Thirty-nine years ago, Bill Dance became the very first Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year. To be exact, it was November 6, 1970.
In an almost unfair fashion, the majority of Bill Dance's famed recognition comes from his long running success as a TV fishing celebrity. "An outdoor writer told me one time, 'gosh Bill, you've been on TV longer than Gunsmoke,'" laughed Dance.
Funny but true – "Gunsmoke" aired for twenty years. Dance’s TV career spans close to 40 years. When he won the 1970 Angler of the Year title he was already into TV, airing shows in local markets from Memphis to Baton Rouge.
Sadly lost however, especially among younger anglers, is the fact that Dance was one of the most consistently dominant pro tournament anglers in the history of competitive bass fishing.
Statistics prove his greatness. He is one of only four men to win three or more Bassmaster Angler of the Year titles. Mark Davis, Roland Martin and Kevin VanDam are the others.
So other than fishing, what was Dance doing 39 years ago? "I was working for legendary lure manufacturer Cotton Cordell back then. I went to all the retail stores promoting our brand of lures and then one day Cotton told me he wanted to do a TV fishing show and have me host it. I told him that would be like putting perfume on a pig. And Cordell replied, 'well then spray away Bill because that's what we're gonna do.'" With his TV career ablaze, Dance stopped fishing competitively in 1980.
Dance is 69 years old now and life isn't a lot different today than it was 39 years ago. Two things dominate the landscape of weekly life for Bill – filming TV fishing shows and simply going fishing.
He estimates that he fishes about five days a week, a number that's very believable considering he films 44 original shows a year: 26 freshwater shows, and 18 saltwater shows.
And what will Dance be doing on Friday November 6, 2009 – the exact 39th anniversary date of his winning the first ever Bassmaster Angler of the Year title? Filming a TV fishing show of course. "We've got to film a crappie show tomorrow, we'll be using Quantum spinning reels and Lindy tube jigs on a lake here in West Tennessee," said the original Bassmaster Angler of the Year.