It is certain that most anglers who watch Bill Dance on television lust over the lakes he gets to fish. I know I do. Usually he is filmed on tiny bodies of water, loaded with lunker bass that want to eat whatever he feels like casting.
For this very reason, I thought it appropriate to challenge Dance with Bassmaster's "Day On The Lake" feature written by Don Wirth. This challenge forces an angler to fish a body of water they've never seen before, and gives them only eight hours to catch a limit of fish. Understanding that Dance was one of the most prolific bass pros ever to hold a rod (he won seven BASS events between 1967 to 1970), I was curious if he still had it.
If you have not read the April issue of Bassmaster Magazine, you must pick up a copy. Dance's Day On The Lake proves the legend still has mad skills. In the feature, you will ride along with Dance as he picks apart an unfamiliar lake and identifies a pattern that yields 15 pounds, 2 ounces. However, there is a part of the story that's not in the magazine.
During this year's Classic in Shreveport/Bossier City, La., I had the pleasure of interviewing Bill Dance at the Bassmaster Classic Outdoors Expo. In front of a capacity crowd, I asked him to relive the Day On The Lake experience. The details he relayed made me think even more of him as a bass fisherman ... if that was possible.
"I begged Don (Wirth) to tell me what lake we'd be fishing," he grinned. "But that sucker was as tight mouthed as bass during a cold front! He wouldn't even tell me what type of baits to pack. I got nuthin' out of him. So, I just put a little bit of everything in my boat and headed his way."
The two met at a gas station outside of Nashville, Tenn., and then drove to one of the small mystery lakes Wirth uses for the challenges.
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"When we pulled up to the ramp, Don had a funny look on his face and said 'This lake is pretty high ... and muddy!' I looked at the temperature gauge and it read 59 degrees and there was a 15 mph wind. And the barometric pressure had bottomed out! I was already starting to create some good excuses in my mind for not being able to catch 'em," Dance confided.
The two launched the boat and officially started the eight-hour challenge."I just started fishing at the ramp, making my way up the bank," Dance recalled
"About 200 yards up the shoreline, we ran into another boat. It was a couple of Fish and Wildlife guys for the state of Tennessee."
Wirth knew the pair and struck up a conversation.
"As they were talking, I heard one of 'em say 'Y'all might have a bit of a tough day today, because we shocked and removed 500 bass three days ago.'"At this point, Wirth smirked just a bit, said goodbye to the pair and Dance continued fishing."After we got out of hearing distance from those guys, I turned around to Don and let him have it," Dance laughed."So, Don, you brought me to a lake that is high and muddy; we are fishing post cold front with a bottomed out barometer; and they took out 500 fish a couple of days ago! Why didn't we just fish in the parking lot at the gas station we met at?!"
"At that point, I was just hoping to get a bite, much less catch a bass!" Dance admitted.
Even still, the man in the Tennessee hat managed to find a ledge the bass were relating to, and scraped up an impressive limit.
If you can't find Bassmaster on newsstands near you, sign up for a free trial of BASS Insider and read the story via the digital version of the magazine. After reading, you, too, will concur that Bill Dance is a bass fishing legend for good reason!