Obit: Forrest L. Wood, Founder of Ranger Boats

Forrest L. Wood of Arkansas, founder of Ranger Boats and unarguably one of the most impactful men in the fishing industry, died Jan. 25 after a brief illness. He was 87.

Obit: Forrest L. Wood, Founder of Ranger Boats

Forrest L. Wood, founder of Ranger Boats, died Jan. 25, 2020, after a brief illness. (Photo: FLW Fishing)

Forrest L. Wood of Arkansas, founder of Ranger Boats and unarguably one of the most impactful men in the fishing industry, died Jan. 25 after a brief illness. He was 87.

Wood started Ranger Boats in Flippin, Arkansas, in 1968, about the time that Ray Scott created the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society for tournament anglers. The combination of better boats, improved outboard motors and stricter rules for bass tournaments helped Ranger Boats grow at a rapid pace. 

Wood is survived by his wife of 68 years, Nina, and other family. He was hospitalized for several days with an undisclosed illness.

According to the Encyclopedia of Arkansas, Wood wanted a better boat for his guiding and fishing on the White River in north-central Arkansas. He began adding sheets of fiberglass to wooden flatbottom boats, and then began modifying the designs. In 1968 he created six boats and named his company Ranger Boats in honor of the Army Rangers and Texas Rangers.

As word spread, Wood's boats were used by guides as well as tournament and recreational anglers. In 1972 Ranger Boats became "the official boat of the Bassmaster Classic," a long association that helped B.A.S.S. and Ranger Boats explosive growth over the next 25 years.

In 1991, Irwin Jacobs's company, Genmar Holdings, purchased Ranger Boats and rebranded its bass tournaments the FLW Tour in honor of Wood. Ranger Boat and the FLW Tour continued to grow as it competed with B.A.S.S. and provided more anglers opportunities for competitive events and recreational fishing.

FLW Fishing posted a statement on its website about Wood's death:

Forrest and Nina are best known as the founders of Ranger Boats, but their role in the formation of the tournament fishing industry extends well beyond building bass boats. They supported every tournament organization in the fledgling years and backed professional anglers across the continent. Their hard work and dedication were intrinsic to the success of the sport.

When FLW was launched in 1996, Irwin Jacobs asked Forrest if he’d be willing to lend his initials to the organization, as Forrest represented the ideals that Jacobs had in mind for FLW: honor, class, integrity. Gracefully, Forrest accepted.

But Forrest was more than just a figurehead to all of us at FLW. He and Nina are family. He will be greatly missed by everyone in our organization.

“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.”

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson also remembered Wood in a statement:

“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.”

Wood served on the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission from 1998 to 2005. He is a member of the Professional Bass Fishing Hall of Fame, National Freshwater 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  Arkansas Business Hall of Fame.

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