He bears an uncanny resemblance to Ernest Borgnine, could give Robin Williams a run for his money in the laughs department and he knows how to put fish in the boat.
No wonder, then, that longtime Rainy Lake fishing guide Barry "Woody" Woods, 53, of Ranier, Minn., is one of three anglers scheduled to be inducted into the 2014 Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame in Hayward, Wis. Joining him are outdoors TV host Butch Furtman of Duluth and Roger LePenter, a fishing guide and tackle shop owner in Ashland, Wis.
I've had the privilege of fishing with two other Hall of Fame anglers in Northland Tackle founders John Peterson and Duane Peterson of Bemidji, who were inducted last winter, and Woody's induction will expand the list to three.
As proprietor of Woody's Rainy Lake Resort -- which straddles the border between Minnesota and Canada -- and Woody's "Fairly Reliable" Guide Service with his wife, LeeAnne, Woody is a true Northwoods character in the very best sense of the definition.
His quick wit and seemingly endless bank of one-liners have made him a favorite among outdoor writers and TV fishing show hosts across the region, and he was featured nationally on CBS News' "Travels with Harry Smith" several years ago.
I found the clip on YouTube, and it's still funny as ever.
"There's no pressure on 'Fairly Reliable,'" Woody said to Smith, explaining how he came up with the name for his guide service. "I got the best insurance in the game. You can't buy insurance like this."
Smith asked Woody if he'd ever had a customer who wanted his money back.
"Not after I've gotten it," he replied with a laugh.
I caught up with Woody earlier this week to congratulate him on his upcoming Hall of Fame induction.
"It was quite a surprise and quite an honor," he said. "They must have been bored or something."
With Woody on the agenda, the Hall of Fame induction ceremony will be anything but boring.
"For lack of a better word, I like guiding," said Woody, who's been guiding 40-plus years. "There are some rough days out there, but it's not so much the fishing as it is (BSing) with people.
"Fishing is just a small part of it."
There've been several highlights in the times I've been lucky enough to fish with Woody, but one of my favorites occurred one cold night in February 2001, when Woody and I crossed the international border at Fort Frances, Ont., so I could buy an Ontario fishing license.
We were headed into Canadian waters by snowmobile to fish lake trout the next day.
Woody was driving an old Jeep or maybe an International Scout, if I remember correctly, and the accelerator stuck shortly before he pulled up to the border to cross back into Minnesota at International Falls.
The engine sounded like it was going to fly out of the hood, and the border agent, seeing who was driving, just rolled his eyes and waved us on.
I don't remember how he got the accelerator unstuck, but it was a classic Woody moment and we made it back to Ranier unscathed.
Best of all, though, are the one-liners for which Woody is famous. Looking back through the archives here are a few from my stories:
-- Describing a fishy looking lake trout spot:
"This spot is so good the fish don't even know about it."
-- His advice while frying up a pan of bacon for the bacon-and-onion sandwiches that would serve as the appetizer for his walleye shore lunch on a Rainy Lake island:
"This is to be done in the woods only. Don't try this at home."
-- Opining on why the walleye is such a popular quarry among anglers:
"They're easy to clean. ... The walleye is so popular because it's kind of like the banana of fish. You just peel it and you eat it."
It's always encouraging when good things happen to good people, and Woody's induction into the Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame is a perfect example.
So, congrats Woody. It's well-deserved.
(c)2013 Grand Forks Herald (Grand Forks, N.D.)
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