I have never been more excited about writing a post for this site since starting it in 2012.  We’ve written a couple of pieces referencing this book but have never published the complete piece due to copyright issues.  Well, today in Bill Dance’s First Book, I am happy to say that we get to publish the book in its entirety, Bill Dance, The Bass Champ, Techniques of Bass Fishing.

First off, I would like to thank my dear friends Bill Dance and his daughter Pamela (who actually did all the legwork on this), and PRADCO for giving us the rights to publish this historical piece.  Without any of them, this wouldn’t have been possible.

This book is one of the most important books in bass fishing because it was written by a new breed of bass angler, the professional bass fisherman.  Prior to this book, every single book about bass fishing was written by a writer who happened to be a bass angler.

This means no disrespect to James Henshall, Jason Lucas, or Homer Circle.  All were great anglers themselves and duly earned the right of expert for their day.  But prior to this, none of them had participated in competitive bass fishing and the stress that goes with that.

Sure, there have been several anglers who never competed in a tournament.  All of them great anglers.  But the definition of a great angler has changed since 1967 and only tournament winners are seen as the sole source of expertise.  I can’t argue with that because someone who can go out on a new body of water, figure out the fish, and over the course of a three- or four-day event bring in the winning weight under that kind of pressure deserves the recognition.

So, let’s get to the book.

Bill Dance’s first book was written in 1971 and came out either that same year or in 1972.  Talking with Bill, he didn’t remember the exact date it was released.  He also told me that it was a book that was suggested to him by long-time friend, Cotton Cordell, who was the first person to talk him into doing a TV show.  For those of you that don’t know, Cotton and Bill were close friends.

Bill started out his career with no sponsors.  Shortly after he placed second at Ray Scott’s inaugural events at Beaver and Smith Lakes in 1967, he was a star.  By 1971 he was the winningest tournament angler on the scene and his TV show, Bill Dance Outdoors, was opening doors of another kind.  He was and still is the most recognized angler of all time.  Cordell realized a book by Dance would be a best-seller, and that it was.

The difference between this book and its predecessors was it was written by the best bass angler of the day, to help others learn a lake fast and put fish in the boat.  Other than Cordell, there was very little mention of actual product names but one could read between the lines fairly easy.

Bill Dance and Charlie Brewer Bill Dance Techniques of Bass Fishing 1971

The book itself is staple bound and 72 pages in length, including the covers.  It is not a book filled with extraneous information, just what the angler needed at the time to learn the basics.  It’s a fast read and one an angler could go back to time and time again as reference.

I’m not going to go into detail about each page or chapter of the book.  It’s short enough that you can read it all here on the Bass Fishing Archives or, if you can find one at a used book store or eBay, purchase one yourself.

The book starts out with a great historical perspective of Dance’s career circa 1971.  At that time he was the winningest angler with over $20,000 in earnings over the course of 20 events.  All this at the age of 30.  Think about that.  There is so much discussion today about the “young guns” taking over the scene.  That really didn’t the case at all.  The young guns have always ruled the roost in professional bass fishing.

From the introduction, the book then leads into Equipment, Use of Lures, My Techniques of Fishing, Where the Fish are on Your Topographic Map, How to Get Topographic Maps, and then ends with a Summary.


Dance starts out by discussing rods and reels.  His preferred rods were 5 ½- to 6-feet long and his reels were “fast” casting reels and higher-speed spinning reels.  Here we come to the word fast.  In this day, fast didn’t refer to the retrieve ratio of the reel.  It had to do with the weight of the spool and its ability to start rotating fast.

Bill Dance Depth Finders Techniques of Bass Fishing 1971

You’ll get this idea when Dance talks about the need for spinning reels.  Spinning reels weren’t used because they could cast lighter baits better but because they had a faster retrieve than their baitcasting contemporaries.  Other equipment talked about in this section are depthfinders, plastic worms, spoons, jigs, and Th’ Spot.

Use of Lures

Dance moves on to a deeper dive into the use of lures in the next section.  Because he was sponsored by Cordell at the time, and they paid to have this book written, there is a lot of talk about Cordell lures.  In fact, there’s no mention of any other lure company in this short 4-page section.

My Techniques of Fishing

The next section is all about what Dance does to get himself familiar with a lake he’s never seen before.  This first involves procuring a topo map of the lake.  Although the topo map won’t give an angler any idea of what the lake looks like above the water, it will provide what the lake looks like below the water, which in more important.

Bill Dance Howard Wamble Ray Murski Ross Barnett 1968

Second, he suggests the angler get a thermometer that can be lowered into the water column to record temperature at various depths of the lake.  Lastly, he recommends the use of a depthfinder.  Used together, these three instruments will unveil important features of a lake before you even make a cast.

Once you have these three important pieces of the puzzle, Dance recommends the angler concentrate on one portion or, on a big lake, maybe an arm, and learn that water first.  It’s easier to break down a big body of water in sections than to try and eat the elephant all at once.

So where do you fish in that one particular part of the lake you’ve chosen?  Dance goes on to discuss finding the depth where the most active or biggest fish are relating to, or if they’re relating to points or other underwater structure.  He also talks about the proper method in which to triangulate offshore structure.

It is also interesting that on page 26, Dance mentions patterning fish. Roland Martin has been credited with the phrase pattern fishing so I wonder if Dance took it from him and used it in his book.  Martin had been on the scene at this point for nearly two years and a lot had been written on him at this time.

Where the Fish are on Your Topographic Map

As you might expect from the title, this chapter goes deep into using the topographical map to find productive spots on any lake.  Although Dance doesn’t use an actual topo map, he has drawn out certain scenarios that the angler will have to find on their own particular lake.

Bill Dance Spoon Fishing Techniques of Bass Fishing 1971

Dance goes over how fish relate to structure and cover breaks such as trees, current, channel bends, brush, saddles, and more.  He even takes sun position into account in his drawings.  This is an in-depth chapter on structure fishing that still has legs today and is by far the longest in the book, running a total of 19 pages.

How to Get Topographic Maps

The final chapter in the book, which only runs five pages, is on how to secure topographical maps.  Anglers reading this today have no clue what it took to secure accurate maps back as little into the 1990s.  Our electronics didn’t come loaded with them in fact, GPS didn’t become standard until the mid-1990s.

Because of this, most serious anglers became very familiar with the U.S. Department of Geological Survey when venturing to a new lake.  The USGS maps were the most accurate maps made at the time and were available for next to nothing.


The final pages of the book are a look at Dance’s tournament records at the time as well as some parting pictures of his successes on the water.  He ends the book with a summary that starts off with this question that was asked of him.

“If anglers in the past could ever have become as successful as we are today in catching fish?”

Dances answer was this:

“I really doubt it very much.  They simply didn’t have the tools available to pinpoint and eliminate some of the variables.”

He goes on to talk about his opinion of the three most important tools of the day that separated the “new” bass angler from the old.  A thermometer, fathometer (depthfinder), and topographic maps.

Bill Dance Th' Spot Techniques of Bass Fishing 1971

No truer words have ever been said about contemporary bass fishing, with all three of these tools becoming more and more accurate over the course of the 50 years since the printing of this text.  Funny thing is I doubt Bill had any clue how far these pieces of equipment would progress.  No one could have.

Below in the gallery you can view and read the entire text of this book.  I would like to thank Bill and Pamela Dance for making this possible as well as PRADCO.


Gallery – Bill Dance Techniques of Bass Fishing