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My Most Memorable Classic Was My Last

Posted: November 13th, 2012 by Bill Dance

A year or so ago, as the result of seeing some of my fellow anglers practicing for the Bassmaster Classic, I was reminded of a memory of that great event.

Of course, these Classic thoughts jarred an already rattled brain (ask my wife for confirmation) and I thought about my most memorable Classic moment. It came in the form of a wake-up call, and as it turned out, it was a wake-up call in more ways than one.

We were fishing the 1986 Classic and one morning there was a knock on my door with someone standing there saying basically, “Are you going to fish or not…?”

I literally got in the boat that day putting my shirt on and tying my shoes.

True, if we had it on video, the moment would end up on YouTube today, or maybe on a future edition of Bill Dance Bloopers; but at the time, it really said a lot about what was going on in my life and how busy I was.

I was working all the time, nonstop, and it was inevitable that I oversleep…even when competing in the world’s biggest bass tournament. My body needed the rest and it shut down, never mind the alarm clock. I guarantee you few are the competitors that will tell you they overslept on the day of the famed Big Game, but it happened to me.

I was so busy working for my family, fulfilling sponsor obligations and filming Bill Dance Outdoors that tournaments had become way more than second fiddle. I just couldn’t admit it.

Both Ray Scott and my wife had told me this would happen before it actually took place. “One day,” they said, “tournament bass fishing is not going to be as much of a priority for you.” Of course, I did not believe it, but they both were right.

Not long after that Classic, I got another wakeup call of sorts a month or so later, at another tournament. I was crisscrossing the country, seemingly passing myself at places I needed to be for sponsors, tournaments or the television show. This tournament was to be held in Virginia and my cameraman drove my truck and boat to the tournament site. He met me at the airport while I was betwixt and between other destinations, handed me the keys and told me where my truck and boat were parked at the airport. He got on the plane and went home. I went to fish a tournament I had not even pre-fished.

Reality set in. “This is silly! What are you doing?” I asked myself. How could I possibly be at the top of my game?

Well, that started the ball rolling. I talked it over with my family and then approached my sponsors. “What if I quit tournament fishing?” I asked. And some folks that had been very good to me basically, said, “You do a great job for us. Your TV show is great; the viewers obviously love it. Why not go out while you are on top?”

So I retired from fishing bass tournaments.

Have I given up my competitive spirit/nature? No way. I still compete every day. I go out and compete again and again against my favorite fish. I compete to make the most educational and entertaining TV shows possible for viewers and my sponsors. And I still compete in a few tournaments for other species of fish. For example, I fish some catfish tournaments, and recently I fished in a striped bass tournament with my friend and Bass Pro Shops founder Johnny Morris, over on the East Coast. (We didn’t win, but made a very good showing!)

So, though my bass tournament days are behind me, I am certainly thankful for all tournament fishing did for me and my career. In retrospect, I really needed a wake-up call, I just hate I had to over-sleep at a Classic to have it start to sink-in.

As always, catch one for me!

Bill Dance


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