Bill Dance helped popularize bass fishing to the heights it has managed to reach.
There are few names in the world of fishing more famous than Bill Dance. If you're like me, you likely stumbled across Dance's TV show, Bill Dance Outdoors, as a kid and were simply amazed by his skills as a fisherman.
Dance has inspired countless anglers to take up the sport of fishing. His show has always been a unique mix of dynamite fishing trips and humor from his countless bloopers.
While many people know the man for his show and signature Tennessee baseball cap and shades, fewer know his background as a competitive fisherman or how his career in fishing was decided by fate. Read on and we'll tell you his net worth, his story and what his legacy will mean for fishing.
Bill Dance's Early Life
It won't surprise most of you to learn William Dance's birth place is Lynchburg, Tennessee, where he was born in 1940.
According to his official website, that is also where his love of fishing was fostered while wading the creeks with his grandfather.
While the man did have a love of fishing early on, Bill Dance the pro angler was nearly Dr. Bill Dance! Many of his fans may be surprised to learn that Bill originally planned to keep the family tradition of a career in medicine going. However, a strange and unfortunate twist of fate changed everything while the young Dance was still enrolled in medical school in the early 60s.
The would-be doctor was the first person to arrive at the scene of a motorcycle crash.
"It was very traumatic, and it affected me deeply," Dance said on his website. "At that moment I knew I didn't want to be a doctor anymore."
While the motorcycle accident was unfortunate and represented an individual loss for the medical profession, it was the fishing industry's gain. The young, charismatic angler set off to try and make a name for himself as a professional fisherman.
Pro Bass Fishing Career
Today, everyone knows Dance the TV show host, but few know about his incredible accomplishments as a competitor in the world of professional bass tournaments.
Dance didn't just compete, he dominated during his short tournament career that stretched from 1967-1980. He retired at just 39 years old, leaving us to wonder how dominant he would be today in a profession that is increasingly seeing anglers competing into their 50s and 60s.
Dance's accomplishments pre-date the Bass Angler Sportsman Society (B.A.S.S.), and when it was finally formed he finished second in the Ray Scott All-American Tournament in 1967. He is thought to have caught the first bass of the tournament, which is usually credited as being the first fish in B.A.S.S. tournament history.
Over the next 13 years, Dance stayed atop the tournament scene with seven victories and eight runner-up appearances. Bassmaster put together a very interesting piece a few years ago that really breaks down the man's accomplishments. Most notable are his 10.4 percent winning percentage and his 67.5 percent top ten finish percentage. The only other angler who has come remotely close to those numbers is Kevin VanDam, and he's still miles behind with eight percent and 37 percent respectively.
In 78 appearances, Dance won seven times and finished runner-up eight times. He appeared in the Super Bowl of bass fishing, the Bassmaster Classic, a total of eight times. In 1973, he caught a heavy limit on the final day but came up just short of besting eventual winner Rayo Breckenridge.
Dance also won the coveted B.A.S.S. Angler of the Year award three times, in 1970, 1974 and 1977. He also owns 23 National Bass Fishing Titles and was inducted into the Professional Bass Fishing Hall of Fame in 2001.
Some of you may be wondering why Dance cut his career so short if he was so dominant. It probably had something to do with the offer of a fishing television series, and the lucrative nature of such a deal. Dance's total career winnings on the Bassmaster tournament tour only total $57,134.42.
If that seems low, remember that for some of those early tournaments, the payouts weren't near the huge jackpots they are today. For instance, when Dance won the 1968 Rebel Invitation on Ross Barnett Reservoir in Mississippi, his winnings were just $2,265!
In fact, according to Bassmaster's official stats, it seems his largest payout ever was only $4,000 for finishing second in the 1977 Virginia Invitational on Lake Gaston. That's a far cry from the six-figure payout for winning the Classic today!
His early fishing career also led to his signature Tennessee Vols hat that he has always worn while fishing or in competition. Dance describes on his website how former Tennessee football coach Doug Dickey contacted him in the late 60s for help recruiting a fishing fan to the team.
"He asked if I'd drop the kid a note and put in a good word for UT," Dance says on his website. "I did, and a few days later I got a couple of UT caps in the mail from Dickey."
After that, Dance wore the hat in a tournament and then on his show, and the rest is history.
Host of Bill Dance Outdoors
Dance was still in the beginning of his career as a tournament fisherman when he first got his TV show, Bill Dance Outdoors, back in 1968. The show started off small on a local Memphis ABC affiliate TV station, but Bill quickly won over viewers with his warm, friendly personality and helpful fishing tips.
Over the years, the show has bounced around from network to network, appearing on stations like ESPN and TNN. Eventually, it found a home with NBC Sports. Today you'll find it airing on the Outdoor Channel and World Fishing Network.
While it is primarily targeted at bass fishermen, the show gave Dance a chance to show he wasn't a one-trick pony. The man is skilled in all facets of angling for practically any species. This skill led to the creation of his second show: Bill Dance Saltwater TV, on the Sportsman's Channel. He has also hosted plenty of celebrities on his program as well as other fishing legends like his close friends Jimmy Houston and Roland Martin.
The show gave Dance the chance to pick up even more sponsors for fishing lures, tackle and boat products over the years. Today he's sponsored by Bass Pro Shops, Tracker, Nitro Boats, Mercury Marine, Stren and many more.
In addition to the television shows, Dance has taken things fully into the 21st century with his YouTube channel, which has a little over 50,000 subscribers. It's a good mix of brand-new content and classic content, plus the obligatory bloopers from his TV shows over the years.
Bill Dance's Net Worth
According to Celebrity Net Worth, Dance's estimated net worth is $4 million. As we've already mentioned, much of his revenue comes from his television shows. Over the years, Dance has had his name tied to many lures and pieces of fishing tackle.
Big names like Rebel, Tracker Boats, Gamakatsu, Motor Guide, Garmin, Zebco and more are among the many products and brands Dance promotes. You may even remember him attaching his name to less successful products like the "As Seen on TV" gimmick: "The Banjo Minnow" back in the late 90s.
Dance also sells signature apparel like shoes, sunglasses and caps on his website, including that iconic Tennessee hat. You can even request he sign it upon ordering!
He also formed the brand Th3 Legends with Jimmy Houston and Roland Martin. These three titans of the fishing industry sell products like marine cleaner, beef jerky and more.
Dance has also authored several books about fishing that have sold quite well over the years. It's safe to say the guy is not lacking in income sources!
Bill Dance's Legacy
Between his hugely popular TV shows, his numerous B.A.S.S. Angler of the Year titles, and performances in National Bass Fishing Contests, Bill Dance's legacy is truly cemented as one of the greatest fishermen who has ever lived.
As further proof of that, he was inducted in the National Freshwater Hall of Fame in 1986, the International Game Fish Association Hall of Fame in 2006 and the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame. He also received the 1978 Congressional National Water Safety Award.
Don't forget he also helped popularize things like the Carolina rig and the use of a powerful outboard to get the jump on competitors in tournaments!
We'd be willing to argue that it isn't Dance's awards and fishing innovations that make him so successful and popular. It's his personality. Dance is incredibly friendly with both business associates and fans alike, and you've got to respect a man who is so willing to poke fun at himself. That's a rare quality to find in anyone these days.
The man truly goes above and beyond to both educate and entertain his fans.
That down-to-earth style is reflected in his family too. Dance has four children, Bill Jr, Patrick, Paul and Pamela with his wife Dianne. All of them help with maintaining his business in the world of fishing.
Speaking of his wife, they've been married 57 years! If you hop on his social media channels, you'll often find him posting photos of family gatherings. He also gets reflective in these posts, often putting photos on Instagram from his younger years. This is a man who clearly hasn't forgotten how he got to where he is today or the people that helped him get there.
You'll also find his social media flooded with comments from men and women who say they were inspired to start fishing as a result of his TV show. Dance is also known for always having time for fans and he still makes numerous appearances at fishing shows and conventions across the United States. It's safe to say he makes an impression on people!
Dance is arguably responsible for getting more people interested in fishing than any other outdoor personality alive today, and for that reason he'll forever be known as one of the greatest to ever pick up a rod and reel.