“Luring that fish from his world into mine was life changing,” remembers American outdoors legend Bill Dance when describing earliest fishing memories. It changed his life and many others, like myself, that have followed him since the 1970s.  Bill Dance talks about his greatest influences, proudest accomplishments, getting started into professional fishing, life lessons, self-deprecating bloopers, and much, much more. His incredible wealth of treasured information and gifted storytelling will have you listening hook, line and sinker from the get-go.

Hide Article

Ramsey Russell: Welcome back to Duck Season Somewhere. Today’s guest is an American icon. Hardly needs any introduction. But let me tell you what I’ve dug up. He’s a 3 time B.A.S.S Angler of the Year with 23 National Bass Fishing Titles and 7 B.A.S.S titles. In fact, he caught the first bass ever in B.A.S.S history. Host of a long time TV show originally released in 1968, numbering 900 episodes. We’re talking about none other than today’s guest, Mr. Bill Dance. Mr. Dance, how are you, sir?

Bill Dance: Hey, it’s great to talk to you. I’m doing absolutely wonderful.

Ramsey Russell: Yes. Are you still filming television? I know you’re very busy.

Bill Dance: Yeah, we’re on the Sportsman Channel and the Outdoor Channel and we’ve been running with them for – oh, I don’t know, the last 3 or 4 years. We were in 4 markets with NBC Sports and Discovery, but we found that the Sportsman Channel and the Outdoor Channel a niche.

Ramsey Russell: It’s no end to it. You’re born and raised in Lynchburg, Tennessee. What are your earliest memories of fishing?

Bill Dance: My earliest was probably going with mine, see, I was blessed as a youngster growing up, because I had a daddy and a granddaddy that took me fishing and took me hunting and fishing. But I guess both being doctors, my granddaddy was more of a country doctor in Lynchburg and I spent more time with him. And he taught me so much about anatomy, fish’s anatomy, as far as how fish relate to current, how they position themselves in current, how they hear, how they see. And I learned a tremendous amount from him. And then later, as we fished, I lost him when I was 14. But up until that point, he taught me techniques that I knew from competing in fishing tournaments and techniques I learned from other fishermen. He would mention these techniques and I said, oh, that’s another good one. That’s – I love that, that’s a great technique. And I never let on that I knew more about it than he did. Cause he was primarily a creek fisherman. And occasionally he would go to a bigger body of water, like a pond or a bigger size lake and we would pierce there. But I learned so much about moving water, fishing a little creek over in Moore County, in Lynchburg, on Mulberry Creek. The water was clear, had an abundant of fish in it at that time, with small mouth in it, largemouth in it. We had another little fish that we called a black perch and it was a rock bass. Back then, the creek produced really nice size ones, but I spent so much time waiting up and down Mulberry Creek and sometimes I would want to go further up the creek and I’d stick my foot, I’d run up on the highway and stick my thumb out at pickup trucks because I could throw my rod and stuff in the back and jump in, and they’d carry me 2 or 3 miles up the creek and let me out and I’d start fishing my way back. I learned a lot about moving water and even today, moving water is still one of my favorite ways to fish. In summer months, I spend a lot of time on feeder creeks that feed into the Tennessee river. Over in Hardin County, Tennessee, that’s where Pickwick Lake is. And we would fish the creeks and get dead into the Tennessee river and Pickwick Lake, too. Even as late as last year, I was waiting creeks and we’ve done several shows on it, how to fish the productive areas, what to look for, how to weigh in these creeks and different types of tackle you can use, different type of baits you can use. And it was just beautiful. It was just a beautiful setting because we had limestone bluffs, rock bluffs. We had fast water, we had slow water, we had deep water, we had shallow water. And even today, like I said, I go back to that way of fishing and I really love it. I really do.

Ramsey Russell: Was there ever a time in Mr. Bill Dance’s life that he fished with a cricket and cane poles? That’s how I started.

Reeling in Memories: The Evolution of a Young Angler

And then time changed and action glass came and then fiberglass came and composite came and boron came graphite. And I graduated from that little metal rod, a little 5.5ft metal rod, to better equipment.

Bill Dance: Well, I started – I’m trying to remember. It was probably when I was about 5 or 6 years old. My granddaddy had a bait test in real. And I believe it was either a Shakespeare or a Langley that we would put braided line on. And then I would use a section of catgut, which we call monofilament today. And I put a sinker on them, at the end of it have a sinker on it. I’ll will take the sinker and I’d go out backyard, go out wherever, in the front yard, out in the road. And I’d make casts with that little member rod and that rail. Again I remember when I was about 6 or 7, he purchased a rod for me with a little Shakespeare 1940 model. That was a series, I think, on that reel. And I thought I was something and I had a nice reel. But I made those casts with a steel rod. True temper made a steel rod, but it was flexible enough to throw a bait. And then time changed and action glass came and then fiberglass came and composite came and boron came graphite. And I graduated from that little metal rod, a little 5.5ft metal rod, to better equipment. But I remember I would catch fish in the creek, small, but I would catch my own bait hellgrammite and crawfish. I’d wade the creek, put a seine behind me and just kick up rocks in the bass water areas on the shore areas where crawfish and hellgrammite would float back, put on a pair of my granddaddy’s old shoes and I could slip my tennis shoes right in those shoes. And I’d kick rocks up walking and holding the seine behind me, like I said. And I total out of my own bait. But I think the turning point in my life when it comes to fishing, the one thing that kick started my career. There was a hardware store in Lynchburg on the square, called Matlows Hardware. Well, the Matlow were pretty active in Jack Daniel’s story, Moore County being a dry county, I would spend a lot have of time down at this hardware store. And back at those days, the only place you could buy fishing tackle was either the hardware store or basically a hardware store, maybe a little convenience store, you could find a small amount of tackle, but this hardware store that Connor Matlow owned had a big glass case when he went in the door and on the square there and there was one bait that caught my eye and old fellow that ran the store with a fellow by the name of Clayton Tosh. And Tosh would say, we’d come in and he would walk up and he’d slap the door back on his cabinet and he’d reach, I seen reach in there and he’d pull this lure out. I said, can I take it out of the box? He said, yeah, and take it out of the box. And I’d hold it and I’d look at it and I put it back and he said, when are you going to buy that thing? I said, when I get 75 cents, I want to buy it. And I was about 7 at that time and I went home. My grandparents lived just behind the square and I ran in my grandmother said, your granddaddy is going lake fishing today and today was one day through the week. The whole all business was closed half a day. And people went on picnics or they worked in the garden or they mowed their yard or they did other activities that they liked to do, boat riding, whatever it was. And we would go to the creek fishing. But this particular day, she said, he’s going to a big lake today. And she reached in her apron and she pulled out a handkerchief and she untied it. She kept her coins in a handkerchief inside her apron pocket. And she said, pick you out 3 quarters. And I said, why? She said, pick you out those, pick you out 3 quarters and run up to the hardware store and buy that bug bug baby one. And I said, it’s not a bug bug, it’s a jitterbug. And she said, well, whatever it is, hurry up because granddaddy’s going to be here in just a little bit. We’re going to have dinner, which they call dinner lunch or lunch dinner. And so I took this plug and had it on my little Mickey Mouse outfit rod I had. And back then, though, it really wasn’t Mickey Mouse because those reels were the top of the line reels, the Langley’s and the Shakespeare’s and the Plugers and way back under. And we loaded up after we ate dinner, lunch and we jumped on card and we took off. We went to a lake about 10 miles from Lynchburg and was a big spring fed lake called Cumberland Spring. And my grandmother would always take a big quilt and she’d sit on a quilt and crochet and granddaddy would go out 2 or 3 rods with red worms and heat fish, chinky pins, shell cracker, red ears. And so this particular day I went, I got out of the car and got another spread of the quilt and we sat there and talked a minute and I started walking down the lake bank and I went through a bunch of brush bushes and I walked out on this clean point. The water was down a little bit and I was looking at my bait and I got it all tied on. I quick to ride back and forth and I looked to my right and I saw a bass about 2 and a half pounds, which was a giant. And it was a giant fish, just a giant, because in the creek if we caught a 2 pound smallmouth, they just 2 pound smallmouth looks a lot smaller than a 2 pound largemouth. But anyway, I could see this largemouth swimming. And then I looked just under, about a pound and a half. Bass was a pound, pound and a half, pound and a quarter, much smaller, swimming with it. And I couldn’t believe what I was looking at. So I took this little rod and I made 2 or 3 cross casts with it. Just quick. And then I fired it out and it sailed out and it hit the water about, oh, I don’t know, 12ft, 15ft from these 2 fish. And they stopped immediately. They stopped when they hit the water and I know they couldn’t see it. And I started moving and up to the road’s got a big concave metal lip on it and it wobbles, it makes like a sound. Well, I started reeling it slow and the fish turned in that direction and I said, they hear. They’re hearing it. They hear this bait, they hear it. They can’t see it. They know it, they hear it. And I started thinking about what my granddaddy taught me about how fish here and how bass here and where you have inviting sounds and you have sounds that attracting sounds that spook the fish. But this jitterbug had a wobbling sound that was very attractive. And they turned when I started moving the boat and they started swimming in the direction. I said, they hear this thing. And I stopped the bait and they stopped. I’d reel the bait about 3 times and they’d move and I’d stop, they’d stop. And I said it was amazing to me. I said they can hear. They can hear with an inner ear and they hear with a lateral line and they hear that movement and about playing with them a little bit on water thinking, how can this thing, this jitterbug looked like a frog, but evidently it was a frog colored one. And I kept thinking, well, there’s a frog make that sound on top of the water. I don’t know. But they were curious enough that they continued to move to it. And they got about, probably 2 and a half feet on it and stopped. And I knew they could see it at that point, as clear as this water was. And all of a sudden I moved, turned one revolution to reel them on and 2 and a half pounder just. I mean, boom. Just charged right into it and slanted. And I started reeling in the and pound and a half was swimming with it, trying to take it from. Take that lure from the bigger fish. And I stepped on a cat’s tail. But anyway, I started reeling, like I said, and watching this fish pull you had your drag was basically your thumb. And I remember talking about, these ones were like a run, just ease up on your thumb when you start it back. Just reel with it. Anyway, I eased up on my thumb and it took off again. I’ll reel him a little bit further. And finally I got him about 15ft. Got it bass about 15ft from the bank. And I just threw the rod over my shoulder. I grabbed the line and I just, well, what a view and that other bass, followed it all the way into about a foot of water and then turned off the smaller fish. I finally got the fish on the bank and I just talked to myself. I took a phony. A piece of plastic with metal in it and I lured a bass. The presentation, the sound. And I lured this fish out of his world and mine. And that moment of experiencing that, which lasted about 3 minutes, turned my whole direction in life. I ran as fast as I could with this edge, back through those bushes and back to where my grandparents were sitting on a lake bank, bigger portion of the lake bank and were widened out. And I was screaming, look what I call. And granddaddy said, oh, my goodness, that’s a big bass. I said, yeah, it’s a whale. And he took the fish and he showed me how I’m going to put. I said, no, no, I’m going to go put it in the truck. And he said, no, we don’t have any way to keep it alive. I said, let me just put it on stringer. We had a chain stringer with a couple of grittier on it. I said, double hook him. I remember that. So, my granddaddy double hooked him and when we got back to town, grandmother had a little camera. She took a picture of it and I got that picture. I’m holding that little bass, but I mean, that bass, that huge bass. Because it was the biggest largemouth I’d ever caught at that time. And that I just started thinking about the way the fish salivate. He said, only a bigger fish is the most aggressive fish, which it was. And how fish can hear sound, how fish can see. Sight is their most important thing. So you got to see it, they eat it. But the sound attracts them to that particular object. So, both of those play together. Sight and hearing, your smell. Of course, they didn’t add any odor to it. But I said to myself right then, I don’t know how I can get in to be more involved in fishing with different people and try to learn from them. But as I grew older, I started riding my bicycle to the creek and I started learning more and more about moving water and how fish position themselves in eddy water, in midstream obstructions, mud banks, gravel banks, bluff banks, sand banks. And I always walk upstream and gravel moves this can detect that sound unnatural. But anyway, that really kick started me wanting to fish more, experiment with more baits. And as time passed, I started fishing bigger lakes and learning how to fish, work easily and how their habitat and fishing, and bigger bodies of water, which was an important part of what I wanted to do. And eventually I went to work for a distributor. My mother, my parents separated when I was little and my daddy was in Lynchburg. And then he went back in the service and in the army, and I spent a lot of time with my grandparents. And then when I go back to Lynchburg and Memphis would spend time with my mother. But anyway, I remember I’d buy her rod and reel for Christmas. She would brag about it and she said, listen, why don’t you use it? Get ready to use it and then you just take it and use it. I knew she wasn’t going. I knew she’d give it back to me. And so I fished around Memphis, the shallow oxbow lakes, all shallow water areas. And if I caught a fish in 10ft of water, that would be just unheard of. And as I grew older, the people I met on bigger lakes were all shallow water fishermen. And along about 1967, I was on Pickwick Lake with my wife. We were peace and alone. A boat came across the lake. I was in a flat bottom boat with a little 20 horse mercury on it and a stolen battle. And this boat roared up and I recognized one of the guys in the boat was Ed House who was with the Tennessee Valleys. Tennessee gaming fish called it that thing. You there?

Ramsey Russell: Yes sir.

Bill Dance: I thought I lost.

Ramsey Russell: No, no I’m listening.

Bill Dance: I had met another guy at boat shows in Memphis by the name of Glenn Andrews. And even to this day he was the best, first kind of a way I’ve ever met in my entire life. Just a phenomenal fisherman. He was at the boat show and he had world champion trophies there. He sold his own homemade lures. And that’s what I wanted to talk to him. And we made our acquaintance. After talking to him a good while I would call him and talked to him about different things about fishing lures. And he sent me some of the baits that he made. Tell me how to fish them. But anyway, the other fellow in that boat was Ray Scott, he started BASF. And so, Ray said I sent you an invitation to catch our first tournament on Beaver Lake up in northwest Arkansas. And I said – near Bentonville, Arkansas. And I said I got it. And he started trying to tell me all about the tournaments and he was so excited to talk. But I wanted to talk to Glenn. I wanted to learn more and I’d ask Glenn questions. He said how many fish have you all caught this one? I said oh 3 or 4. He said where along the bank? And I said yeah. He said you see this point you’re going out on? That’s a creek channel point. And I said what, what is a creek channel point? And he says it’s where the creek comes down, touches that point and turns off of that point, turn in and turn out for the channel. It comes in very close to that point and parallels that point its way on out into the big water. And he said if you’ll take fish and worm. And I said yeah. He said if you’ll put you a heavier sinker on that well you got a quarter. I said 316 quarter ounce. He said if you put your 3 8s on and he’s right out toward that point. Make a long cast toward the spillway over the TVA electric facilities. Let it go down to about 19ft. I said 19ft? And he said yeah. And I said 19ft of water. And he said yeah. He said there’s a school of bass on that point. Scott said we caught our fish because a couple of 4s, a 5 and a 6 this morning. I said largemouth. And he said yeah. He said they were 21ft deep. They were 21ft. And I said I can’t believe this. I never dreamed the bass would go that deep. And I mean, I got so excited. But they wanted Dianne and I to join them for breakfast. And I said, they said, we have to make a couple of stops and we’ll meet you at this particular restaurant. And I said, okay. So I just put a 3 inch sinker on and I moved out toward that point and I went, made a long cast and a worm and sinker hit the surface. And I said, 1001, 1002, 1003. I had a 1015, 1016, 17, 18, 19 and it hit the bottom. And I said, golly. I said, boy, that is deep. And I moved the worm. I pulled back just like I was fishing 5ft of water. And I said, I got strike and I went boom. I set the hook. And the most exciting moment, another one of those exciting moments like when the bass hit the jitterbug. But I reeled it in and it was about a 2 and a half pound fish. And I reached down, I pulled out of where I said, Dianne, did you see what just happened? And she said, yeah, you caught a fish. I said, no, no. I caught up, I’m fishing 19ft of water. I cannot believe this, I cannot believe it. And so I threw back and caught another one and I made another cast and nothing and then another cast. And I caught another one. All of them running about a pound and a half to 3 pounds. And I thought, good gracious, this is the most remarkable thing. And I thought right then, if I’m going to compete in these tournaments, I’ve got to do something different than the other fishers can do. And the majority of them back in those days, they were shallow water fishermen. And so we had breakfast, I told Glenn what we’ve done and I started calling him and he told me about topo maps. He told me how to triangulate spots out in the lake. 2900 fixes off of a land compass and just different techniques. And then I call him. I tried, I started moving that. I got me a depth finder. I remember the first depth finder I ever got was a called a sonar. Made by sonar. It’s what it was a sonar unit. But the company’s name was Sonar. And I bought that unit not to find fish, not to see fish on the thing, but to find places that fish used those points and drop offs. And then I learned how to look at the flash. It was a flasher and look at it and be able to read brush and fish around that brush. But anyway, it was a big moment in my life, starting to fish deep and boats would go by and I don’t like I was catfishing. I did. And then I carry a buddy of mine and we’d go and he said, I got an idea. I’m going to get the carriage. I’ll keep a straw hat in a cane pole. And he literally, Joe Garner, he carried a cane pole and he said, here comes a boat. And he put that straw hat on. He’d hold that pole over the side of the boat and they’d see his way out in the middle of the lake somewhere and they kind of slow down and look, and he might – All that crappie fishing boom. And they’d go on. And we started fishing the wide floodplain reservoir lakes in north Mississippi during the fall. During drawdown, when they pulled the lake down to winter pool, we moved way out on these irregular features. And I just learned a whole lot about deep water fishing. And there was another fella by the name of Floyd Mabry. He worked for Bobber Bait Company. And I went to Toledo Van went in a restaurant and the waitress said, would you care for some more coffee, Mr. Mabry? And I said, is that Floyd Mabry? And many articles had been written about him, about he was a shallow water fisherman, but he was an exceptionally good shallow water fisherman. I mean, really good. And when nobody was catching fish, he catched fish. And I walked over, introduced myself and he said, pull up a chair. And we started talking. We were on Toledo Van at that time and we started talking about fishing shallow water. And he taught me a lot. Conversations about what he looks for depressions, creek channels, transitional places where wood turns into rock or where rock turns into sand. How to fish out of water. And basically, with a bobber lure. Well, I learned a lot about shallow water fishing and I was still learning a lot about deep water fishing. But when the tournament started, I started looking for fish deep. And 17, I remember going to Beaver Lake to that first tournament. I remember Glenn told me, he said, don’t worry about catching fish. Just look for fish. Look for ideal places. Wherever you find land and it hits the water, it doesn’t stop right there. It continues on now, because there’s timber all the way down this bank. There’s going to be timber all the way out here. If there’s a bluff, it’s going to be – It doesn’t just stop at the water. It goes all the way to the bottom. So I remember the first day of practice, I went across and he said, try to find you a couple places close to the way in site in case you need a fish. You got a few extra minutes, try to find you something close to the way in sight. Well, straight across from in Prairie Creek, straight across from the marina was a cove. And I went in that cove, just idled in with my boat looking and I saw a separation in the timber and I said, what is that? And I could see where the path, it was a pathway about, oh, 15 yards, 20 yards wide. It went right straight through the timber. And then I could see it going all the way up the hill. And I said, I bet that’s an old logging road. And I turned and looked behind me and sure enough I could see where it went out on the other side. So I had a way, I had a way of rigging my worms where the fish hit it. They could pull a worm off and not get hooked. And because I’d been the hook around and mashed the bar. I had a way of hooking the worm on and doing it. So I just picked my rod up, made a cast, I threw it up there and I counted it down, 17ft, one hit it and I just let him pull the rod down. He pulled a worm off. I wheeled up and put another worm on right back. It hit the bottom. I moved it and went, don’t. And pull the worm off. And I said, I’m not in another case right here. I went over on the other side. I didn’t find anything on the other side. Started looking that day and got along a bluff and I had a dog just right up against the bluff. And I remember the water was 60ft, then it went to 40ft. And then all of a sudden I hit a ledge about 18, 19ft that extended off of that bluff about, I don’t guess it was over 15, 20ft off of the bluff itself. And I turned around and I made a cast and it went down and hit this ledge and the ledge probably ran, probably 20 or 30 yards. And I got a hit. I let him pull the bait off and I threw back again and another hit and I said, I won’t see just how big these yard. So I just put a hook on a live hook and I feel it and boom. The first one I caught was probably a solid 2 pound, 2 and a half pound bass. And well, I continued to look that day. And that night I called Glenn and said, tell you what I did. Here’s what I found. And he gave me some horns on fishing those spots. He didn’t tell me where to fish, but he taught me how to fish. And I owe him a lot because I remember what my granddaddy told me about fish and moving water and the things that Glenn told me. And I use these practices even today. Things I learned from my grandfather and things I learned from Glenn. We’re going to have a Hall of Fame, a big Hall of Fame event every year at Springfield, Missouri, in bass pro shop. And it’s a National Freshwater Hall of Fame. And they sent out a list of about 6 Anglers, this year’s nominees. And Glenn’s name was on it. And I was so happy to see that. And I can’t really wait to see him at the end of September up at Springfield and to be there when they present him that Hall of Fame award. And I guess just learn from people. I learned from – You don’t get to where you’re going oftentimes without some help.

Ramsey Russell: That’s right.

Bayou Bliss: Navigating Nooks and Crannies for Coveted Catches

And I fished it and luck would have it I won that one. And then the next one was at Ross Barnett in Mississippi down at Jackson. And I fished it and it was all deep water fishing at Raven and at Ross Hornet.

Bill Dance: I got a lot of help from my grandaddy and I got a lot of help from Glenn. And I never dreamed that I always wanted to be, to work for a lure company. And I went to Smith Lake in Alabama, which was a deep clear lake. And I found Kentucky bass or spots in a treetop, 52ft deep. And well, I saw what I saw. I saw a scuba shade and they were busting them. And I said, oh, they’ll probably move on, he’ll move on before I can get out there to him. And I went out there anyway and looked on my graph and I could see a treetop flashing. It was just the flasher was just flashing everything. And so I took a jigging spoon and I dropped it over the side and I jigged it up, let it fall back. Jigged it up, let it fall back, a spot of Kentucky hit it. And my size Kentucky a pound, 3 quarter, 2 pound Kentucky, dropped it right back. Boom. I caught another one. And I said, this is probably the deepest I’ve ever caught a fish. The tree, I don’t know how tall the tree was, but we were about in 70ft, 80ft of water. And so I knew the tree or 90ft of water and I knew the tree had to be 30ft or 40ft high or higher. And these Kentuckys that were schooling, they dropped back down. I assumed it was the same Kentucky, the same fish that bunched me a little down. Anyway, I just stumbled into another group of fish suspended in that tree top. And then I started thinking how this suspend. And I remember things that my granddad told me about making maintain neutral buoyancy in 10ft of water, over 300ft of water or 50ft of water over 200ft of water. But anyway, I left that tournament. I won it. And the next one was it’s at Raven Reservoir sound, Raven Reservoir in Jasper, Texas. And it’s a big massive body of water. And I fished it and luck would have it I won that one. And then the next one was at Ross Barnett in Mississippi down at Jackson. And I fished it and it was all deep water fishing at Raven and at Ross Hornet. And I looked at things that Glenn taught me in practice. I remember I looked at the dam and I thought where did they get the dirt to deal that dam. They probably dug holes out here and transported it to build the dam, which was true. And I found out later. But I’m doing all this comparison and thinking and trying to figure things out and I said this is a case. They’re not, they don’t drive all the way over to main harbor or they don’t drive all the way over and then go all the way around and come all the way down the dam. Why wouldn’t they build a service road up to the dam? So I ran down to one end of the dam and I took off island straight down the dam about, I don’t know, 40 yards off the dam and I was running like. I can’t remember the depth. I do remember the sudden change but it was like 35, 40ft of water and all of a sudden the graph went. The depth finder went boom. Just jumped straight up on about 15ft of water and then I just – I don’t know, throw and boom, it went right back off in the deep water again. I said, I made a U turn and I came back out a little bit deeper and I came out of deep water, up on 20ft of water and I said this is a road bed that they built to get that dirt up on the dam. I’m convinced of it. And so I turned around, threw a worm up on it and there were fish all over it. I mean they were all over it. And so I said, well, if it’s on this side of the Pearl river, it’s got to be one on the other side. Well, I didn’t find one on the other side but I didn’t need it anyway. Because I remember in that tournament I pulled up there and it just every cast, you’d either catch one or miss one. I just kept calling. And it’s the little things that Glenn said. He said, you need to think when you’re fishing. You want to think like a fish. And strategy wins tournaments. And so I – Then I went on up toward Rosie’s bluff and the place there on Barnett and I checked it out and I remember going way up the lake, up toward 43 bridge, I think, highway 43. And I looked way out in front of me and I saw a bunch of cypress trees. And I grew up fishing cypress trees. And I did. I mean, that I fished cypress trees in the Mississippi river off those as a youngster until I was – That’s all we had our big lakes off Mississippi river. But anyway, I saw this line of cypress tree and I just continued. I don’t – I eased over it to them and I eased through them. These are big ball cypress. And I just eased through them and I was in like 6ft of water, 5ft of water. And it went boom. Dropped off into about 14ft to 18ft to 20ft of water. And I said, look right here. And I thought, my goodness. And I said, I wonder if there’s a ditch that comes into this, feeds into this. So I started out south side of it and went through the timber and then I came back down the north side of it and I’m running about 5ft deep. And all of a sudden it went down to about 10ft and then it jumped right back up to 5ft. And I said, that’s a ditch coming right in here. So I spun around and had a worm on and he dummy rigged and boom, I made 3 casts and hit the worm taken off the hook. I said, hello, this is a good spot. This is really a good spot. Well, at the lower end of the west end of the slough, the slough was probably an 8th of a mile, a quarter mile long. There was a ditch that came out. So I started zigzagging the ditch and thinking, if there’s a current, the fish are going to be on the down side of the current on the downside of the bend. And so I followed it and I found it and I had a bobber lure on in. I just picked that bobber lure up and I fired it out and I caught them. I caught a real big fish about 6 pounds and then threw right back and caught one about 4 pounds. And I said, so then I got the dummy worm and I threw it and had 2 more points down. I said, boy, this cracker jack spot. And it was. It paid off for me. The ditch it went into the cypress trees paid off for me. The road dead, that went up to them. And I was real proud of myself because I looked at things and I analyzed these things that helped me go from shallow water to deep water. Even when I competed in tournaments, I remember things that I learned about shallow water fishing because I grew up fishing shallow water. But how fish like Glenn made wet injuries, made a statement. He said, for every one piece it’s on the bank, there’s 15 or 20 behind you. And I never forgot that. And that’s the case and it’s the same case today. I mean, nothing’s changed. You’ll find a few fish on the bank. In fact, we fished last week and I had this fellow with me, one of the managers of the pyramid, a big the bass pro shop store. We started fishing. We fished about 250 yards down the bank. And the bank changed. It had different changes in it, shoreline to where you had deep water in close to the bank and then you had kind of flaps that ran out. But anyway, we fished for a long time and we caught 4 or 5 fish. I said, these fish are not on the bank. He said, how you know? And I said, I know how many fish are in this lake. It’s full of fish. And the distance we fished, we’re fishing a high percentage bait and we only caught 4 or 5 fish. And he went, that makes sense. I said, let’s move out. Well, I knew where 2 little channels came together. The water was 10ft to 12ft deep and we pulled out there and he caught us. He got one over 8, one over 7 and one over 6. And up and down, up in that one area out. We were up in the upper reaches, but the Mika saying I caught was 4 pounds. But I was glad to see him catch what he caught. But it’s the little things that Glenn taught me and the little things which turned into big things and what my granddaddy taught me. It really, from the jitterbug that kick started my career to the present day, I still learn. Every time I go, I learn something.

Ramsey Russell: I met a man one time about 20 years ago and he checked cotton for a living and he won a fishing trip with you. And I said, well, what was it like hunting with Mr. Dance? And he described number one. He said you could tie a hook on a line quicker than quick with one hand than anybody else could with 2. But he said, as you all were fishing along the bank, whereas he would hit every little log, every little nook, every little cranny, he said, you just scan it and hit the same one every time. Bam, bam, bam until you pull the fish out. Is that, would you say that was true? Did I remember that right?

Bill Dance: If you’re talking about repeated tests?

Ramsey Russell: Yes, sir. He said if there were 5 places looked like it would hold a fish, he said you would choose one and just keep at it till you pull the fish out.

Bill Dance: Yeah, well, I do that today if it looks good. Fish may not be aggressive. And you throw and you may get to the point where you’re irritating into striking. If somebody comes up to you and sticks their hand in your face and just kind of waves at you and you kind of laugh at them and they keep doing it, it finally irritates you. The only way you’re going to react to it is just push their hand away and say, stop it. Well, that bass can’t say stop it, but he can get irritated enough or you can Tyson with, into striking many times. I remember fishing with Larry Nixon on a wide floodplain reservoir in north Mississippi, Sardis Reservoir in Sardis is a – in the spring of the year, it’s muddy because everything that flows into it’s just a muddy reservoir. But later, as they start drawing it down to summer pool, winter pool, it turns clear. But this particular thing, I had a problem with my leg and so I sat in the back of the boat and Larry ran the boat with the trolling motor and I took a black spindle bait and I would throw it at these bushes up in these shallow flats. And he’d be up there cherry picking. He’d be hitting everything in bushes all over the place. And then boom, I catch one. He said, where’d you catch it? I said, off that bush right there. He said, I just fished that bush. And I didn’t say anything. And I said, I guess one just moved in between your cast and my cast and moved on down a little bit. And there was another bush and he threw at it. I threw at it, and I threw back at it, and he was fishing ahead, looking. I threw back 4 times. I caught another fish off of it. And I learned then that repeated cast in a murky environment, a fish can detect it. He can’t see it, but he can detect the sound. And by you creating a sound path, the fish is alerted to the bait. The vibration of the bait used a 3, 8 sounds of black spinnerbait with a silver valorant blade on it. The blade had a tremendous amount of vibration. And the first time you throw there, he may hear it and make a move, but he doesn’t know where it is. The next time you cast moves closer to that sound path, you throw it right back in the same pot, same spot. And by the 4 cast, he’s in a position to locate it. To locate that sound on your 5 cast, you come right back down that same path and boom, there he is. And he hits. They can detect sound through their inner ear and their lateral line and they’re good at it because that’s all they got. I just I remember. I don’t remember who I fished with, the fellow you’re talking about, but I do remember that. I do make repeated casts. And it pays off. It really does.

Ramsey Russell: Mr. Dance, what life lessons has fishing taught you over the years? Beyond fishing, beyond just catching fish, what life lessons have you learned from fishing?

Bill Dance: Oh, it’s just a great way to enjoy the great outdoors. And fishing means different things to different folks. To me, it’s not only a hobby. It was a hobby that I was lucky enough to turn into a profession, but it’s what I get out of it. Trying to fool fish and locate fish as much as I do in catching them. I’ve learned a lot about bodies of water that I thought I could never do well on, say, Highland reservoirs like Bale Hall in Tennessee or Center Hill in Tennessee. I think about those lakes because I could read, I read articles about them and how about – I mean, the size of fish were caught, but the key to it, I learned how to fish different bodies of water. Summer, fall, winter, spring, cold water, hot water, muddy water, clear water. And I wasn’t successful every time I went. But having the experience of being able to do that over and over again, the more you do, the more you take a truckload of bricks. If you throw enough of it, you can throw one around the back of a building, you’d curb one around the building. But fishing has taught me – My wife wouldn’t agree with this, but it taught me patience, how to be patient, how to have slow down, how to have confidence in what I’m doing. And believing in what I’m doing is the right thing. It’s just many things about it. And to thank the good Lord that he gave me an opportunity to make a living doing what I love to do and what I always wanted to do. To raise 4 good children, great children that we’ve never had any problems with. To give them a good education, to not give them everything they wanted, but give them a lot of things they wanted. Very supportive wife. I don’t know. Fishing is the only life I know. I’ve got friends that became doctors, others became plumbers, some became lawyers. But during that whole time, I was trying to get into fishing. And I was fortunate that I’ve been on all 4 corners of it, from designing lures companies to work in wholesale retail about fish and tackle and rods, reels, lures and stuff. Then being able to write about it in newspapers, magazines and then being able to show people how it’s done through television. And so I’ve been all the way around on all 4 corners and I thank the good Lord for that. It’s just fishing’s taught me a lot. I wouldn’t take anything in the world for it. I just think I’m thankful that I met a – I had a granddaddy and a daddy that gave me the greatest gift of all and that was teaching me how to fish.

Ramsey Russell: Same here.

Bill Dance: And then again, with what I learned from Glenn, I ask a lot of questions and you learn from asking questions. And the silliest question you can ask is the one you didn’t ask. And I don’t know if I covered that question good enough for you, but –

Ramsey Russell: I think you did. I think it reminded me of another question. I’ll start like this. You were talking about earlier with that jitterbug. You brought that 2 and a half pound bass. You lured that fish from his world into yours. I didn’t fish at your level. I mean, you talking about different reasons people fish. I think I would describe the number one reason I fish is to make grease pop. I like to eat fried fish.

Bill Dance: Well, I do too.

Ramsey Russell: But I had kind of gotten out of it, gotten busy with a career, starting a business, doing everything else. When I had my own kids and I went out to a little old farm pond, a friend of mine had some bluegills, my little boy, he must have been 2 or 3, my oldest son at the time. And we quickly cane poled, laid the bobber and talk about blind faith for a child, especially a 2 or 3 year old, to sit there and watch that bobber in murky water. And then all of a sudden, it happens magic. That bluegill hits it, boom, the bobber goes under. And all of a sudden, you have connected that child to real nature in a way that I can’t think of any other way to do it. And the interaction is immediate.

The Ripple Effect: Generations of Joy on the Lake

I don’t call it a lake, but we haven’t have a large lake up in the country, I mean, further up where my son lives on some property we own up in Hardin county in west Tennessee.

Bill Dance: I understand. People say, I’ve had writers ask me, they said, is there one specific thing that stands out in your mind more than anything in all your years of competing in fishing tournaments and doing promotional work for tackle companies and working for tackle companies? Was it a particular tournament you won? Is it a particular trophy you won? Is it a special fish? You call what in your life is, what single thing stands out in your mind more than the other? Like I said, is it a tournament you won? Is it – And obtained different things. But the one thing that I always flash back to, I was fortunate enough going up to see each one of my children catch their very first fish. And now I have 7 grandchildren, 6 grandchildren. I’ve seen most of them do that. I think all of them do it. So I was there when it happened and to watch that and the excitement. And we live out in the country and I’ve got a lake. Well, I say it’s pond. So, like, how do you tell the difference in a pond and a lake? Well, it has a lot to do with your banner in southern. I don’t call it a lake, but we haven’t have a large lake up in the country, I mean, further up where my son lives on some property we own up in Hardin county in west Tennessee. But I can stand on my front porch and I’ve done it. When the water got up in lake right here at the house, it’s close enough to the house that I can walk out the door and walk out in the yard like a long cast and beta land in the lake. But I had, in this particular lake, I had a bunch of catfish and they just – All of them got in there. I don’t know, but still has good bass fishing and good bluegill fishing. But one day, my granddaughter, youngest granddaughter, she was over on our side of the lake. My daughter lives on the other side, but they built a house. We can see each other across the lake and on the property where we live in the country. And my daughter can holler and you can hear from her house to our house. But the youngest granddaughter, we were sitting there and I said, make a cast out there. And she said, I said, let me show you how to do this. So she got the knack of it real quick. And so she made the cast and it would channel cat, and we use a slip bobber and just set the hook about a foot under the slip bobber, because when the feeders go off, it throws floating food out and fisher customer feeding on top and so you don’t want to go below them if you bite. So anyway, she threw out, made a good cast and sitting there, and all of a sudden she screamed, fish is gone. I said, set the hook. She ran back and she started and the fish was stripping land, fighting like crazy and she was reeling. I said, don’t reel when the fish is pulling the drag. And she said, why? I said, because if you make 5 turns with them in that reel, with that handle, that fish is tripping line at the same time, you’re going to put 5 twists in your line. So if he wants to run, let him run. You can control the drag right here. And I just pointed to it. Well, anyway, she said, well, help me. And I said, I am helping you. I’m telling you what to do. She said, well, help me. And then about that time, Pamela hollered across. She said I was, okay, dinner’s on the table. Come on. And I said, she’s fighting a fish right now. She’ll be there when she gets this fish in. And so she continued to fight it. And finally she got it. The only thing I did was push her pole back. She had her dropped her tip of her rod out toward the direct line with the fish. I said keep the rod up. Let the rod wear it where the finish down to. So I got it out, I got my Boga grips and I just eased down the edge right there. Soon she got it up close to the bank. I just clipped the Boga grips and pulled it up out of the water and it was about a 12 pound channel cat, that just thought. And she said why did you help me? I said I wanted you to catch it. I wanted you to, you made the cast. He did the hook set, he fought the fish. The only thing I did was just help you get it out of the water. But to watch the excitement and her hollering and screaming. I could relate to that, when that bass hit, that jitterbug I didn’t holler and scream like a girl. But I was just, the emotion though was there and I, she still talks about it today. She’s much older, she’s 17, 18 now I think, now she’s 20 years old. And so she still refers to that phase. But those are memorable moments. Seeing one of your own shoot the first mallard or call in the first mallard, call up a turkey, catch it first fish. Those are – Shoot the first deer. That those are precious moments. And if you can witness those moments and pass it on, what you’ve learned about it to help them and help other people it has a lot of meaning. So I learned one thing when I started TV. That one thing I wanted to do. I wanted to start TV. I started TV show, I didn’t start it. I was working for Cotton Cordell, Cordell Lure Company in Hot Springs. And he called me one night, he said Bill we need to do a TV show. And I said what? And he said a TV show. And I said that’s a good idea Cotton, I know the perfect guy. And he said and I said Jerry Mcginnis. And Jerry was, had a very popular show. He was involved with ESPN and Jerry and I were roommates in the tournaments and I’d go with Jerry quite a bit. I doubt if I’d be doing TV today had it not been for Jerry because I learned a lot about what he did and out on hand with camera on I’d shoot him and he’d shoot me or we’d go somewhere. What I’ve learned from him, I’d shoot his guest and him we’d break it up. And anyway Cotton said no, I think I want you to do it. And I said, me doing a TV show Cotton is like pouring perfume on a pee. I said, I don’t, I can’t even spell television. He said, I want you to give it a try. Well, I got up, I got – was excited about it. And I went to our CB’s affiliate here in Memphis and they said, there’s no real market for that type of show. Fishing show. And I said, I kind of got, I talked to the program director, then I went to the NBC affiliate, Matt Groening and I said, Mr. Groening, I appreciate your time, appreciate you listening to me for a few minutes, but I wanted to do a local fishing show. And he said, a what? And I said, a local fishing show and show people how to catch fish. Talk about area lakes, talk about conservation issues. And well, I can appreciate your enthusiasm and I appreciate your idea, but we’re not in the market. I said, well, you all used to run get about, guess liberty mutual sponsored get for a long time. Yeah, but we just, I don’t mean to, we’re just really not interested that type. So I came home, I felt pretty rejected. And I said, this ain’t going to work. And Dianne said, what you say? And I said, this ain’t going to work. She said, I’ve told you a 100 times, that’s negative. I can’t, oh, this isn’t going to work. She said, isn’t the ABC sports minded? And I said, well, yeah, they really are. And she said, why don’t you go over to Channel 13? And they were the ABC affiliate here in Memphis. Well, I went, I got the next morning pretty excited and put on a coat and tie off I went and I went in to the station and I’ll never forget, Elizabeth was a switchboard operator. And she said, can I help you? And I said, yes, ma’am, I need to know who your program director is. And she said, that’s Mr. Lance Russell. And I said, oh, yeah, the guy that produces all the wrestling on Saturdays? And she said, yeah and he’s our program director and everybody knew Lance. And so I said, well, can I talk to him? She said, well, it’s 10 or 12. I go, tell me. I go in there at lunchtime. But she said, he may not be back for a couple hours. I said, I’ll sit here and wait because I already won’t sing. And so a few minutes later, she walked over and gave me a coke and a pack of crackers, cheese crackers and we started up a conversation and I told her what I wanted to do and how I wanted to do it. And she said, well, I think that’s a great idea. Well, when Lance came in, she said, I think he might be here. Hang on just a minute. And then she, oh, yes, he is. He came up the back stairway, the back staircase. Let me call him. And so she called him and said, Bill Dance is down here and he wants to talk to you about programming and Lance said, well send him up. It’s the 3rd door on the right. So I went up and I walked in and he jumped up out behind his desk, reached over and pulled a chair off the wall, sprung it up and have a seat. And he said, well, how are you doing? And I said, I’m doing great, but I will be honest with you. I went to 2 of your competitors and tried to start what I want to do. And he said, what’s that? And I said, I want to start a fishing show. And he said, here in Memphis. He said, well, that’s a pretty good idea. What’s your format, Bill? And I said, I want to talk about area lakes, what’s good, what they’re biting, what they’re catching them on. I want to talk about how to, so I want to talk about controversial issues like conservation stuff. I want to talk about. Bring guests in and Game & Fish people, water safety people. He said, well, I like that. He said, I like the idea. He said, I used to do a fishing show in Jackson, Tennessee at WBBJ. And I said, you did? And he said, yeah, I did. And, well, we hit it off pretty good. And he said, I’ll tell you what you do. We need a pilot. And I said, a pilot? I said, don’t have an airplane. I don’t even know what you’re talking. What? And he said, well, you got a lot to learn. He told me what a pilot was and he said, we need a pilot. I said, okay, I can get that. And he said, I’ll work on some sponsorships, sponsors to put it here and let’s get back together, say, mid week, next week. I said, yes, sir, I’ll sure do it. Well, I went out of there and I got in my truck and there was a big discount house in Memphis called Surplus City and they had one wall. It was nothing but fishing tackle. I mean, this wall was 200, 300ft long and it had fishing lures, rods, reels, everything and cases and stuff. And I ran in there and the guy that, the manager – I said, his name was Billy Woods. I said, Billy, I got an idea and I’m looking for a sponsor. He said, for what? And I said, thinking about doing a local fishing show on DQ 13 here in Memphis. And he said, well, Sig Schwartz, the guy that owned the store and I were talking about a less than a week ago about promoting the store and the cattle. And this sounds great. I like it. I really do. And I said, well, what are you doing in the next hour? And he said, nothing. I said, will you go with me out to Channel 13? He said, sure. And let Lance tell you. He let Lance, he said, Lance, Lance Russell? And I said, yeah, you talk to Lance Russell? And I said, yeah, surely not you. You know Lance Russell? And I said, yeah. He said, boy, Lance Russell is the greatest guy in the world. Boy, he’s got wrestling. And boy, I tell you what, Billy and his family, when they grew up watching wrestling and Lance was right there on TV talking about it. He said, you talked to Lance Russell? I said, I told you 3 times, yes. He said, then we’re going to see Lance Russell. I said, yes. So we got in the truck, hit the interstate, went around Channel 13. No offense, Elizabeth, is Lance still here? And she said, oh, yes. And so she called him. She said, Lance, Bill Dance is here. He wants to see you. And he said, fine, send him up. And so I said, come on, Billy. And he said, I don’t know how to echo around Lance Russell. And I said, what do you mean? Do you realize how big a name he is? And I said, well, I guess he said, he’s the people where I grew up worshiped him. He is the man. And I said, well, come on, we’ll go up there and you can tell him that. And so I went up, went down to the 3rd door. Lance was there. He said, hey, I said, I got something to tell you about. Ain’t Billy woods? And Billy went blah, blah, blah. He didn’t know where to wind his belt or tighten his watch. And he looked at him and Lance talked to him and he said, we’re really interested in doing something about sponsorship with Bill. And Lance said, we’re looking for a sponsor. I think we can work something out. And Billy said, we’re open to it. We’d like to do it. So that was the beginning of Outdoors with Bill Dance. That was Outdoors with Bill Dance. Well, it wasn’t long. Their sister station in Jackson, Mississippi, ABC, Channel 16, ABC affiliate, wanted me to do a show for them. So I said, okay, that’s great. So I had lakes all down around Jackson. Over at show One Eagle, lake Eagle, several of the lake, Washington, Ross Barnett. And I went down, I met with them and then I had state capital there and I had people I could draw from. The governor was a big fisherman Billy Joe Cross was Game & Fish commissioner at that time. Boating safety was there. And so I had a lot of people I could draw from and I could go into that market one day a month and take 4 shows and pull guests into the studio. Well, I got that going on Memphis and Jackson. And then WBRZ in Baton Rouge called me and said, are you interested? Would you be interested in doing a local fishing show for us? And I said, well, thunder. Yeah. And that’s all. I’m starting to build some markets here. And well, it was a very short time after that, I got a call from JCPenney in Paducah Kentucky and they sold fishing tackles at that time. And I started to show in Jackson. So I would take shows maybe from Reelfoot Lake or Kentucky Lake or the Mississippi river or shows that I would, that I shot up there and then shows that I shot around Memphis. And then I intermix those shows with shows that I shot around Jackson and shows that I shot around Baton Rouge. So then I was just mixing the shows up and it went over real well. It ended up, I was doing 50 – I was doing 4 markets, 52 weeks a year. That’s 208 shows. And I was writing my own scripts. I was ready to loan film. We were shooting 16 mm that time. This was for video. And so I did that, I was running up and down the Mississippi river from Paducah to Memphis to Jackson to Baton Rouge. And after a period of time, I had a good friend, Bobby in Baton Rouge. I said, Bobby, I’m getting where I can’t do this. I can’t compete in tournaments. I can’t continue to do full market. Would you like to have this show, take this show over? He said, I’d love to. And I had him as a guest on several shows. So I brought him in and I told everybody about Bobby and his tournament success. And he was a good, he’s a local guy and he really knew how to fish and chapel out basin, I cross river and I started naming places around Baton Rouge. And I said, he’s going to take over for us and I’ll come back occasionally and be a guest on his show. So it went over real well. And then I went to Barnett and I had a buddy there and I said, I told him the same thing and he agreed to take Jackson. Well, all I had then was Paducah and Memphis. And so I stopped Paducah and I kept doing my local show in Memphis. And then I got a call from a company in St. Louis called Advancers and they wanted to know would be interested in syndicating Outdoors with Bill Dance? And I said, absolutely. And so we started in 50 network markets across the country with in syndication, with Outdoors with Bill Dance. Well, after about a month, I picked up a turn of TV on there to catch a show that I just want to see I was in. And I couldn’t find the time. And it didn’t come on right then. No, it did come on. But in the outdoor guide that they had, that they passed out everywhere, it had Bill Dance – You said outdoors. And so I called Don in St. Louis and I said, Don, they just said, it’s outdoors. And he says, well, they don’t have room to put Outdoors with Bill Dance and Outdoors with Bill Dance. 5 words. And I said, I’ll tell you what. Tell them right then. I don’t want to do that anymore. Tell them to name it Bill Dance Outdoors. And then the TV guide started printing Bill Dance and then we changed it to Bill Dance Outdoors from Outdoors with Bill Dance. And so we rocked along with syndication and it went well. But cable was coming on pretty strong back then. We dropped the syndication because the cost of syndication. I told Don Stork, I said, Don, I can’t afford this. And he said, well, don’t forget us. If you ever need us, we’ll be here for you. And I went with ESPN and that was way back. But it was good because I was in Spokane, Washington. I was in Toronto. I was in Bangor Maine, Raleigh, North Carolina, New York City, Chicago, Oklahoma City, all the way down the east coast from Savannah, Georgia, to Tampa, Florida, to Miami to across I was everywhere. Wherever ESPN aired, we aired the show and it rocked along. And then a little network popped up over at Nashville, Tennessee, called TNN. And I called the program director and I said, can we get our show on your network? And he said, David said, Bill, you’re running on ESPN. And I said, yeah, but if I can get on TNN, I think I can hit. The demographics would be a lot better, on ESPN was a great network, but we just didn’t hit that royal brand buying market that we were really looking for. So when I went with TNN, I picked up Walmart, I picked up Chevrolet, I picked up Parina, I picked up big hitters. And TNN was hitting a big market. But it was the perfect niche that the demographics were out of sight. We were there with little riding NASCAR rodeo, it was just a perfect niche. And our numbers went great. We did great. We rocked along with them for about 15 years, Walmart being a big sponsor. And all of a sudden, things changed at TNN. Gaylord Enterprises, I think, sold. Wanted to sell TNN to – I don’t know who they want to sell it to. Some company in New York, Spike, I think it was spike TV. And so it just went south. And so we left there and we went with NBC Sports Discovery Channel, the Sportsman’s Channel and the Outdoor Channel. And we rocked along there for, I don’t know, several years. And the cost on recovery was high. It really was. And the cost on NBC Sports was high. So we were getting more mileage out of Sportsman Channel and the Outdoor Channel than we were hitting that market again. That was what we wanted, that niche. The demographics were perfect. And so we stayed there and we’re still there and we’re still doing today we’re doing 39 original shows, 13 saltwater and 26 freshwater, that air year round. So this year, we will air, 1140 times on 2 networks and the Sportsman Channel, the Outdoor Channel. And of course, a lot of it will be reruns, but everybody doesn’t catch your shell the first time and then I catch the second time, but they’ll catch it the third time. So that’s where we are today.

Ramsey Russell: Mr. Dance. It’s fair to say that since way back when you were kind of sort of a big deal in the outdoor television world and here’s a question I’m dying to know. When did the bloopers come along? And I asked this because I asked this because so many big deals, so many celebrities and influencers tend to take themselves a tattoo seriously. But along comes Mr. Bill Dance. Breaking fishing tips, falling in the water, sinking boat trailers. Not in a bad way, just a human way. And you owned it and you did good with it. Where did that idea come along?

Bill Dance: Well, it started. Well, I’ll tell you how it started. Walmart. I got a call from Walmart and they wanted – Strike King Lure Company had made a lure that we designed and they took off with sales on it with Walmart were real good. Real good. And so the buyer, he overbought for the lure on that lure. And so I got a call from one of the team pens over at Walmart in Bentonville, Dick Mahan. And Dick said, Bill, I know how you feel about reruns, but he said, let me tell you, we’ve got a tremendous inventory of one particular bait. And is there any way possible you can rerun that show again? And I said, well, okay, I’ll do it. Talk to America’s biggest retailer. And he’s asking you, can you do something? And so I said, sure. So I did. Well, the second run outsold the first run and then the buyer bought heavy again. And then in the third, Dick called me and he said, you don’t scream, but we got to run that show. We got to run. You got to do a show on this lure. And I said and run it because we’ve got a tremendous inventory. We should have learned a lesson. But anyway. Can you hear me?

Ramsey Russell: Yes, sir.

Casting Call: Behind the Scenes of Fishing Filming Frustrations

I mean, I’ve tried to force feed fish, I’ve tried every time the world. And I caught several nice fish, but I could not make a complete show out of it. It just couldn’t.

Bill Dance: I’m sorry. But anyway, I did the show. That particular show. I’m trying to think on that particular bait. And I went out and I fished myself. Crazy. I mean, I’ve tried to force feed fish, I’ve tried every time the world. And I caught several nice fish, but I could not make a complete show out of it. It just couldn’t. I couldn’t catch enough fish to get my point across. And so, anyway, I got a call. Our producer, what he did, he called me. He said, we don’t have enough here to make a full show, Bill. We’ve got a good half show. I said, well, I never have done a half show. And he said, well, let me see what we can come up with. And so what he did. He went back to the archives and he just pulled out. And he put that together. And we ran the show that Walmart wanted. And it went over well enough that they sold a lot of baits with a half show. But the bloopers that Tony had pulled, it aired, of course, it was the second half of the show. Well, about a couple weeks later, Tony called me and he said, Bill, I just got a call from Dick Clark Productions and they want to know if we can send them 3 or 4 bloopers. And I said, well, yonder yeah, sure you can. And he said, but I don’t know what to charge him. I said, don’t charge him anything. That’s tremendous promotion. We’re running on NBC and on Dick Clark and Ed McMahon. And Ed McMahon was on the Carson show for years.

Ramsey Russell: That’s right.

Bill Dance: And so they called us back and said, we cannot, we can’t accept this. We need to pay for it. And they said, we’ll pay you $400 a show. I went, what? And I said, well, you really don’t have to, but if you want to, that’s okay. And so they did. And the next thing I knew, CBS was starting a blooper show. And we started getting calls from them. Could we send them some bloopers? And so Tony really started digging and trying to find stuff and he wasn’t hard. I could do a blooper every week. But the next week there was an outtake show called Roggin’s Heroes in Los Angeles and they wanted, and then Crook & Chase at TNN did a show. They wanted some outtakes. And then the BBC in London called us and they wanted some bloopers. And so we were putting bloopers out everywhere. And Tony kept digging and digging and finding stuff. And finally, he said, let’s just put together a tape, a blooper tape. So we did. And Walmart put it in, bass pro put it in, a lot of retailers put it in and it went over exceptionally well. And then a couple years passed. We had compiled another series of bloopers. And Tony put that together. And we had so much stuff outtakes and just mess ups and stuff we did. We ended up doing 4 blooper takes. And those blooper tapes are still aired. We took for TikTok last week, last Monday morning, a week ago Monday morning, I should say a week ago Monday morning, Dan took a blooper that we had and he put it on TikTok. In one week, it aired if you 13,400,000. Yeah, that’s where it is right now. And the viewing on that is 13,400,000 and is still going. But it just shows me that everybody doesn’t see what you do the first time you do it. Sometimes you have to air it twice, sometimes you have to air it – But the key with that lure, the third airing sold more, Walmart sold more lures the third time than they did the first and second time. And Dick said, I told that buyer, don’t buy heavy again because I know he’s not going to do another rerun. But I learned that reruns aren’t that bad.

Ramsey Russell: No, sir. I want to wrap this up. I know I’ve taken up a lot of your time.

Bill Dance: I’m listening. I’m just rattling. I’m sorry.

Ramsey Russell: Yes sir. Well, I’ve got one last question. And again it loops back to that first story on the jitterbug. And kids, I can remember my oldest son being a child being in grade school, maybe 1st, 2nd grade. And Father’s Day was coming along and the teacher had handed out just like, fill in the blank, my dad is this or my dad is that. And one of the lines that got me, he said, my dad is as handsome as. And my son filled out –

Bill Dance: Your dad what?

Ramsey Russell: He said, my dad is as handsome as. And then he filled in the blank, my dad is as handsome as a 3 pound bass, the child wrote and what, If I got to be remembered as handsome as a 3 pound bass, I’ll take it. My question to you is –

Bill Dance: Why didn’t he say a 10 pound bass?

Ramsey Russell: Well, I don’t know, because I guess 3 pound bass was big to a first grader. But you got admit now it would be to, a 3 pound bass is a handsome fish now by any standard. But how does Mr. Bill Dance want to be remembered?

Bill Dance: Well, we’re doing something with our governor, something that means a lot to me. Our governor looked at certain markets and he said, what I’d like to do is do a series of Bill Dance lakes across the state of Tennessee. And what I’d like to do with those, the sole purpose of these is to decide – The whole purpose or sole purpose of it is to help poor economic areas across the state of Tennessee by dramatically improving chosen lakes above and below the water level. Plus bathroom facilities need to be improved. Launching ramps need to be improved. Concession buildings need to be improved. Plus these waters need to be fertilize frequently to create good fertile water as well as stock. So visitors definitely catch fish and large, healthy fish every time they go. Governor Lee believes, he believes strongly in helping in these distressed areas and truly believes these lakes will help generations or actually will just help generate better income for the communities around these bodies of work. So having signage on an interstate Bill Dance signature lake and you’re going up interstate 40 toward the east coast and you see a Bill Dance sign that that’s one way. And it’ll continue on this program with Tennessee Tourism, Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency and the state of Tennessee. They’re all behind it and we’re really pushing forward with the program. And as a result of a lot of that, I got a doctorate degree at the University of Tennessee and there’s only been one other given out in the last 125 years. So that was a very meaning thing to get a doctorate degree at school that I love, University of Tennessee, everything to do, baseball, basketball, football and that means a lot and something that I’ll be remembered. And then being inducted into the Sports Fishing Hall of Fame, IGFA International Game & Fish Association be inducted into that. These are special things that your name will be up there and somebody will walk by your grandchildren or their grandchildren. So that’s my granddaddy see his name up there? You see that guy right there? That’s my granddaddy. And those things would mean a lot because you’re leaving something of your accomplishments, of what you’ve done and trying to help people enjoy the great outdoors, to help people catch one more fish to – These are special things and to get emails back from fishermen or you hear them at a meet and greet, at a special event and they tell you about things that I caught my first fish doing what I watched you on TV do, which reminds me, I was at Tampa of this past year at a meet and greet for the bass pro shop there and I was sitting behind the table and I was signing pictures. People would walk up and invariably they’d say and we get a picture mate. Everybody’s got a camera with a phone. But this one guy walks up and he says, I don’t know whether to call you grandpa or Bill. And I said, what? And he says, I don’t know whether to call you Bill or grandpa. And I said, well, call me Bill. And he said, well, let me tell you, when we were little, growing up, I had one sister and 2 brothers. There was 4 of us. And daddy always told us when you came on TV, you were our grandpa.

Ramsey Russell: How?

Bill Dance: You were granddaddy. And I said, yeah. He said, Susan, my sister, on Saturday morning, she’d start screaming, granddaddy’s going to coming on in 10 minutes. Hurry. And we’d all gather around the TV and mama would make us, lemonade or popcorn or whatever and we sit there and watch you on TV. And Susan would say, did you see how far granddaddy threw that bait out there? And granddaddy would say, Susan, you need to be kind of quiet now. Bill’s going to talk to us just a minute about what he’s doing here. She said, look at the size of that fish. And he said, now, Susan, she said, that’s the biggest bass I’ve ever seen. He said, no, that’s a crappie. Oh, okay. And he said, we had trouble keeping Susan. She just gets so excited about watching you catch fish and reel in fish and make cast and everything. And he said years passed and we always ran in the living room and watched Bill Dance, our granddaddy. And when I was 12 years old, I was pitching ball with a fellow that lived down the road and we were pitching baseball back and forth. And he said, can’t you catch? And he said, yeah, if you throw the ball to me instead over my head, I can catch you. He said, talking about catching, did you see the size of that big bass Bill Dance caught last week on TV? It’s a big smallmouth. And he said, yeah. He said, yeah, I saw it. You might not know this, but Bill Dance is my granddaddy. Bill Dance ain’t your granddaddy. What are you talking about? And he said, well, he is. And he said, well, how do you know? And he said, well, mom and daddy said he was. They did. Is he really your granddaddy? He said, yeah, he’s my granddaddy said, why is your name Rainer and his name is Dance? He said, oh, don’t you know anything? These show people always change their name. And they go by another name. But he sure is. You’re looking at him, he’s granddaddy. And he said, about a year passed. I was 13. I looked at my dad and I said, daddy, tell me the truth. Is Bill Dance’s really my granddaddy? And he says, no, son, he’s not. But we’ve had a lot of fun with you all over the years, getting you to watch that and had a big – your mom and I had a big time just laughing at you all, getting all fired up about Bill Dance. And I said, hand me one of those pictures. And I said, what’s your daddy’s name? And he says, Paul. And I said, hey, Paul, sorry I miss seeing you on my trip to Tampa here at bass pro shops. Hope we can see each other. Hope to see you before too long. Granddaddy and I signed it. And a boy said, Bill, he’s going to just keep your country boy like me. He said, my granddad, he says, when daddy says this, he’s just going to die. He’s going to fall on his face and just be stone cold dead. And I said, give me the picture back. I don’t want to kill him. But you hear that. You hear the funniest things about. But it was an enjoyable time that you got to – those kids got a big kick out of it and they learned something from it. And I think I’ve said all this many times. When you can entertain and educate at the same time, you’ve got the best part of both worlds. So it’s been with us. It’s not how many fish you can catch in 30 minutes of television, but more so how you caught the few fish you caught and why the fish were there and why they hit this particular bait and how you fish that particular cover or terrain or spot or how you catch that fish. So we leave videotapes, leave a lasting memory. Somebody driving up interstate 14, 15 years from now. But there’s Bill Dance signature lake, boy I used to watch it show Bill Dance. And you’re leaving a mark. And that’ll go on from now on. what we’re doing for Tennessee and on these lakes, that’s special to me. It really is. And it’s special to me that someone says, Bill Dance was a pretty good fellow. What he told us is truthful. And I’ve tried to be that way, not to exaggerate, to tell it the way it was and to always be honest with people. And I think that’s the way the good Lord intended it to be for me. Like I said earlier, I didn’t study to be a lawyer. I did begin to study to be a doctor, because 5 generations back in my family were doctors. And my daddy, my granddaddy, my great granddaddy my great, great, great granddaddy. But I saw a bad wreck and the motorcycle wreck when I was the first one on it and when I jumped out and ran up to this guy where a car had hit him, it was the worst sight I’d ever seen in my life. And I said, right then, I cannot be about to – I can’t do. I couldn’t do this. And fortunately, we were close to a hospital. And one car, 3 nurses and another car came by and have a doctor in it and they took care of him. And I don’t see how he lived, but maybe he did. No. Pray to God he did. But it was a horrible thing. But it changed. Again, it changed. Something can happen. Something somebody says, something somebody does can change your direction in life 100%. I remember when I ran through the kitchen at my mother’s house and I caught some bluegill and I ran out back to scavenge them and I did and put them in a pan and brought them in and the phone was ringing and I reached over to grab it and I didn’t grab it. And my parents were outside, they had gone for a walk and I went on back to with the fish and the phone rang again and I grabbed it. It was a good friend of mine. He said, hey, I met this girl up in Hardin County and I’m going up there tomorrow night to got a date with her. Why don’t you ride up there with me and I’ll get her to land you a blind date. I said, I’m not going on a blind date. I said, I wouldn’t do that. Well, he called me back the next day and said, we’re out up there with. I said, okay. And he said, I got you a blind date. Well, that blind date, I married my blind date. So that was something. Had I not answered that phone, I probably would never met Dianne. And it scares me to think that I almost didn’t, because it was the greatest, one of the greatest things that’s ever happened to me 57 years ago, to meet Dianne and fall in love with her and marry her. And she has been the life support of our children, the grandmother of our children, so to speak. She’s been a wonderful woman and helped me along the way. And you’re only as good as the people you’re around. And I’m around a bunch of good people, especially my family and other people I’ve met along the way that have always been helpful to get me where I’m going. And even the employees that we have 10 employees that do our social media and do our TV, our editors and our camera friends, they don’t get a lot of credit, but I wouldn’t be able to do what I’m doing without them. So I give them a lot of credit.

Ramsey Russell: Mr. Dance, thank you so much. Thank you so much for sharing your story. I have greatly enjoyed it. I have followed you for a very long time and I’m very proud to have you on the show.

Bill Dance: Well, you made it nice and I certainly appreciate it. Nicky, see boy, tell him hello for me.

Ramsey Russell: I will. He’s probably, I bet you he’s listening. I bet you he’s listening this evening. But, folks, thank you all for listening this episode of Duck Season Somewhere, we’ll see you next time. Meanwhile, let’s go fishing.

[End of Audio]

LetsTranscript transcription Services


Podcast Sponsors:

GetDucks.com, your proven source for the very best waterfowl hunting adventures. Argentina, Mexico, 6 whole continents worth. For two decades, we’ve delivered real duck hunts for real duck hunters.

USHuntList.com because the next great hunt is closer than you think. Search our database of proven US and Canadian outfits. Contact them directly with confidence.

Benelli USA Shotguns. Trust is earned. By the numbers, I’ve bagged 121 waterfowl subspecies bagged on 6 continents, 20 countries, 36 US states and growing. I spend up to 225 days per year chasing ducks, geese and swans worldwide, and I don’t use shotgun for the brand name or the cool factor. Y’all know me way better than that. I’ve shot, Benelli Shotguns for over two decades. I continue shooting Benelli shotguns for their simplicity, utter reliability and superior performance. Whether hunting near home or halfway across the world, that’s the stuff that matters.

HuntProof, the premier mobile waterfowl app, is an absolute game changer. Quickly and easily attribute each hunt or scouting report to include automatic weather and pinpoint mapping; summarize waterfowl harvest by season, goose and duck species; share with friends within your network; type a hunt narrative and add photos. Migrational predictor algorithms estimate bird activity and, based on past hunt data will use weather conditions and hunt history to even suggest which blind will likely be most productive!

Inukshuk Professional Dog Food Our beloved retrievers are high-performing athletes that live to recover downed birds regardless of conditions. That’s why Char Dawg is powered by Inukshuk. With up to 720 kcals/ cup, Inukshuk Professional Dog Food is the highest-energy, highest-quality dog food available. Highly digestible, calorie-dense formulas reduce meal size and waste. Loaded with essential omega fatty acids, Inuk-nuk keeps coats shining, joints moving, noses on point. Produced in New Brunswick, Canada, using only best-of-best ingredients, Inukshuk is sold directly to consumers. I’ll feed nothing but Inukshuk. It’s like rocket fuel. The proof is in Char Dawg’s performance.

Tetra Hearing Delivers premium technology that’s specifically calibrated for the users own hearing and is comfortable, giving hunters a natural hearing experience, while still protecting their hearing. Using patent-pending Specialized Target Optimization™ (STO), the world’s first hearing technology designed optimize hearing for hunters in their specific hunting environments. TETRA gives hunters an edge and gives them their edge back. Can you hear me now?! Dang straight I can. Thanks to Tetra Hearing!

Voormi Wool-based technology is engineered to perform. Wool is nature’s miracle fiber. It’s light, wicks moisture, is inherently warm even when wet. It’s comfortable over a wide temperature gradient, naturally anti-microbial, remaining odor free. But Voormi is not your ordinary wool. It’s new breed of proprietary thermal wool takes it next level–it doesn’t itch, is surface-hardened to bead water from shaking duck dogs, and is available in your favorite earth tones and a couple unique concealment patterns. With wool-based solutions at the yarn level, Voormi eliminates the unwordly glow that’s common during low light while wearing synthetics. The high-e hoodie and base layers are personal favorites that I wear worldwide. Voormi’s growing line of innovative of performance products is authenticity with humility. It’s the practical hunting gear that we real duck hunters deserve.

Mojo Outdoors, most recognized name brand decoy number one maker of motion and spinning wing decoys in the world. More than just the best spinning wing decoys on the market, their ever growing product line includes all kinds of cool stuff. Magnetic Pick Stick, Scoot and Shoot Turkey Decoys much, much more. And don’t forget my personal favorite, yes sir, they also make the one – the only – world-famous Spoonzilla. When I pranked Terry Denman in Mexico with a “smiling mallard” nobody ever dreamed it would become the most talked about decoy of the century. I’ve used Mojo decoys worldwide, everywhere I’ve ever duck hunted from Azerbaijan to Argentina. I absolutely never leave home without one. Mojo Outdoors, forever changing the way you hunt ducks.

BOSS Shotshells copper-plated bismuth-tin alloy is the good ol’ days again. Steel shot’s come a long way in the past 30 years, but we’ll never, ever perform like good old fashioned lead. Say goodbye to all that gimmicky high recoil compensation science hype, and hello to superior performance. Know your pattern, take ethical shots, make clean kills. That is the BOSS Way. The good old days are now.

Tom Beckbe The Tom Beckbe lifestyle is timeless, harkening an American era that hunting gear lasted generations. Classic design and rugged materials withstand the elements. The Tensas Jacket is like the one my grandfather wore. Like the one I still wear. Because high-quality Tom Beckbe gear lasts. Forever. For the hunt.

Flashback Decoy by Duck Creek Decoy Works. It almost pains me to tell y’all about Duck Creek Decoy Work’s new Flashback Decoy because in  the words of Flashback Decoy inventor Tyler Baskfield, duck hunting gear really is “an arms race.” At my Mississippi camp, his flashback decoy has been a top-secret weapon among my personal bag of tricks. It behaves exactly like a feeding mallard, making slick-as-glass water roil to life. And now that my secret’s out I’ll tell y’all something else: I’ve got 3 of them.

Ducks Unlimited takes a continental, landscape approach to wetland conservation. Since 1937, DU has conserved almost 15 million acres of waterfowl habitat across North America. While DU works in all 50 states, the organization focuses its efforts and resources on the habitats most beneficial to waterfowl.

It really is Duck Season Somewhere for 365 days. Ramsey Russell’s Duck Season Somewhere podcast is available anywhere you listen to podcasts. Please subscribe, rate and review Duck Season Somewhere podcast. Share your favorite episodes with friends. Business inquiries or comments contact Ramsey Russell at ramsey@getducks.com. And be sure to check out our new GetDucks Shop.  Connect with Ramsey Russell as he chases waterfowl hunting experiences worldwide year-round: Insta @ramseyrussellgetducks, YouTube @DuckSeasonSomewherePodcast,  Facebook @GetDucks