Let’s Look Back – Part 22

Few men have had a bigger impact on the world of professional bass fishing than my friend Forrest Wood.  He's also a darn good fisherman himself.  Here he's rigs a bait I got to watch him use once while we were both taking a little time away from attending a Bassmasters Classic. Photo Stan Fagerstrom.

Few men have had a bigger impact on the world of professional bass fishing than my friend Forrest Wood. He’s also a darn good fisherman himself. Here he rigs a bait I got to watch him use once while we were both taking a little time away from attending a Bassmasters Classic. Photo Stan Fagerstrom.

I started writing about bass fishing a couple of weeks after the Pilgrims found that big rock in the eastern part of the country.

Well, maybe it hasn’t been quite that long but sometimes it feels like it.  My first newspaper fishing columns were written in 1946.  That’s 68 years ago if my Scandinavian arithmetic is reasonably close to being correct.

Write columns for newspapers, do features for magazines and eventually the Internet, plus giving casting exhibitions all over the place for almost the same length of time has brought unexpected bonuses from time to time.

If I’ve learned anything worth mentioning since I started casting or punching keys of one kind or another, it’s this: Eventually, darn near everything of much significance, simply boils down to people.

The country of New Zealand provides a prime example of what I’m talking about.  If you’ve had the good fortune to be there you’re aware it’s a beautiful land that’s richly blessed by nature from its mountains to its seas.

The Ranger Boats you see here were lined up for the use of Bassmasters Classic contenders.  This was was a common sight at the Bassmasters Classic for many, many years. Photo Stan Fagertrom.

The Ranger Boats you see here were lined up for the use of Bassmasters Classic contenders. This was was a common sight at the Bassmasters Classic for many, many years. Photo Stan Fagertrom.

But that’s not what I have in mind.  A beautiful land is great to have but it’s those Kiwi folks I’ve gotten to know in spending a good bit of time there that really make it something special.  Ask someone you know who has also been there for awhile and I’ll bet they will agree.

Look at it this way: If you and I get to climb the Golden Stairs one day, what’s it going to be like once we get there?  Certainly it’s going to be beautiful, but what if when the Golden Gate swings open and the angel in charge turns out to be a big grouch?  Are you still gonna be glad you came?

So why do I get into this sort of thing in this “Let’s Look Back” column?  It’s simply because having had a chance to get so deeply involved in a sport I love so very much has also put me in close touch with some of the finest men and women to ever wrap their fingers around a fishing rod.

If you were in attendance when they took me into the Bass Fishing Hall of Fame back in 2007 you heard me mention some of these people when my award was presented.  I’ll be sharing some of those names I mentioned in this and future “Let’s Look Back” columns.

It’s something I’ve been thinking about ever since the founder of this site asked me if I’d consider doing columns on a regular basis for him.  My thoughts about having agreed to do so were boosted when the phone in my office range not long ago.

“Stan,” the man on the phone said, “this is Forrest Wood.  Got time to visit with me for a bit?”

I had to swallow a couple of times before I got around to responding.  Why?  It was because all the bells and whistles left in this old Swede’s head were blasting away as if it were New Year’s Eve.

If ever I’ve had opportunity to “Look Back” as the title of my columns here are titled – Forrest’s call provided it.  I probably hadn’t seen Forrest for 15 to 20 years when that call came.  But here he was still remembering me and wanting to recall some of the past times we’d shared.

Early on Forrest Wood and his wife, Nina, were both often in attendance at Bassmasters Classics.  I shot this picture of them just after they came off the airliner that had brought the contenders as well as invited media reps to attend the event.  In those early Classic days neither the contestants nor the media reps knew where they were headed until their plane had reached cruising altitude.

Early on Forrest Wood and his wife, Nina, were both often in attendance at Bassmasters Classics. I shot this picture of them just after they came off the airliner that had brought the contenders as well as invited media reps to attend the event. In those early Classic days neither the contestants nor the media reps knew where they were headed until their plane had reached cruising altitude.

I had, you see, been there when Forrest first connected with the Bass Anglers Society.  Over the years that followed I’d gotten to know the man.  If there’s any meaning to what I’ve already said about everything eventually coming down to people – my friend Forrest provides the perfect example.

I’ve told about mentioning some of the men I’m so proud to call “friends” at the 2007 Bass Fishing Hall of Fame banquet.  Had you been in the audience that evening, you’d have heard me share something else with regard to Forrest Wood.

I spent almost two years in an infantry rifle company fighting in the jungles of the South Pacific from New Guinea to the Philippines during World War II.  I saw, heard and experienced some things out there then that I can’t put into words.  But this I know: Never was there a time when trust, courage and leadership were more required.  Often those things, or a lack of them, made the difference between life and death.

I mention this because after I’d named Forrest Wood having done so much for bass and bass fishing at the Hall of Fame banquet, I said something else.  It’s why I mention my World War II service now.

What I told those in attendance that evening was this: “If I was to have to go back out there in the jungles to fight again under the same circumstances as before, I’d welcome having Forrest Wood as my company commander.”

If that doesn’t sum up my respect for the man, I don’t know what will.  I felt blessed just to have had a chance to say it.

And that’s just one of my memories where Forrest is concerned.  There are numerous others.  I’ll share the details of a couple more that have special pages in my memory book in next month’s “Let’s Look Back” column.

You’ll find it right here on or about April 1.

  • Tom Shockley

    Stan, my friend, what an awesome story only a prolific “Key-pounder” such as you can paint a picture with mere words. Knowing you, Forrest and having been a combat Marine in Vietnam during the “Hell days” of 66-68, must say, gave me chili-bumps.
    From the bottom of my heart and form sand dunes of Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates I bid you Semper Fi my friend.
    Tom Shockley

  • Stan Fagerstrom

    Thank you, Tom. Your comments are most meaningful to me. Incidentally, my best buddy from World War 11 had been with Carlson’s First Raider battalion through all of those uncertain early days out there in the South Pacific. He’s gone now. I miss the hell out of him. Always will. Thanks again.
    Stan