Missouri fishing expert dies at 93

Virgil Ward was a member of two fishing halls of fame.
Wednesday, September 15, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 3:05 a.m. CDT, Friday, July 18, 2008

Virgil Ward, who started making fishing lures as a side business and became one of the nation’s best-known fishermen through his syndicated television show, has died at 93.

Ward died Monday of cancer at his home in Amsterdam, said his daughter, Barbara Ward.

Ward won a number of national and world fishing championships and received the Dolphin Award, the highest award in sports fishing. He was a member of both the National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame and the International Fishing Hall of Fame.

“Virgil was one of the best fishermen in the country, and I’ve fished with a lot of them,” said Frank Fensom, who had worked for Ward and owned a sporting goods store in Raytown. “He was honest and he didn’t exaggerate. He just went out and backed up what he said.”

Ward started a plumbing shop in Amsterdam, located south of Kansas City, in 1950, and added an appliance business to supplement it.

He and his son Bill then started up the Bass Buster Lure Co. in the back of the shop, patenting several fishing lure guards and jigs. They eventually sold the company to Johnson Fishing, now Johnson Worldwide Associates.

Ward began hosting a radio show that was broadcast on more than 200 stations and he also wrote a widely used newspaper column on fishing. His television show, “The Virgil Ward Championship Fishing Show,” began in 1964 and was syndicated to stations throughout the country.

Ward filmed fishing trips throughout the United States and in other countries, and was often joined by celebrity guests.

His daughter said he stopped doing the show about 10 years ago when he was first diagnosed with cancer. She said he went out for the last time on a lake behind his home a few weeks ago.

“He was just a really good fisherman,” Barbara Ward said.

Ward and his wife, Cleda, observed their 70th anniversary last December. She survives, along with the daughters Barbara, of Amsterdam; Sandy Curnutte, of Drexel; and Karen Brown, of Appleton City; son Bill, of Warsaw; and nine grandchildren.

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