Done deal, let's go to work

Forrest Wood and Jerry McKinnis

Time for some new information on this site. I'm getting tired of that same old story up there. In fact, I have an interesting tale to bring you this go around. One that for me, is very timely.

Arkansas has a great Sports Hall of Fame that inducts several new sports figures each year. This is a Sports Hall of Fame not an Outdoor Hall of Fame. Arkansans from Bear Bryant to Brooks Robinson are members; and about 3 years ago, the first representative from the outdoors was honored. It was me. I made it in along with Torii Hunter and Tommy Tuberville.

I'm not saying that to boast. I'm say it because it's a big part of the ironic story I'm leading you into.

Recently it was announced in the Arkansas Democrat that the incoming Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame group included Cliff Lee and Forrest Wood. Yes, our Forrest Wood — Ranger boat founder and legendary angler.

Now we have two outdoor figures as part of the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame, which is made up primarily of coaches and stick and ball athletes. I'm very proud, not only because of the honor, but because of whom I stand next to. For you to appreciate it, I have to tell you, as Paul Harvey would say, "the rest of the story."

I'm betting that most of you aren't 55 years old yet. If I'm right, then I can say that this next thing happened before you were even born and it took place on the fabulous White River in north Arkansas.

You see, living in Missouri, I had saved up $20 and made arrangements for a float trip down the White River to trout fish. I showed up at a river dock just below Bull Shoals Dam and walked down the ramp and into possibly the most important moment of my life.

You see, there was this tall skinny guy waiting at the end of that ramp that asked if I was Jerry. When I answered yes, he said, "Well, good. I'll be your guide today. My name is Forrest Wood."

I'll always wonder what my life would have been like if he had been Bob Fergerson — Joe Whitehall, or whatever. But it was Forrest Wood. And before the trip was over, I had mentally moved to Marion County, Ark. Physically, it took another month.

Fast forward a few years and now, with the help of Forrest and several other Bull Shoals Lake and White River guides, I have become a pretty good guide myself and can now handle myself around the north Arkansas waters.

However, things aren't going so great for either of us financially, and we're sitting under the bridge in Cotter waiting for a pick-up after a float trip.

"Forrest, I'm about to starve to death." I said, "I'm going to move to Little Rock and look into running a boat dock outside of that town." Maybe those weren't the exact words, but it was along those lines. Forrest was wanting a change himself; and having already made some fiberglass river boats, he thought he might take a crack at a bass boat.

I actually hung around for the first dozen or so boats that were built in the back of a gas station in Flippin.

Forrest and I took some of those first boats around the country to show at gatherings. Just think about this ... We were hauling a boat behind our vehicle that no fisherman had ever seen before! We were told by boat dealers that it would never sell.

Fortunately, they were telling that to two of the most bullheaded guys around.

I finally took off for Little Rock and ran right smack dab into the television business. Forrest kept working with fiberglass and ran smack dab into the Ranger Boat business.

Now fast forward to the mid-'90s: My production company is covering a new tournament series for ESPN. Charlie Hoover, who is with Ranger Boats, is talking about a name for this new circuit. We wondered about naming it after Forrest and calling it the FLW tour. We get his approval and away we go.

Folks, I'm laying down some history on you today.

Five years down the line and now Forrest is gone from Ranger but his name stays with the FLW tour and they leave ESPN. This is bad for me because I'm entrenched with ESPN and can't leave with them. It does work out alright for my group as ESPN buys B.A.S.S. and plops the television production right into my lap ... Are you following me folks?

So, that's how things have been for the past 10 years, and lots of people thought that Forrest and I turned into competitors. No way — not in your wildest dreams. We talk, we do things together, we communicate and that thought never ever entered our minds.

As you all surely know, some four or five months ago ESPN talked to me about purchasing B.A.S.S. I agreed to sign papers that said I'd keep quiet until the deal was over. Well, I did a good job and told only one person. I mean, how was I going to get involved in such an undertaking and not talk to Forrest Wood about it.

So, I get him on the phone and say I have something important to run by him and could he meet me for lunch at the café in Flippin. After many years in Little Rock, I built my home back up on the White River and I'm just 15 minutes from Flippin and the café.

Forrest is up for lunch, but suggests we pick up some bread and lunch meat and talk down on the river bank if this is so important. I agree, he picks up the groceries, we meet and he approves.

If you'll remember, the last time I wrote on this blog I told you I wouldn't write anymore until the deal with ESPN/B.A.S.S was completed. Well, thank goodness Forrest Wood approved back at the beginning because after all these months — the deal is complete.

Tomorrow morning, Don Logan, Jim Copeland and Jerry McKinnis will start running B.A.S.S. with all our heart and soul.

The Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame normally draws a tremendous crowd. When Forrest Wood is introduced, I promise you I will cry because I know the "rest of the story."

Now bass fishermen, let's go to work.

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