BassWestUSA - January/February, 2010, Page 34

» To STeppin’ up Tourna-

In 1967, word began to spread among the fish- ing community about a new tournament that was said to draw the best bass anglers in the world to Beaver Lake in Springdale, Arkansas. The tournament, being organized by an insurance salesman from Alabama named Ray Scott, was to be called, the All American. “I had heard about the tournament, but didn’t think I

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could come up with the money for the entry fee, or be able to take the time off of work,” said Dance. “I was working as a salesman for Stratton Warren Hardware, a warehouse distribution company, mainly because they sold fishing tackle.” It was after he received a call from the president of a local automotive dealership that he began to think of the tournament as an option for him. “Oscar Oakley was at Hurl Dobbs Ford, which at the time was the biggest in the country,” Dance said. “He called me into his big, push of- fice and asked if I knew anything about the All American. I told him I had, but wouldn’t be able to go.” “He told me he wanted to sponsor me into the event and my boss told me that I could have the time off,” he said. “I decided to go ahead and accept Dobbs’ offer and fish the tournament.” It wouldn’t be much longer that his decision would prove to be one of the most historical mo- ments in B.A.S.S. history.

TaKeS Two To Tango

Dance has been married to his wife Dianne have been married for 47-years, he said that she has been his greatest catch. “We’ve been fortunate to be able to provide for our family through me loving what I do,” said Dance. “We’ve been able to give our children everything they’ve needed and most of what they wanted.”

Bill and Dianne have four grown children, two of which, Bill Jr. and Patrick work for their father at Bill Dance Outdoors. His son Paul is a successful businessman and his daughter Pamela is a homemaker. Bill and Dianne have six grandchildren.

Along with his two sons that work at Bill Dance Outdoors, his niece Leslie serves as his assistant. All told, the company employs 11 people including Dance himself. Employees relate that they have always been treated like family.

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» B.a.S.S. FirST BaSS in hiSTory

Ray Scott has publicly said many times that Dance caught the first bass in that Beaver Lake tournament, and by doing so, became the first man to catch a fish in B.A.S.S. competition. “I had found a school of fish across from Prairie Creek Marina in a pocket with a road bed, and decided to start the tournament there” Dance said. “I had a really fast boat, one of the fastest in the field during the All American, when Scott fired that shotgun; I ran straight to that little pocket, it was so close that I could barely get on plane before having to shut down.” The other angler who would have challenged Dance for the fastest boat was Ray Murski, who was still in sight when Dance got ready to fish. “I could still see Ray when I put the trolling motor down and set up for a cast,” he said. “The boat wakes from the other competitors had not even reached my boat when I made my first cast.” Dance said his worm was sinking to the bot- tom when he felt a strike. “I threw that worm out there, and before it could hit bottom, I

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January/February 2010