutionized fishing and turned bass fishing from a weekend hobby into a multi-billion-dollar-a-year industry and professional sport. He employed thousands of people over the years, putting food not just on his table, but on the tables for thousands of other families. He was a simple and humble Christian gentleman who had no enemies and was beloved and respected by all who knew him.
Appointing him on the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission was one of the few decisions I ever made that no one fussed about. He was reluctant to take it. He didn’t need the grief, but he accepted the commissioner’s slot because he loved Arkansas and he loved the opportunity to make hunting and fishing more accessible to kids and the common man. He leaves a legacy for his faith, his family and for fishing. And he leaves all of us better for his impact on our lives.
Dave Csanda, Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame Communicator and Former FLW Outdoors Walleye Edition Field Editor
I have one Forrest Wood story that far and away outshines everything else. I mentioned this once in the FLW magazine many years ago. The first time I think I met him I was covering an Operation Bass tournament in Hawaii. They put about eight small Rangers on a ship and shipped them out there, and they had a tournament on Wahiawa. It’s by Pearl Harbor. I remember seeing guys flipping the edges of pineapple fields to catch bass, which was interesting. My story with Forrest Wood was that I was at Waikiki Beach one morning, and I actually saw Forrest on a surfboard. It wasn’t big giant waves; it was pretty modest. But I saw Forrest taking a surfing lesson, and my joke was that his hat never came off once. I was there. I can vouch for it. I’m an eyewitness.
I ran into Forrest and Nina years and years and years later in Arkansas and once again someplace else, and I reminded him I was the guy that saw him on a surfboard. He turned to Nina and they both had a good laugh about that.
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson
It was my honor to know Forrest Wood, and his passing is a deeply sad moment for our entire state. Forrest embodied the best of Arkansas. He was an entrepreneur who brought thousands of jobs to Northern Arkansas with his founding of Ranger Boats. His business accomplishments have been recognized in the Arkansas Business Hall of Fame, and his contributions to the world of fishing and recreation have made Arkansas a destination point for fishermen from all over the world. He loved Arkansas, and Arkansas loved Forrest Wood. Susan and I express our condolences and prayers for Nina and the entire Wood family.
Trisha Blake, Former FLW President of Marketing
I’ve had the privilege and honor to know Forrest and Nina Wood as friends, mentors and business partners for the majority of my career. Together, with an incredible work ethic and great commitment to our sport and the community, they founded more than a company. It was a way of life filled with honesty, integrity and quality. The life and foundation that Forrest and Nina have built and set forth, led by their own example, can never be matched. I will miss Forrest for so many reasons, including his incredible wit and vintage stories. God bless, Forrest.
Bill Taylor, FLW Senior Director of Operations
I feel very fortunate to have ever met Forrest Wood, along with his wife, Nina. They’ve been such an inspiration to me since I first met them. I first met Forrest in 1981 in the Ranger Classic (precursor to the All-American), when I won a Ranger boat on Bull Shoals and he handed me the keys. I’ve looked up to him not only for what he’s done for the sport of bass fishing, but for what he’s done for people in general.
Curtis Niedermier, FLW Editor-in-Chief
What I appreciated most about Forrest was how kind and approachable he was. Even if you were a lowly entry-level magazine editor, like I was when I first met him, he took time to talk and to listen. He and Nina have both always been that way – warm and welcoming, like old friends.
My favorite memories with Forrest are the times I was able to visit with him one-on-one or in a small group, away from the crowds that usually formed around him. One time, we talked bird dogs in his office, which was a treat. Another time, he recounted when he was on the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, when they were debating whether to allow the hunting of wild turkey hens. Forrest opposed hunting hens. He thought it would hurt the population, but the commissioners ultimately voted to allow it, and turkeys continued to thrive. “I was wrong about that,” he admitted. “I suppose I was probably wrong about a lot of things over the years.” It was a good lesson in humility.
About 10 years ago, I was fishing a charity bass tournament in Arkansas, when my team partner and I broke our trolling motor an hour or so before weigh-in. We didn’t have much weight anyway, so we ran back to the ramp. Forrest was there because Ranger was sponsoring the tournament, and he was standing alone by the bump tanks. We told him what had happened, and in his usually witty fashion, he suggested we get a paddle and give it another shot.
My favorite memory of all was back when Ranger was preparing for its 40th anniversary. The company invited some writers to do a float trip on the White River for trout, kind of like Forrest used to run back in his guide days. It was a way of celebrating how far Forrest and the brand he created had come. We finished up the float at Forrest and Nina’s cabin on the riverbank. Forrest and his grandson, Keith Daffron, cooked everyone a shore lunch, but then it started raining. We all piled into the cabin. Forrest spent the rest of the evening sharing stories and talking fishing and hunting. What I’ll always remember was that, as he talked, Forrest propped his boots up on a footstool and actually took off his cowboy hat. Nothing will make you feel more like a friend than when Forrest Wood removes his hat and talks fishing with you. It was a special evening.
Dion Hibdon, Professional Angler
I’ve known Forrest for a long time. From the time I was 17 years old, I’ve never been with another boat company, and a big part of that was because of the people – people like Forrest. The people mean everything. To be close to him and his grandkids is kind of a rare deal in this day and age of business. The kind of people he surrounded himself with were the kind of people that you could trust, and so you wanted to be a part of what he was doing. Besides that, he was just a super human being. I can’t even say enough about what kind of person he was. He always had time for my sons, too, and that means a lot.
Probably the coolest story I’ve got is from when we were fishing Lake Okeechobee one time. This was back when Forrest fished. I don’t even know what kind of tournament we were in, but it was probably a B.A.S.S. Invitational. I had drawn out the last day with a guy that had a local boat company. He had caught more fish than I had, and it was the last day, so I went with the guy (back then, two pros shared a boat). When it was time to come in, the wind had really kicked up. There were 5- and 6-footers rolling across the lake. Forrest passed us in his boat, and this fellow I was with didn’t have the experience and did not have the boat to keep up, but he thought he did.
When I got to the weigh-in, I went over to Forrest, and I told him, “I want to thank you.”
He said, “What’s that for?”
“I just took the worst boat ride of my life.”
Forrest was a bit taken back. “Huh, what are you talking about?”
“I was in that little blue boat you passed back there by Moore Haven. My guy thought he could keep up.”
I kind of caught him off guard, because he didn’t know I was in that boat; he thought I was in a Ranger. We wound up laughing about it.
I know exactly how Forrest and Nina spent the bulk of their life, because that’s how my mom and dad did. My mom and dad were always together; they did everything together. So I know what Nina’s going through right now, and it’s a hard deal. But they’ve got a great family support system down there, and, man, if we all could just live the life he got to for a little bit. I look at my dad and Forrest and they each lived a hell of a life. Everybody should hope that they get to do something like that. They touched a lot of people.
Todd Hollowell, Professional Angler and FLW Live Host
Fishing in a bass boat was a dream of mine since I was 9 years old, and I’ve admired this man since that day my dream began. The first time I met Forrest Wood was in 2012 in Atlanta for the FLW Cup in my rookie season on Tour. I remember having a feeling of overwhelming gratitude standing beside him, realizing how much of an impact he had on generations of people who love this sport of bass fishing. Without his commitment and vision, the opportunities before us today would certainly not be the same. I also remember the obvious love he had for his wife, Nina, and seeing her with him everywhere he went with a love for her that will transcend time on Earth. It’s inspired me to be a better husband and have an unending love for my wife and family. He was truly a legend whose memory will live on forever.
Charlie Evans, Professional Angler and Former FLW President and CEO
First off, there would not have been an FLW or an Operation Bass (precursor to FLW) and everything that came from it were it not for Forrest Wood. Mike Whittaker (Operation Bass founder) was fishing with B.A.S.S. when he came up with the idea for one-day, close-to-home, low-entry-fee tournaments. The person he talked to about that was Forrest Wood, who also fished B.A.S.S. Forrest listened to Mike’s ideas of starting a company for the working man with low entry fees and a big year-end championship. Forrest said that if you do that you’ll need a prize boat for your championship, and Ranger became the first sponsor of this company that probably would’ve not formed without their support.
That was in 1979, and the first tournament ran in 1980. It became the Red Man trail in 1983. But I can’t remember the first year we actually had a contract with Ranger. We’d tell Forrest what we needed, and he’d make it happen.
He was a major player in everything we do in our sport. Forrest impacted literally hundreds of thousands, if not millions of lives. Yet, in all the years I worked with him and in all the tense meetings, I never heard him raise his voice or not maintain that old country boy slow, easy speaking attitude that really is very effective. People listened when he talked.
I’ve actually had the privilege of introducing Forrest probably more than any human in the world because he used to be at every All-American and every Forrest Wood Cup. When he got up to speak, he never failed to mention Nina and thank all the people at Ranger Boats. Ranger was known because of the quality of the boats, but Ranger did a lot for tournament organizations, and he was a really important part.
When I was at FLW, when we came to a fork in the road in trying to figure out whether to go this direction or that direction, I always said the measuring stick to go by was, “What would Forrest Wood do?” Usually, you’d know that just by saying it, and if I didn’t, then I’d just pick up the phone and call him. Forrest always answered his own phone, usually on the first ring. He always had time to talk to you. He’d always give a good honest opinion. As long as you listened to what he had to say you couldn’t make too many bad mistakes. Working for him and with him was nothing but pleasurable. He will be sorely missed.
Obviously, he was very successful in the boat-building business and made a lot of money, but I don’t think that was ever the objective. And he never did get too big for hits boots. He was all American. He believed in a strong faith. And then also really cared about getting kids outside. He would say, “We need good young people involved in the outdoors, whether it’s hunting or fishing or both. If they’re involved in those you never have to worry about where they’re at.”
He had a lot of opinions about Washington, D.C. and what went on there, and he really was concerned, not just about his little area of the country, but the entire United States. He was a great patriot. It’s a sad day, but his legacy will live forever through his family. I know his family is going through a lot of pain, but they can take a lot of great pride in the lives that Forrest Wood impacted in a positive way. I don’t think there’s been any other person in the world besides my father that had more direct impact on me and my life. I’ve lived a blessed life, and most of that I can attribute directly to Forrest Wood.
On Forrest’s wardrobe
I know George Jones has a song that goes “Who’s gonna fill their shoes?” In this case, who’s going to fill these boots? Forrest always wore boots and a hat. One year, we were at a Red Man All-American in Havasu City, Ariz. We were getting ready to go to the big dinner and registration, and the tournament was the next day. All the Ranger boats were out front of the hotel, and everything was ready. I got dressed, and I put on a leather vest and my cowboy boots. I was walking out the door to go to dinner, and about that time Forrest and Nina walked out of their room heading the same way. He looked at my vest and said, “Nina, I have to go back to my room.” He was wearing his suit coat that he wore all the time; no tie. He came back out with his vest on and said, “Charlie, I figured if you could wear your vest, I could wear mine.” It was all about making me feel comfortable. He really was a kind, caring person that had time for everybody.
On dealing with tardiness
Ranger was much larger than our company and had a lot more employees. I told Forrest one time that we had some folks that can’t seem to make it to work on time and asked what’s the best way to handle that. He said at Ranger they’d had that happen a time or two, too. They had two entrances at the plant, and for a week, he and Nina each stood at one of the doors and welcomed everybody to work. They told them they were glad they were there, glad they worked there and thanked them for being there. Never once did he fuss at anybody for being late, and their late attendance quit. That was his manner. Where most people would fuss at them, he said, “We’re glad you’re here. We need you.” Those people then realized how important it was for them to be there. He knew a way to tell things that most people didn’t.
On naming FLW
When Irwin bought Operation Bass in 1996, we were meeting in Little Rock with Jerry McKinnis, who was another great guy we lost recently. That’s where the FLW Tour was born. It was named that in that meeting because we wanted instant credibility. So we actually called Forrest from that meeting and asked him if we could use his initials to give our new fledgling tournament organization a name because we were running as Operation Bass and the Red Man Tournament Trail, but we weren’t doing any big-time tournaments. And Irwin wanted to do big-time tournaments. We knew that if he’d let us use FLW, Forrest L. Wood, as the title of our tournament organization that people would automatically know it was credible and something they could count on and depend on. Forrest said he'd have to talk to Nina and call us back. Well, he did, and they told us that if it doesn't work out, we could just call it "fish love water."
John Mazurkiewicz, President of the Bass Fishing Hall of Fame Board of Directors
Forrest Wood is synonymous with bass fishing. From creating one of the most well-known bass boat companies in the world through hard work, honesty, pride in workmanship and integrity, to being one of the first to support professional bass fishing, Mr. Wood rightfully deserved to be selected into the very first Bass Fishing Hall of Fame induction class in 2001. Bass anglers worldwide owe him so much credit for what he did to take bass fishing where it is today. Because of his efforts, there was a reason to have a Bass Fishing Hall of Fame. Thank you, Forrest Wood. You were truly dedicated to celebrating, promoting and preserving the sport of bass fishing.
U.S. Sen. John Boozman
The Natural State has lost one of its biggest champions. While Forrest Wood was widely known as an entrepreneur and pioneer who revolutionized outdoor sports, his contributions go well beyond the fishing world. The respect he earned within the industry, along with his love for Arkansas, made him the ideal advocate for conservation efforts in the Natural State. It was a role he excelled in, and his dedication and hard work helped ensure Arkansas will remain a leading recreation destination for generations to come.
Forrest was a good friend and mentor. He was someone who I, and many others, held in high regard. I will always be grateful for the times we shared, the counsel he provided and opportunities to work with him to make our great state even better.
Mark Rose, Professional Angler
I’ve been with Ranger Boats for 22 years – every bit of my career – and early on in my career, when Sammy Lee (former national promotions director for Ranger) first hired me on board, I met Forrest, and it wasn’t because I had reached out to him. It was because he reached out to me. Even after Ranger changed hands and he was just representing the brand, he still continued to come to all the dinners and everything at championships, and it would blow me away how he would come up to me and remember how I did in the last tournament, or when I had a bad tournament he would pick me up. He always came up to me and reached out to me. You don’t find that authenticity in an icon like him anymore.
If I had to sum up Forrest with one word, it would be authentic. He was something you don’t see anymore. He brought out the good in the business that he was in, the industry he was in, and everything about him he tried to do the right way and be positive. Part of that authenticity showed every time that I’ve ever won. He would actually get out a piece of paper and write down something and send it to me. I thought a lot of that. I think he was a big part of me advancing in my career. I like simple people who are authentic, and Forrest was one of them. He was the epitome of that.
Charlie Hoover, Former Ranger Boats Vice President and the First FLW President
First, I’d just like to say what a wonderful life he had, and what a tremendous person he was – an asset in many ways not just to the fishing industry and the marine industry, but even in our local community. Forrest was a stalwart of the community, and a person that just always set the example. I don’t know of any person that has as many friends as what Forrest did. He met people all over the country and out of the country, but he always made time for them. When he first met someone, he talked to them just like it was his neighbor. That’s just kind of the person he was. In working with him, you didn’t work for Forrest; you worked with Forrest. He made sure it was that way. I never did know of him asking anybody to do anything that he hadn’t already done himself, especially in the boat-building business, from loading the chopper gun to moving boats to sweeping the floor. Everybody worked and did his best job, and he set the example for that.
He was just a super individual. To me, him and Nina were just like a second set of parents almost. When working with him, he would ask your advice, and he would take it. He might not make a decision right away, but it would be the right decision when he made it.
On public speaking
One story from early on, when Ranger was just beginning to grow, Forrest was going to speak to an outdoor writer meeting out at Mount Rushmore. The outdoor writers were holding their annual convention there, and they were going to have between 800 and 900 people he was going to give a talk to. At that time, I remember him saying the largest group he’d spoken to was 50 people. We were flying out there, and it was Forrest and I and Mickey (Forrest’s brother) and a couple other guys, and he kept working on notes for giving his talk. He was kind of nervous about it. He made his notes and let us look at them and give him our opinion on it. I was kind of nervous myself. That’s a lot of people to get up in front of, and these were outdoor writers who were pretty knowledgeable about the industry. Well, we got out there, and he gave the best talk, and he never used those notes once.
He was an excellent storyteller, but his stories always had a meaning or relationship or a message that applied. And they were funny a lot of times. It was just a natural ability he had. After that, through the years, he became a great speaker.
On entertaining a crowd
I can remember another time that this fella had written a book about 10 real successful entrepreneurs in the United States, and Forrest was one of them. They were going to have what they called a book opening in Phoenix, and each of the entrepreneurs was going there to be honored. It was a black tie, tuxedo-type dinner. We shipped a Ranger boat out there to have on display, and Forrest had asked me and my wife to go there with him and Nina. We were at the reception, and I overhead this guy saying, “Who’s that guy in the tuxedo there with the cowboy boots and that cowboy hat on.” Whoever he was talking to didn’t know, and they were kind of talking funny about it. So we got into the dinner that night, and the guy that wrote the book got up and said something, and each person in the book gave a talk. Forrest was the last one. I have to say, the nine before him were not good speakers. They just said a few words and that was it. Forrest got up and entertained the crowd for about 45 minutes. Afterward, that old boy who wondered who the guy in the cowboy hat was looked over and there was a line of people all the way out the banquet hall waiting to get Forrest’s autograph and meet him. The other nine people were just standing over there by themselves.
On meeting Forrest
When I first met Forrest I was in high school, and Forrest had a guide business. Him and Mickey took out my dad and our family on a float trip. After that, Forrest was in the construction business, and I can remember coming home from school one day and Forrest had torn the whole floor out of our kitchen and was replacing it. He was multi-talented. He didn’t just jump in the boat business one day. He was a guide first and knew fishing. He knew how to do construction work. The timing was perfect. And he was a risk taker. A lot of people wouldn’t realize that. If he saw there was an opportunity to do something, he didn’t mind trying it. Sometimes it worked out; sometimes it didn’t. He would always encourage people around him to do the same thing.
On insurance, cattle and totaled pickups
When I was at Ranger, one of my duties was to handle all the insurance. Forrest had told me that whenever we hire somebody to have our insurance, I’m going to pay the premium, and it’s going to be expensive, but whenever we have a claim he wanted it paid. So I negotiated the insurance, and I told the guy if we have a claim you’d better dadgum pay it. One day, Forrest walked into my office, and he had been out on their cattle ranch. He had on jeans and boots and had been working in the field pretty good. Had this funny look on his face. He said, “Charlie, I’ve totaled my pickup.”
First thing, of course, I asked if everybody was OK. He said they were and to just turn it into insurance. I told him I needed a little more information.
He said, “All I can tell you was there was a stampede of cattle, and the bull ran through the truck and it’s totaled.”
I called the insurer and told him what had happened, and they paid it.
On naming FLW
After Irwin Jacobs bought Ranger, he wanted to get in the tournament business. One day we were in a meeting with Irwin, and Jerry McKinnis was there. Irwin said we were going to start a bass tournament business, and he looked across the table and said, “I want you to be the president of it.” We bought Operation Bass because it had all the infrastructure for what we needed to run a tournament business. From there, we started looking for a name, and Irwin wanted to honor Forrest in some way. I kind of made a suggestion that we use Forrest’s initials. I’ll never forget, I called Forrest and talked to him first and asked what he thought about it. He said that if FLW doesn’t work out we can always say it stands for “fish like water.” From there, FLW took off.
Chris Hoover, FLW Site Sales Director (Son of Charlie Hoover)
The biggest memories I have are from when I’d get dropped off at the plant after school, and Mickey’s son Brandon Wood and I would go to Forrest’s office, and we would play cards and hang out, but we wouldn’t leave until Forrest came back in from the plant. He’d always tell us a story or something, and he’d have huge boxes in his office full of tackle, and he’d give us a lure every day.
I remember there were always old pictures in there of Forrest with this cowboy hat and in different boats. There was one where he was jumping this huge wave and had Ranger Man painted down the side. He was the man, and you looked up to him. He had this big hat, and he had the biggest office, with mounts and fish everywhere, and plaques from when he won events. It was just neat growing up in that atmosphere.
My dad went to work for Forrest in ’72. Sometime around there he sold a boat to my neighbor, Mr. Raymer. It was a little bitty blue Ranger, and he always kept it in the water down at the Bull Shoals Boat Dock. About five years ago I went down to Bull Shoals, and that boat was up at the top of the hill. I went and talked to one of the old owners’ sons, and he wanted to get rid of it and said if I had a trailer I could come and get it. Now I’ve got it, and I’ll never get rid of it. To have one of the first Ranger boats Forrest built and my dad ever sold really means something.
Denny Brauer, Professional Angler
I fished my first tournament in April 1980, and I met Forrest and Nina at that tournament. I basically jumped on board with Ranger from that point on. Early in my career, Forrest and I did tons of traveling around the country together, flying on the Ranger plane to do Ranger open houses, seminars and stuff like that. I had a lot of experiences I’ll never forget. Being around somebody like that, you really learn a lot really fast. One thing I’ll always remember is he always had a notepad with him. Anytime somebody mentioned something he needed to follow up on, whether it was to get somebody a hat or sign an autograph, as soon as they’d leave he’d write it down so he wouldn’t forget. He always did that, and it taught me a lot just about how to treat people. But that’s just how Forrest operated.
You don’t replace somebody like that. He was definitely one of a kind. He was the right man at the right time to get our industry to where it needed to go.
Pat Fitts, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission Director
I think Forrest’s death came as a shock to everyone in Arkansas. He was an icon in this state. Forrest represented what was good and pure about the Natural State. He may be best known for Ranger Boats, but to us at the AGFC we’ll be forever grateful for his efforts to help the state’s trout fisheries. As a commissioner for the AGFC, and continuing for several years after he completed his term, Forrest fought tirelessly to help push legislation allowing minimum flows from dams that create the state’s reservoirs in north Arkansas. The increased flows helps increase fish and spawning habitat as well as temperature control to benefit the trout fisheries in the river sections below the dams. It’s things like this that I think I’ll miss most about Forrest – he was always willing to help.
Colin Moore, Former FLW Editor-in-Chief
From time to time, Forrest and I spoke over the phone about times gone by and people we both knew. The last time I talked with him was the Friday before his fatal heart attack. We covered the usual topics, and he also asked me if I would give him Bob McNally’s phone number. Bob, a well-known outdoor journalist, is the son of the late Tom McNally, longtime outdoor editor of the Chicago Tribune.
The elder McNally went fishing with Forrest when the latter was a guide on the White River, back in the early ’60s, and the two became lifelong friends. At some point, Tom treated his son Bob to a fishing trip on the White River, and Forrest took a number of photos of Bob and his father holding up trout they had caught.
Forrest told me he had been rummaging through his keepsakes and found the prints and intended to mail them to Bob. Instead of simply looking at the photos and tucking them back in their cubbyhole, he wanted Bob to have them, and in his simple fashion let Bob to know that honoring a memory was important to both of them.
That was part of Forrest’s persona. Generosity and thoughtfulness were two facets of his personality. He never forgot a friend, whether it was a neighbor down the road or someone in the halls of the mighty. And he treated everyone with dignity and respect. He was like a mirror in that way. What he gave, he got back from the people who loved and admired him.
Ken Reeves, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission Chairman
The impact Forrest had on the fishing and boating industries was unequalled by anyone who came before him, or thereafter. He set the standard by which all such endeavors have since been measured. He was also one of the finest Commissioners to ever serve on the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. More importantly, he set the standard for others to emulate as a devoted husband, father, grandfather and friend. I am proud and blessed to have known this good man and to have been his friend.
George Cochran, Professional Angler
I’ve known Forrest for probably 40 years. After I went to my first Bassmaster Classic, Forrest and Nina told me they wanted to sponsor me, and I was so excited because they were the best boat company. From that day on for 40 years I was good friends with Forrest and Nina.
Probably Forrest is the nicest gentleman I’ve ever met. He was always just perfect. I never heard him cuss. He liked everybody. You’d never have known he had 10 cents in this pocket.
We’d go to these big tournaments, and he would be in the Ranger booth, and he would sign autographs. And there’d be 50 people in line. And there’d be big-name fishing pros there, and they never had lines like that. It didn’t matter who they were. He would sit there all day long, and he would take time for every person to talk to them and not rush anything.
One story I can share is about duck hunting. I like to duck hunt. And Forrest didn’t care much about duck hunting, but Keith, his grandson, and my son are really good friends, and Keith loves to duck hunt. So we had Forrest come down and duck hunt with us. We all did really good duck hunting and everything, and me and Forrest took a nap in my hunting cabin. I woke up, and he wasn’t here. He was sitting on the porch looking out at the field with thousands of ducks outside the cabin. I asked Forrest if he’d had a good nap. He said, “I sure did, George. I’ve been out here watching these ducks, and you know they’re just like people: Some are coming, some are going and some of them don’t know what they want to do. They’re just flying in circles over there.”
Now, who would think like that? He was thinking all the time. I got a big kick out of him. He was special for me. He did so much for me and my family over the 30-some years I was a pro fisherman. I’ve never heard one person in 40 years say one bad thing about Forrest, and you can’t say that about many people. Everybody loved him, and he’s an icon. Wherever I went, all over the world – and I’ve been to Japan and all over – everybody knew who Forrest Wood was. It’s a sad day for me. He’s special, I’ll tell you that. He’ll be well missed.
Glenn Hughes, American Sportfishing Association President
Forrest Wood is due exceptional credit for how his innovations in bass boats contributed to bass fishing’s growth over the decades. Our members and millions of our nation’s bass anglers have Mr. Wood to thank for helping elevate bass fishing to the high-profile sport it is today. He is one of recreational fishing’s genuine icons whose legacy will live on.
Chris Jones, Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit Emcee
During one conversation I had with Forrest I asked him about farming. I said, “I know you love farming more than you love building boats. What is it about farming you like so much?” I’ll never forget this answer. It was really, really good.
He said: “People don’t realize that farming is the hardest work in the world, and you really have to have a lot of good qualities to do it. You have to be dedicated. It takes a lot of sacrificing, a lot of overseeing and management. So it builds honesty, a strong work ethic and integrity. You just value things. You value your life more. Plus, you know what? You’re with Mother Nature every day. Where are you going to get any closer to God? Farming has made me the man I am today.”
I never forgot him saying that. Gosh, his image is iconic and legendary in our sport. It’s amazing how humble he was. From a humility standpoint, there’s not a better person or a better role model. I really think I learned a lot from that conversation, because it taught me his humility is honest. It’s not fake. He genuinely is a good man who appreciates people. He sealed his deals with a handshake instead of a contract, and I always appreciated that. He was just a special man in that way.
He’d always tell me when I’d start talking to him, “Sit down. You’re making me nervous. You want to talk to me you’ve got to make some time.” Those kinds of things are really the way we should be with our priorities. We should make time for people. I just learned so much from being around him. I’m definitely going to miss him.