Rumor has it that the fight began when they exchanged words over who gets to run the trolling motor when they share a boat for the upcoming Bassmaster Legends tournament. A scuffle ensued, the camera rolled. Interviewer Tommy Sanders tried to pull Dance and McKinnis apart. Hair was mussed, objects dropped to the floor.
Of course the fight was all in fun, and it ended in laughter. The 40-year friends were only playing to the camera as they announced that the Bassmaster Legends tournament would take place July 31 in Montgomery, Ala., and that they’d compete as teammates. The event is part of the festivities of the pro-level Toyota Trucks All-Star Week, July 23-31 out of Montgomery and Wetumpka, Ala.
The McKinnis-Dance pairing makes up just one of four teams in the Legends event. The others are Guido Hibdon and Bobby Murray, Guy Eaker and Ken Cook, and Rick Clunn and Tommy Martin.
Taken together, those big names own nine Bassmaster Classic trophies, six Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year titles, 40 Bassmaster wins and 312 top-10 finishes. Clunn took the lion’s share of those Classic titles: four, including the sport’s first back-to-backs in 1976-1977, a feat not duplicated until 2010-2011 by Kevin VanDam. Dance claimed three Angler of the Year trophies, including the first such title awarded in 1970.
Other notable facts about the sport’s stars to appear in Montgomery: Dance and McKinnis are TV stars, Dance of Bill Dance Outdoors, and McKinnis of The Fishin’ Hole and The Bassmasters. McKinnis is now an owner of B.A.S.S. Martin, a 19-time Classic qualifier, won the 1974 Classic.
Murray, still working in the fishing industry but retired from competition, was the first Bassmaster Classic winner.
“I expect this to be one heck of an event,” Murray said, “a very fierce but friendly competition.”
He knows the fishery will be a private lake near Montgomery, but like his fellow competitors, he’s never seen it. Each team will be given about four hours to put five bass in the livewell. The team with the heaviest weight will win. The winning team’s prize is bragging rights and another trophy for the case.
Murray gives his team high odds to win even though he and Hibdon have never shared a boat. Murray said his fishing style — medium- to light-tackle techniques — is so similar to Hibdon’s that they’ll work in tandem. Still, he said, anything can happen when eight experts hit the water and go for a win.
“You put eight world-class anglers eyeball-to-eyeball on a small fishery and it’s bound to get interesting,” he said.
The eight Bassmaster Legends anglers will appear on the Bassmaster stage at 5 p.m. CT, just before the final weigh-in of the pro competition. The stage will be under the train shed at Union Station, 300 Water St., in downtown Montgomery.
Toyota Trucks All-Star Week weigh-ins and other activities, such as concerts and barbeque contests, are free and open to the public. Times and dates are listed at Bassmaster.com.