Forrest L. Wood, known internationally as the “father of the modern bass boat,” has died. With his wife, Nina, beside him, the two founded Wood Manufacturing Co. Inc. in Flippin in 1968 to manufacture Ranger Boats.
Wood was born in 1932 in Marion County. He married fellow Marion County native Nina Kirkland in 1951. The couple began operating a fishing guide and float trip service in the last 1950s.
Wood was also commissioner emeritus of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. He was widely recognized for his contributions to conservation causes and has been inducted into five sport-related halls of Fame.
The Bass Fishing Hall of Fame notes growing up in a small North Central Arkansas town taught Wood traits that helped him influence millions of people during his career – hard work, honesty, pride in workmanship and integrity.
In the mid 1960s, before professional bass fishing began, he made his living in a couple of different ways. First, he was a successful trout guide on the White River. So successful, he employed several anglers to help him cover the demands he received for his services. His wife and four daughters helped by preparing lunches for his clients. Lunches that included fried chicken became almost as famous as did the guide himself.
In addition to guiding, he worked as a building contractor in the winter, when it was too cold to fish. It was a successful business that almost didn’t allow him time to fish when the weather warmed. As luck would have it, there were more people who wanted to fish, than to have homes built.
In order to keep the good guides who worked for him in the summer busy in the winter, he started a small boat repair business on the side. A small business that turned into one of the most well-known bass boat companies in the world.
Ranger Boats, as he would call the company, may have come from humble beginnings, but, his wife and partner of over 60 years enabled him to see what bass fishing could, and would, become one day. This vision helped Ranger grow into the largest employer in Marion County. He used the name Ranger Boats in honor of the Army Rangers and the Texas Rangers.
Wood was also an accomplished professional angler. He competed on the B.A.S.S. circuit for many years, even qualifying for two Bassmaster Classics, and he won the New York Invitational B.A.S.S. tournament on the St. Lawrence River in 1979.
Funeral arrangements for Forrest Wood are pending.