“There He Is.” Those words have been heard by anyone who is a bass fisherman. The phrase signifies to the angler who says it that he (or she) has been bit and is about to set the hook. To the other angler in the boat, it can mean various things:
- Get the net
- Finally he’s gonna get one
- I guess I’m net boy today
If you were in the boat with the author of the book in question, you probably muttered the third option.
Yesterday Brian posted a piece on Bill Dance’s book, Techniques of Bass Fishing, and it reminded me of another early book Bill wrote via Bassmaster Magazine Editor Bob Cobb. This one, There He Is, written in 1973 and published by the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society of America was probably the most comprehensive treatise on worm fishing that had ever been written at the time. I need to find this out for sure but it may also be the first book published by B.A.S.S. for its members.
As Brian said, Bill Dance was the sport’s first super star and by 1973 had amassed an amazing resume on The National circuit. Out of 31 Bassmaster tournaments (1968 – 1972), Dance won seven times, placed second three times, third two times and had 18 top 10 finishes – all the while sitting out the 1971 season completely, along with missing two other events in ’72. No wonder people were asking him to write books.
There He Is is a 119-page book where Dance discusses everything about fishing a plastic worm. Here are the chapter titles:
- About Bill Dance
- Bill Dance’s Philosophy for Bass Fishing
- Evolution of the Ultimate Lure: The Plastic Worm
- How Bill Dance Fishes the Plastic Worm
- Is There a Magic Wand for Plastic Worm Fishing?
- The Weakest Link is Your Fishing Line
- What Rig is Best for Fishing Plastic Worms?
- What Color of Plastic Worm Works Best?
- Do Odors (Flavor) Make a Difference in Plastic Worm Fishing?
- Add ‘Sound’ to Your Plastic Worm
- Where Bill Dance Fishes the Plastic Worrm
- Stalkin’ Bass With Worms in Shallow Water
So let’s dive a little deeper into There He Is, by Bill Dance.
In Chapter One Cobb describes Dance as being, “one of those 10-percent guys.” In other words, one of the 10-percent of the angler population who catches 90-percent of the fish. Cobb also gives a very well thought out history of Dance and how he went from Memphis furniture salesman to the best tournament bass angler of the time. He describes Dance’s methods, thought process and his utmost confidence in his abilities. It’s a really good lead-in to the book and gives you more of an understanding of Bill Dance and what made him tick.
Chapter Two is all about Dance’s fishing philosophy; confidence, feel, endurance and patience – with the first two being most important. He then goes on to discuss that in order to be successful you have to have your head in the game. You have to be confident in your ability or you might as well pack it up. You can’t think of anything other than catching bass and you can’t doubt yourself. In his words, “You can’t fish a plastic worm feeling like a ‘loser.’”
To end the chapter, Dance tells a great story of the 1969 Eufaula event (he placed second fishing a plastic worm) where he and fellow angler Carl Dyess found a spot, coined Confidence Hole No. 1. This spot evidently was filled with five- to seven-pound brutes. Unfortunately, another boat had moved in just as they were preparing to leave. Dance and Dyess, not knowing if the other boat had seen them catch the fish, decided to move the only tell-tale of the spot – a large sunken log sticking out of the water – to another location that had similar features. As the story goes, they fished the new spot, caught a bunch of big fish, and then went back to Confidence Hole No. 1 and nothing.
In a quandary, Dance and Dyess moved the log again back to the original spot. Later that night the two flipped a coin to see who would get first crack at the spot. Dance won and on the first day weighed in a limit (15 fish) that went 85 pounds. That’s the same event where Rip Nunnery set the all-time 15-fish one-day limit or 98-15.
Chapter Three is actually an adaptation of an article published in the 1973 Bassmaster Magazine Fishing Annual titled, “The Evolution of Plastic Worm Fishing,” by Myron Fischer. Credit is given to Nick and Cosma Crème as the inventors of the contemporary plastic worm made of PVC. They were also the first to impregnate their worms with scent.
Second and third on the list of plastic worm makers was Charles Burke and Dave DeLong. Interesting fact among these three different manufacturers is where they resided in the country. The Crème’s were from Ohio, Burke was from Michigan and DeLong was again from Ohio. It must have been those cold winters with nothing to do that spawned ideas of making fake worms.
Chapter Four is all about how Dance fishes the plastic worm. He talks about how he was first introduced to the bait in the mid-50s at Frazier’s Sports Shop in Memphis. Dance then describes when to set the hook, how to retrieve the plastic worm, how to set the hook and how to watch your line for strikes.
Chapter Five is all about choosing the proper “worm rod.” Back then rods were made of glass and most of them were damn whippy. In Dance’s words, “plastic worm fishing calls for a 5 1/2- to 6-foot tubular glass rod with the accent more on a good backbone than flexibility. This does not mean that the rod should be stiff as a cue stick……….
“In my opinion, the days of the old-fashion worm stick – the 2-in-1 rod – are passing fast. These were the cue stick-stiff rods you fished with in the daytime, and chalked the tip to shoot pool with after sundown.”
He talks about all the aspects of picking the proper rod:
- Pick a rod that fits you
- Don’t settle for a cheap rod
- Buy a one-piece rod
- Pay attention to the guides
- Buy a name-brand rod
- What reels to use – including spinning reels.
In Chapter Six Dance talks about lines and knots. He’s very adamant about taking good care of line and talks about how heat and UV light can weaken the line. Pretty amazing he’d picked up on this at such an early time in the history of mono.
Again in this chapter Dance talks about watching the line for strikes rather than relying solely on feel.
He then gets into knots. Of course he talks about the Improved Clinch and the Palomar knots but what intrigued me was his use of a knot I’d never heard of – the Burke Knot. The Burke Knot is essentially a version of the snell knot, where the line is wrapped around the shank of the hook and threaded through the eye. A few years back, a number of top touring pros were talking about using a snell knot for flipping. They used the snell because tied correctly would drive the hook point upwards, giving a better hookset.
Chapter Seven is all about worm rigs (primarily the Texas Rig) and how to use them. Interesting is even at this time the Texas Rig was still in a transition from being called the Slip-Sinker Rig – as it was originally called.
Dance talks about the inventor of the rig, Dave Hawk (a guide on Texas’ Lake Tawakoni) and the man who introduced him to the rig, Glen Andrews, “who still rates as one of the all-time great bassin’ men.”
Weight size, hooks, toothpicks as pegs, jig heads, South Carolina Rigs are all covered. He has special sections devoted to the jig-n-worm and Slider Fishing and even rigging the hook far back in the worm for short strikes.
Chapter Eight is all about color – and Bill Dance had his opinion of the best worm color back in the day. His famous quote, “Any color is all-right, just as long as it’s blue!,” has been heard by nearly every bass angler over 40.
Today we have more colors of plastics than 14 rainbows put together. Look at the list of colors offered back then, though. Blue, green, purple, black and red. Yep folks, those were the mainstays if not the only colors certain manufacturers made.
More in-depth talk goes on about matching worm color to local conditions, position of the sun and how colors change the deeper they go in the water column.
In Chapter Nine Dance tries to make some sense of scents. In his words, “if it builds your CONFIDENCE, use it often and generously.” Throughout this entire chapter he never really gives a solid opinion whether he believed in them or not.
Chapter Ten is about adding sound-generating paraphernalia to your soft plastics. At the time a number of companies were beginning to make rattle chambers and even rattling sinkers for use with plastic worms. As in Chapter Nine, though, Dance doesn’t concede any opinion on whether they work or not, again saying, “if it gives you confidence, use it.”
Chapter Eleven is the longest and, in my opinion, the best chapter in the entire book. It’s dedicated on “where” Dance fishes the plastic worm – but I’m guessing this is where he’d fish any bait.
Just as in his book Techniques of Bass Fishing, he dives deep into what type of structure to look for, determining the ‘magic depth,’ and how to fish the plastic worm in deep water. There are a number of great illustrations on structure types from river bends to points, bluffs standing timber, flats, you name it. It’s still a great learning tool.
In Chapter Twelve Dance gives the limelight to John Powell – noted shallow-water worm expert of the time. You see, Dance spent most of his time fishing offshore structure. Thusly he probably felt it best to give this chapter to someone who had success in the shallows.
The opening of the chapter begins with Dance telling a story of Powell and how he’d make fun of structure fishermen.
“He claims that Pete Henson of Marietta, Georgia, who believes in settin’ and waitin’ for bass to come to him on a worm hole, stayed on a spot so long in the upper end of Lake Eufaula on the Alabama-Georgia line that river boat pilots begun to mistake him for a buoy marker. ‘Ol’ Pete finally moved one day, and caused a boat to run aground.”
The chapter continues with Powell’s thoughts on shallow-water worm fishing. In a nutshell, he says to cast at every target and keep up a “machine-gun pace.” He also said not to just cast “at” the target but make sure your lure goes “into” the target. In this case he’d be talking about a tree, bush or a dock.
He talks about letting the lure sink, move it a couple times and then reel it back to the boat, ready for the next cast. His goal was to hit 6 to 8 targets a minute. That’s fast!
It’s really amazing what you’ll find if you just go back and read some of these old books and magazines. So much of what we do today had its start back in the late 60s and early 70s. Dance’s book proves this point to a tee. Yeah, there may be changes in tackle, but the techniques are still the same and some have been forgotten to be born again someday.