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The bass fishing, boating and business communities were stunned on April 10 by the murder/suicide of Irwin Jacobs and Alexandra Jacobs in Minnesota.

Jacobs, 77, was chairman of Fishing League Worldwide, a major bass fishing tournament organization that has deep roots in Arkansas.

Until 2018, the FLW Tour held its only regular stop on Beaver Lake to honor its longtime partnership with Walmart.

The Forrest Wood Cup, the championship tournament for FLW's various circuits, will be held in Hot Springs Aug. 9-11 on Lake Ouachita. Hot Springs also hosted the Forrest Wood Cup in 2018, 2015, 2011, 2007 and 2005, more than any other city.

Jacobs was also president of Genmar Holdings, formerly the world's largest boat-building company. Ranger, based in Flippin, was one of its premier brands and FLW's signature brand.

Fueled by major partnerships with Walmart, General Motors, BP and the National Guard, Jacobs modernized professional bass fishing and helped it gain respect as a legitimate sport. Previously, bass fishing was a niche sport populated almost entirely by southern anglers competing for small purses that were funded primarily by boat and tackle manufacturers.

In the 1990s, Jacobs and ESPN remolded bass fishing's image closer to NASCAR's model, with boats and anglers wrapped in corporate colors and logos. FLW also created a fantasy fishing league.

FLW dramatically increased tournament purses, with champions customarily winning $125,000.

The Forrest Wood Cup paid $500,000 to its winner for several years, increasing it to $1 million in 2007-08. Scott Suggs of Bryant won the $1 million prize in 2007 on Lake Ouachita.

FLW lost momentum in 2009 when Genmar Holdings declared bankruptcy. The prize for winning the Forrest Wood Cup fell from $1 million in 2008 to $500,000 in 2009-15, to $300,000 in 2016.

In 2010, PBH Marine Group bought Ranger and Stratos. In 2014, Bass Pro Group acquired Ranger, Stratos and Triton, consolidating market share in the competitive bass boat industry.

Walmart suspended its FLW sponsorship in 2010, renewed it in 2011, and then curtailed it dramatically in 2017. Still, FLW remained popular.

On April 10, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported that the bodies of Irwin Jacobs and Alexandra Jacobs were found in their bed, having sustained multiple gunshot wounds. A handgun was found in the bed as well.

Law enforcement authorities said that Jacobs killed his wife and then killed himself. They had been married for 57 years and had five children. Sources said that Jacobs was distraught over his wife's failing health.

I met Jacobs several times at Forrest Wood Cups. Our interactions were brief but friendly. He had a profound effect on professional bass fishing in Arkansas and made it possible for a lot of Arkansas anglers to pursue their dreams.

We wish the Jacobs family peace.

Canoe school

On May 3-5, paddlers from around the region will attend the Arkansas Canoe Club School of Whitewater Paddling at Turner Bend Campground on the Mulberry River near Cass in Franklin County.

Dozens of nationally certified instructors will teach whitewater kayaking, whitewater canoeing, swift-water rescue and standup paddle boarding. The event is expected to attract more than 120 students, more than 60 volunteers and about 200 other Canoe Club members and guests.

The school will begin May 3 with optional mini clinics and a CPR class, followed by social activities that will begin at 7 p.m.

Saturday and Sunday will be busy with 20 separate classes that will be taught by expert instructors. Participants will learn paddling technique, maneuvers and safe paddling best practices on the scenic and challenging Mulberry River.

Saturday evening festivities include a catfish fry, bluegrass music by the Little Buffalo River Band, the Arkansas Canoe Club's General Board Meeting and a late-night bonfire.

Established in 1975, the Arkansas Canoe Club has more than 1,500 members representing more than 800 households. It is one of the most prominent outdoor recreation clubs in the Mid-South and is one of the most active paddling clubs in America.

For more information on the Arkansas Canoe Club, visit ArkansasCanoeClub.com or visit the Arkansas Canoe Club's Facebook page.

Sports on 04/21/2019

Print Headline: Jacobs had profound effect on bass fishing in state

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