Born on 7 October 1940, William G. ‘Bill’ Dance is one of the most famous fishermen in the world. Through his long career, Bill has won numerous competitions and titles, but what most people know him for is his passion for passing on his knowledge to others, as the host of the longest-running and most popular TV fishing show in the US, “Bill Dance Outdoors”.
Bill grew up in Lynchburg, Tennessee; during his teenage years, he dreamed of becoming a doctor, just like his father and grandfather, and was even enrolled into a local medical school, but witnessing a gruesome motorcycle accident in the early 1960s changed his mind. He then turned his focus to fishing, achieving amazing success in the field.
Competitions and titles
As a boy, Bill would often accompany his grandfather when he went fishing, which is when his long-time passion for the field began.
Before “Bill Dance Outdoors” came to be what it is today, Bill already had one of the all-time great tournament careers behind him. He started off by competing in Bassmaster Tournaments, and was credited for catching the first ever bass in the history of the competition. This began a streak of Bill winning seven of the first 17 Bassmaster events he competed in, during which period Bill was also rewarded with the title of Angler of the Year three times, in 1970, ‘74 and ‘77, and also holding 23 National Bass Titles. In 1978, Bill won the Congressional National Safety Award, joining previous recipients which include Jacques Cousteau and Lloyd Bridges.
Through his career, Bill was inducted into several Hall of Fame institutions, which include the Bass Fishing, the National Freshwater, the IGFA, and the Tennessee Sports Halls of Fame.
Furthermore, the magazine “Field and Stream” named him one of “The Most Influential People in the Sport of Fishing”. In May 2021, Bill was awarded an honorary doctorate by the Herbert College of Agriculture, University of Tennessee. He also is credited for popularizing the Carolina Rig, a type of plastic fish bait, similar to Texas Rig, but with the weight fixed above the hook.
Aside from having a successful career as a TV host, Bill is also a published author, with 13 books about fishing under his belt.
Bill Dance Outdoors and other ventures
Today, Bill oversees a fishing empire consisting of his two TV shows, endorsements, educational material, and a magazine, along with a series of popular blooper videos from his shows.
His lucrative TV career started back in 1968, when Bill was approached by a fishing lure manufacturer who wanted him to start a TV show to promote their products.
The series “Bill Dance Outdoors” initially aired as a local program on the Memphis-based station WHBQ-TV, before moving to ESPN, and eventually Outdoor Life Network, on which it airs today. Bill stopped fishing competitively in 1980, to fully focus on his TV show, which has now aired for more than 54 years, and 200 episodes, making it the longest continuously running fishing show on TV in the US.
Each episode of “Bill Dance Outdoors” is about half an hour long, and focuses on various recreational fishing techniques, mainly targeting black bass species, with occasional focus on other kinds of fish, such as Catfish and Bluegill; Bill exclusively teaches by example, showing how he caught a certain fish, which is then released at the end of the episode. As described by the website “American Profile”, Bill and his crew of three cameramen may spend up to four days filming footage for a single episode of the show.
In 2008, “Bill Dance Outdoors” spawned its first and only spin-off, entitled “Bill Dance Saltwater”, in which Bill goes out to the open sea on his boat to catch sea fish. Since these aren’t his main area of expertise, in each episode Bill is joined by a noted saltwater fish expert who specializes in that week’s catch. Behind-the-scenes footage from both “Bill Dance Outdoors” and “Bill Dance Saltwater” has also become a popular series on their own, as Bill’s ‘bloopers’ are watched and enjoyed even by non-anglers.
As a TV host, Bill quickly became recognized not only for his knowledge and charm, but for unique appearance as well; his signature look included sunglasses and an orange Tennessee Volunteers baseball cap. The story behind his look is quite interesting: near the beginning of his career, Bill helped the then-Volunteers football coach Doug Rickey, who asked him to give a talk about the great fishing in Big Orange County.
In gratitude, Doug sent Bill a few Power-T baseball caps, and since then, Bill has been wearing them to fishing tournaments as a good luck charm, and continued the practice in his TV shows.
Outside of the show, he is described as a people person: ‘Bill’s never met a stranger, whether it’s at some rural little boat dock or at a big outdoor show in Las Vegas. And it’s genuine; he likes people and people like him. That’s the key to his success.’, revealed his PR agent, Carlton Veirs.
However, his popularity has had its downsides too. Since almost every fisherman in the US recognizes Bill from his TV show, that brings a lot of attention to him whenever he goes filming, which sometimes forces the crew to retreat to private waters.
Bill attributes a lot of his success to his wife, Dianne, who has been his greatest support for the past 50 years. The two met at a blind date when Bill’s original date didn’t show up.
They have four children together, daughter Pamela, and sons Patrick, Paul and Bill Jr., who help him run his outdoors productions. Dianne was one of the first people who supported Bill when he decided to make fishing his full-time career, saying that she ‘never doubted for a minute’ that her husband would be great TV host. The family currently resides in the suburb of Collierville, located near Memphis, Tennessee – his TV production studios are located next door.
In producing his show, Bill has partnered with many companies that specialize in making fishing gear, such as Cabela’s Bass Pro Shops, Gramin, Monster Marine Lithium, and many more. In 2017, Bill joined forces with fellow fishermen Jimmy Houston and Roland Martin, in launching their own company Th3 Legends, specializing in manufacturing and selling fishing equipment.
Heart stent procedure
In 2019, Bill took to Instagram to explain that he had an issue which he believed to be ‘the worst case of indigestion’ he’s ever had. It turned out that he’d had a heart attack, and was rushed to a nearby hospital in Mountain Home, Arkansas, where he underwent a heart stent procedure. ‘One heart stent later, and I feel better than I have in over 20 years!’ Bill said in his post.
This incident sparked some rumors about his death, but Bill has since fully recovered, and has returned to filming his TV show as usual.
What is he doing now?
Since his heart attack, a lot has been happening in Bill’s life. In December 2021, the Governor of Tennessee, Bill Lee announced the “Bill Dance Signature Lakes Initiative”, with the aim of improving and enhancing Tennessee lakes.
The state is set to invest more than $15 million in improvements at 18 lakes, mainly focused on providing better conditions for local fishermen. The project which seeks to solidify Tennessee as the heart of fishing in the southeast region of US, was done as a collaboration between Tennessee State parks, Tennessee Wildlife resources Agency and Tennessee Department of Tourist Development.
‘I’m unbelievably humbled and excited to be involved in such a helpful project that will benefit so many people and our natural resources in my great home state of Tennessee,’ Bill Dance said about the initiative. ‘You can bet your favorite lure this project will definitely have a ripple effect for a mighty long time, not only giving weekend fisherman, but tournament anglers a wonderful fishery as well, thanks to the great state of Tennessee and my friends at TWRA.’
Good Morning!Pro Tip #4EGO Fishing – Designed for the Savvy Angler
So far, Bill and his partners have selected nine lakes of particular importance for the local fishing industry, which will be improved as part of the initiative. The project is set to start late in 2022, and is expected to be completed in 2024.
Also in late 2021, Bill received an unusual honor for his 81st birthday – namely, the country musician Luke Bryan released a song about him, simply entitled “Bill Dance”. Born and raised in rural Georgia, Bryan grew up fishing bass on the Muckalee Creek. During those times, Bill Dance became a big inspiration for him as a fisherman, as he watched his show on TV every Saturday and Sunday. Bryan co-wrote the song with Rhett Akins, Dallas Davidson and Ben Hayslip, with whom he previously collaborated on his single “Huntin’, Fishin’ and Lovin’ Every Day”.
The song was followed by a complimentary music video, with featured an appearance from Bill himself, shot at Bryan’s farm, located near Bill’s hometown of Nashville, Tennessee.
Opening with a shot of the singer’s young sons watching Bill’s show on TV, before he surprises the boys by knocking on their door and inviting them to go fishing with him.
Bill’s influence in the fishing community hasn’t faded, as was evident in his interview with “Bassmaster LIVE” in March 2022; he mentioned that, because of his long association with another B. A. S. S. legend, Roland Martin, he would be rooting for his son Scott, in the upcoming Bassmaster competition. Following the interview, Scott popped to the top of the BassTrakk leaderboard, seemingly out of nowhere. Unfortunately he didn’t end up winning, but the added publicity surely didn’t hurt him.
Despite his age, Bill likes to keep up with times, and is fairly active on social media platforms.
On Instagram, his account ‘@bill_dance’ is verified and numbers more than 180,000 followers, and on which he shares pictures of his biggest catches, and news about his TV show.
Furthermore, Bill is active on YouTube, launching his channel back in October 2008, and which now numbers close to 100,000 subscribers. Bill has since accumulated more than 26 million views of all his videos combined. On there, he posts short fishing tutorial videos, outtakes and promos for his TV shows, along with product reviews, however, his most viewed content by far are the so-called ‘blooper’ reels from “Bill Dance Outside”, which are garnering millions of views, even among non-fishermen.
If you’re active on the short video sharing platform, TikTok, you can follow Bill’s account at ‘@billdanceofficial’. The legendary fisherman launched his account on TikTok in February 2022, but hasn’t been very active on it, having uploaded just a handful of videos.
Angie Box, TWRA Chairman, along with her husband Brad joined me for a day of bass fishin'. It was a very successful…
Bass Fishing in America
While Bill Dance has popularized bass fishing through his TV career, this activity had already had a long history in the US. This doesn’t come as a surprise, considering the fact that North America houses numerous black bass species, including spotted, Guadalupe, smallmouth and largemouth bass.
The sport exploded in popularity during the 19th century, by wealthy sport anglers in the north-eastern US, later being popularized among working classes. It’s notable that bass fishing in the US largely developed on its own, without influence by fishing techniques used in other parts of the world. The effects of industrialization damned and polluted many of the country’s eastern trout rivers, which were now too warm to house the said species.
To mitigate the effects, smallmouth bass were often introduced to those rivers, which made them a popular gamefish among local anglers.
During the 1950s and ‘60s, the technological development of angling tools made bass fishing more easily accessible, while recently advanced electronics that mimic the sounds of schooling bait fish have surged in usage, which have been the subject of controversy concerning their validity of use in competitions.
Some of the most popular bass fishing locations in the US are lakes, such as Lake Murray, Lake Dixon and Lake Jennings. Outside of North America, bass fishing is particularly popular in South Africa and Japan. The sport was helped along by the chase for a long-standing world record set by George Perry in 1932, who reportedly caught the biggest bass ever, weighing 22lbs and 4 ounces, or over 10kgs.