How Bill Dance named the Strike King Lure Company

Bill Dance has introduced millions to bass fishing since his very first fishing TV show hit the airwaves in 1968. If you’ve ever been on the water when the morning light started coming over the treetops, chances are Dance’s iconic theme song was lodged in your head while making a cast.

But Dance is far more than a TV host. In 1970, he became the very first Bassmaster Angler of the Year, a title which he claimed a total of three times. Dance notched four top 10 finishes at the Bassmaster Classic en route to becoming a first-ballot member of the Bass Fishing Hall of Fame. And the iconic Tennessee angler is even credited with catching the first ever fish in B.A.S.S. tournament history.

Today, the 82-year-old Dance is as busy as ever. He’s still filming TV shows, still making public appearances and still introducing new anglers to the sport of bass fishing. Recently, caught up with Dance at his Memphis-area home to talk about some of his favorite fishing memories from a lifetime on the water.

The Naming of Strike King Lure Co. – Horseshoe Lake, Arkansas

In the early 1960s, Bill McEwen, Johnny Fowler and Bill Dance devised the name of Strike King Lure Company over a crappie dinner.

Dance: Growing up I mostly fished by wading the creeks of Middle Tennessee around Lynchburg, which I dearly loved to fish. Those were all shallow-water fisheries. When my parents separated when I was small, I was bouncing back and forth between Lynchburg and Memphis.

Bill Dance stops for a photo wearing his famous Tennessee Volunteers hat.

The only access I had to bigger lakes was when my grandfather would take me from Memphis to Horseshoe Lake in Arkansas. He would drop me off at a place called Camp Carefree, and the owner would just give me a sculling paddle and a little boat. So I would scull around the lake and fish around piers and on the outside bend of the horseshoe.

That’s where I met a man named Bill McEwen, and I got to know him. He started talking to me and showing me how to fish spinnerbaits that he was making by hand. He was a taxidermist that worked at American Airlines and made lures for fun; he was also a tremendous shallow-water fisherman.

As I got older, Bill offered me a job skinning ducks. I started off making $1.50 a duck, and I started hanging around his house more. Eventually, I got a job working for a distribution company and selling to hardware stores. I was at Bill’s house, and I figured I could sell some of those spinnerbaits he had on the walls.

One night, his wife had cooked up some crappie. Bill and myself and another avid shallow-water fisherman named Johnny Fowler were sitting around the table at Horseshoe Lake. I made the statement that Bill could sell some of his baits if we packaged them up and gave them a name.

So, we wrestled around with names. We talked about this name and that name and said a few of them were insane. Then, Johnny had an idea. He asked what a bass does when it hits a lure. Bill said they hit it. And I said, “No, they strike it. When a bass hits, it is striking.”

Johnny told us to stop right there and divide the word up and spell it. So, I spelled S-t-r-i-k-e K-i-n-g and everyone said they liked it. We sat right there and named Strike King Lure Company and chose to have some labels printed up so I could start selling them to hardware and lumber stores.