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Industry mourns the loss of Ranger Boats founder

The recreational boating industry is mourning the loss of an industry icon.

Ranger Boats founder Forrest L. Wood, died on Jan. 25 following a brief illness. He was 87 years old.

Keith Daffron, Wood’s oldest grandson said Wood passed away “peacefully, with his family by his side.” Daffron also expressed gratitude on behalf of the family to the team at Baxter Regional Medical Center and the many friends who have provided comfort during this time in a Facebook post announcing Wood’s passing.

Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson called Wood’s death “a deeply sad moment for our entire state,” in a statement released the day of wood’s passing.

“Forrest embodied the best of Arkansas. He was an entrepreneur who brought thousands of jobs to Northern Arkansas with his founding of Ranger Boats,” Hutchinson said. “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."

After building a custom boat in 1968, Forrest Wood quickly became known as the father and inventor of the bass boat. Tasking himself to create a boat designed solely with the fisherman in mind, Wood brought forward the trusted Ranger boat, named in honor of the Texas Rangers and the U.S. Army Rangers.

While operating a fishing guide service with his wife, Wood discovered that he could increase the durability of his wooden Jon boat by stretching sheets of fiberglass cloth over the bottom and laminating them with resin. As word of his design traveled, Wood’s friends began to ask for fiberglass-protected boats of their own.

Wood built his first group of boats near a service station in downtown Flippin, Ark.

Over the years, Wood continued tweaking his design after receiving input from anglers around the country. Through his design, Wood implemented a number of bass-boat manufacturing milestones including the use of steel conduit to encase electrical wiring, the now Coast Guard-required level flotation, the use of high-power engines and aerated live wells.

Wood showed the industry perseverance after a fire destroyed most of the Wood Manufacturing facility. Despite losing almost everything, Wood pushed his workforce forward and had the company back in full operation in 40 days.

On top of changing the design of the modern fishing boat, Wood made his mark on the industry and sport through his efforts in conservation programs and promotion for fishing around the country.

Wood is survived by his wife, Nina, and four daughters.

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