Fishing Industry Legend Forrest Wood Passes Away at 87

MOUNTAIN HOME, Ark. — Forrest L. Wood, the founder of Ranger Boats and former namesake of FLW, passed away on January 24, 2020. He was 87 years old.Wood is survived by his wife, Nina, and four daughters.

“Forrest was my friend for over 50 years,” tells Bill Dance. Dance, the outdoor television icon, says he was paired with Wood in a handful of tournaments over the years, but often fished events where they were both in the field. “I loved Forrest. He raised a great family and built a great boat. And I tell you, Forrest Wood never had an enemy. He was the same, good man, every time you saw him.”

Wood was an outstanding angler. He qualified for the second Bassmaster Classic in 1972 and again in 1979, won a B.A.S.S. Invitational tournament in 1979, and his achievements earned him a place in the National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame, Professional Bass Fishing Hall of Fame, International Boating Hall of Fame, National Marine Manufacturers Hall of Fame, Legends of the Outdoors Hall of Fame, Arkansas Game and Fish Hall of Fame, Arkansas Walk of Fame, and the Arkansas Business Hall of Fame.

The savvy businessman began his career in the fishing industry as a part-time guide in Arkansas. There, he’d ferry fishermen to his favorite haunts in between shifts at a construction business and cattle farm. By the late 1960s, Wood had founded Ranger Boats and began building what many consider to be the first modern bass boats.

“I can think back on a lot of memories,” continues Dance. “Forrest and I used to follow each other back home at night after tournaments because he wanted to get home to Nina and I wanted to get home to Diane. If we were in the southwest, I’d follow him to Little Rock and go on to Memphis. If we were in the southeast, he’d follow me to Memphis and head home to Flippin.”

The two were steadfast friends, recounts Dance. “One night, we got arrested for speeding in Union Springs, Alabama, at about 10:00. They took us to the courthouse, and the judge came down to the jail in a bathrobe and slippers. I’ve got a million stories like that about Forrest, comical events that would happen to he and I or with Nina and Diane, but I can tell you…I had a heart attack a year ago, and I’ve still got a picture of me in that hospital bed with Forrest holding my hand. He was a gentle giant.”

Dance says he and Wood recently reunited for what was supposed to be a quick lunch in Arkansas. “Our quick lunch lasted three hours. I’m so glad we got together.”

Wood was a titan of the fishing world, one with few peers who always treated others with respect.

“Forrest Wood’s legacy and impact across every facet of our sport is indisputable,”says Kathy Fennel, FLW Executive Vice President and General Manager. “FLW is fortunate and honored to call him a friend and the namesake of our company. We join the rest of the fishing world in mourning the passing of this legendary man. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Nina and the entire Wood family during this time.”