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Rayo Franklin Breckenridge

Rayo Franklin Breckenridge was born in 1928 in Beech Grove, Arkansas. After marrying his high school sweetheart, Marilyn Taylor, he settled down and began a successful 20 year career as a farmer. His days were spent farming cotton, soybeans, and rice….and in 1962 he and Marilyn became parents to their son Joey Franklin Breckenridge.

Rayo’s hobbies, outside of his family, were hunting and fishing the lakes, rivers and woods of Northeast Arkansas. Known as much for his hunting skills, Rayo spent many hours enjoying the outdoors…and in the late 1960’s, he became a member of a local bass club and soon after, Bass Anglers Sportsman Society.  He began fishing the local tournaments and within a short time was recognized as someone who had a skill that eclipsed the average weekend fisherman. In 1971 he won the annual Lake Norfork Bass Club “High-Point” Award, and along with a trophy came a paid entry fee into a BASS National tournament. He fished the 1972 Arkansas National on Lake Ouachita and finished 35th out of over 250 fishermen.

The following year…Rayo, with the blessing of Marilyn, parked the tractor and followed a dream of fishing the BASS National Circuit. Professional bass fishing was still in its infancy, and both he and Marilyn knew there were no guarantees. Six months after the first national tournament of the 1974 season, he was ranked number 14 nationally, and a qualifier for the third Bass Masters Classic. And on a sunny day in late October at Clark Hill, South Carolina…with Marilyn beside him, he was presented the 1973 Miller High Life Bass Masters Classic World Championship trophy.

In January of 1974, his weekly television show started on KAIT-TV in Jonesboro, Arkansas. It ran regionally until 1979 and went nationwide and aired until Rayo’s retirement in 1985. Over that span, Rayo cemented his place among the pioneers of the sport of professional fishing. During his career, Rayo qualified for 6 Bass Masters Classics, and had over 50 top-20 finishes in professional tournaments. Known as “the Gentleman’s Gentleman”, Rayo was known as much for his humble good nature as he was for his skills on the water. He spent countless hours at schools educating the next generation on the opportunities, and responsibilities…that we all share in regards to wildlife and conservation. Even as his health began to falter, he never turned down an opportunity to speak to groups on issues of conservation and often made guest appearances at MDA, Cystic Fibrosis, and various charity tournaments across the country.

Rayo passed away on Christmas in 1995, and was posthumously inducted into the Arkansas Outdoor Sports Hall of Fame in 1998. He is survived by his son Joey Breckenridge, and his grandchildren Ashley Breckenridge-Campos and Jeff Franklin Breckenridge.