I bought my first Ranger bass boat in 1973. I was 20 years old and wanted a Ranger because my fishing idol, Blake Honeycutt, ran one. Blake was a legend in North Carolina where I grew up, and I styled my fishing after him. If he ran a Ranger, well, that was good enough for me.
I knew Rangers were great boats — beautiful, fast, stable — but I had no idea how special the company was or how much I would come to love the brand until three years later, in 1976, when I went to Flippin, Arkansas, to buy my second Ranger and to meet Forrest Wood.
I was still just a kid hoping to make a go of life at a new profession called “bass pro,” but Forrest Wood didn’t treat me like a kid with a crazy dream. The founder of Ranger was friendly and warm, humble and respectful. His boats were already becoming legendary. They were the official boat of the Bassmaster Classic beginning in 1972 and would be so for another 30 years after that. I needed a Ranger boat far more than Ranger could have needed me, but that’s not the way Forrest made me feel that day.
Not too long after that, Forrest invited me to join the Ranger pro staff, and when I started my TV show, I didn’t have to call him for support. He was so gracious that he called me and asked to be involved.