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COTTON FARMER PUTS DOWN PLOW TO PICK UP A CLASSIC WIN


He was the quiet Arkansas angler. Fellow Arkansan Bobby Murray had made the big splash two years earlier, forever being known as the winner of the first Bassmaster Classic. By 1973, the Classic had become the premier fishing event Ray Scott had intended, but this time the winner was an unknown farmer from Paragould, AR who had taken out a loan and quit farming for a year to see if he could compete as a professional bass fisherman. For bass fishermen, Rayo Breckenridge winning the Classic in achieved the American Dream. He went from tilling the land to winning the Bassmaster Classic his first year on the Tour. Like many Arkansas farm boys, he had grown up hunting and fishing. Once he decided to try his hand at pro fishing, Rayo fished four events and qualified for the ’73 Classic at the Clarks Hill Reservoir on the GA–SC border, an event he went on to win by over 4 lbs. against Bill Dance. The winner's check helped his wife Marilyn, who suffered from diabetes, have surgery on her eyes to avoid blindness.

After marrying his high school sweetheart, he settled down and began a successful 20-year career as a cotton farmer. In the late 1960s, he joined a local bass club and fished local events with modest success. In 1971 he won the annual Lake Norfork Bass Club “High-Point” Award, earning him a paid entry fee into the B.A.S.S. 1972 Arkansas National on Lake Ouachita where he finished 35th out of over 250 fishermen. Inspired by this experience, he parked the tractor and

followed his dream of fishing the B.A.S.S. National Circuit. The rest is, as they say, history. His new found fame created the opportunity to start Rayo Breckenridge Outdoors, a small locally televised show that rose to national status, airing until 1985.

Fellow anglers considered him a “gentleman’s gentleman” who never had a bad word about anyone. He continued to fish the Bassmaster Tour until 1981, when he quit to be with his ailing wife. During his pro career, he fished 62 events, with 16 top 20's 16 times, 7 top 10's, two 2nd-place finishes and a Classic win- an event for which he qualified six times. Even as his health began to falter, he never turned down an opportunity to speak to groups on issues of conservation and often fished charity tournaments. Rayo was posthumously inducted into the Arkansas Outdoor Sports Hall of Fame in 1998, The Legends of the Outdoors National Hall of Fame in 2012, and the Bass Fishing Hall of Fame in 2014.

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