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Outdoors

James Drake

Bill Dance has just been named the honorary chairman for the 2013 National Hunting and Fishing Day to be held Sept. 28.

You may know of Dance from watching his incredibly popular television show that runs today on the NBC Sports Network (formerly Versus), or maybe you’ve seen him in various outdoor-related commercials.

His best-selling blooper videos — showing him falling off docks and out of boats, along with snakes falling out of trees onto him — have been making folks laugh now for many years.

I’ve met and talked to Dance a few times at some Bassmaster Classics over the years and feel blessed to have had those opportunities. He is quite a character and just so much exactly like he seems on TV. And, if you’d like to talk about a whole life that’s been truly blessed, Dance would be an excellent place to begin.

This Tennessee native grew up in a small town and was the son of the local doctor. Dance’s grandfather was also a doctor, as were other members of the family, so it shouldn’t shock you too much to learn that Dance went to college to study medicine.

However, when he was still really early into his classes, Dance happened to come upon a motorcycle accident as he was driving home one afternoon. He was the first one on this grisly scene, and I remember him telling me about it.

“I just couldn’t hold down my cookies looking at all that blood and guts,” he said.

That single event ended his medical career.

Growing up, Dance loved to fish and he was pretty good at it. Having a father who was a doctor and could afford the latest and best in fishing tackle and equipment didn’t hurt, either.

Ray Scott held the very first BASS tournament event in 1967 and called it The All American Invitational. Dance was one of the young hotshot fishermen Scott invited to participate.

The modern bassboat had yet to be invented, and many of these bass anglers were fishing out of nothing more than rowboat-like watercraft. For this very first bass tournament, Dance had borrowed a friend’s 60-horsepower runabout, and as the event began, he easily motored out way ahead of everyone else.

He stopped to fish at a nearby point and caught a bass on his first cast as everyone else was still just leaving the launch site, so Dance has the distinction of catching the very first fish in BASS tournament history.

His friendship with Scott and his kinship with the early BASS tournament circuit continued to grow, and Dance won several BASS-sanctioned events, was named BASS Angler of the Year three times and qualified for eight Bassmaster Classics.

Dance retired from professional tournament fishing in 1980.

Early in his fishing career, Dance quickly recognized the benefit of sponsorships; one initial sponsor wanted more exposure and asked him to host a local television show on a Memphis station about fishing.

Dance was a natural in that role, and his popularity only grew as his television program was picked up by more and more stations. Today, he is easily recognized as one of the world’s most famous fishermen.

The 72-year-old Dance has been married now to the same woman for nearly a half century, and he also is proud of his work with many philanthropic organizations, including the American Heart Association, American Cancer Society, Arthritis Foundation, Make-A-Wish, Dreams Come True and St. Jude Children’s Hospital. He has also been inducted into the National Freshwater Hall of Fame.

As chairman of the 2013 National Hunting and Fishing Day, Dance joins the likes of Hank Williams Jr., Travis Tritt, Jeff Foxworthy, Robert Urich, Wade Boggs, Arnold Palmer, Terry Bradshaw and many other famous personalities in promoting America’s 34 million hunters and anglers.

Congress established National Hunting and Fishing Day to recognize hunters and fishermen for their leadership in fish and wildlife conservation in 1971, and this day has been formally proclaimed by every U.S. President and countless governors and mayors ever since.

“This is truly an honor to be selected to serve as honorary chair for National Hunting and Fishing Day,” Dance said. “I hope all will join me in celebrating the fourth Saturday in September, which was set aside to join together like-minded sportsmen in the pursuit of conserving our outdoor heritage. There are thousands of events that all are welcomed to join in and celebrate a great day for sportsmen everywhere.”

According to The Outdoor Wire, anglers and hunters contribute more than $4.7 million every single day for fish, wildlife and habitat programs. No one spends more for conservation.

Dance will make a great chairman, and I’m pretty sure his dad and granddad would approve how things turned out.

New fishing/weather app

Bassmaster Magazine and Bassmaster.com have joined forces with ScoutLook to release a new fishing-specific weather app for Android and iPhone users.

This is promised to have excellent worldwide mobile weather tools that integrate maps, solunar, wind, barometric changes, tides, moon phases and other information to facilitate planning and help you catch more fish.

It’s also said to be useful to any fishermen, not just bass anglers, and the basic version is free.

To learn more or download the app, go to www.scoutlookweather.com.

Grant money available

The Maryland Environmental Trust is now accepting applications for grants through the Keep Maryland Beautiful program to help volunteer-based, nonprofit groups and communities develop environmental education projects and solve natural resource issues.

These awards, up to $2,000, can go toward projects such as educating people about litter prevention, community beautification, reducing or eliminating a local environmental problem, or things like protecting rural areas and educating our youth about environmental matters.

Completed applications must be submitted by March 31.

To learn more, go to Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources website, www.dnr.state.md.us, and click on “Keep Maryland Beautiful Grants.”

zbasser@aol.com