ORLANDO, Fla. – Bill Dance draped a life jacket over his head, a strap like a bridle in his mouth, as he stood alongside Roland Martin and Jimmy Houston for a photo op on the ICAST floor.
“That’s Bill Dance” was the simple explanation. They were plenty of other goofs and loud laughs as the TV fishing luminaries teamed up once again, this time endorsing products with Th3Legends name.
“We’re just three serious guys,” Houston said after it was pointed out they seemed to be having a lot of fun. “It’s my job to lighten them up. And you have to keep them apart. Notice they put me in between them.
“You go fishing with these two guys, it’s like fishing with two old ladies. As a matter of fact, I’d rather fish with two old ladies.”
Dance, who hosts “Bill Dance Saltwater” on Outdoor Channel, agreed that they’ve all had an enjoyable ride. They met in the early days of bass tournaments and each have found immeasurable success in the industry.“I don’t know who said you can’t mix business with pleasure, but they were wrong. We’re living proof you can,” Dance said. “We’ve been doing it for 40 years and we’ve had a great time.”
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Houston did the ciphering of the three at 128 years of combined TV work, but that they’ve never really competed against each other. He served up a prime example when Dance helped him secure a line sponsor.“We’ve done that kind of thing for years, because friendship is above everything else,” Dance said.
Martin said he’s been blessed to have such great friends. For years he’s deer hunted at Houston’s place and has made numerous appearances on both of their shows.
“I’ve been working with these guys for 30, 40 years,” Martin said. “We’d get together every five years or so and say, ‘Let’s do a show together.’”
It was Houston’s energy drink that brought them together 3 or 4 years ago and spawned the idea to team up on more items. At Th3Legends booth, gear like waterproof bags, life jackets, fishing gloves and flashlights was adorned with their logo.
“The energy drink was just the start of it, but it’s just blossomed ever since,” Martin said. “It’s still in its inceptional stage -- with all these licensing things you have to go in a year ahead of time.”
Martin said they have considered a number of items to put their name on, but they have had to reject some.“If it’s not a really good product, we won’t do it,” he said. “There’s been a couple real flaky ones we turned down.”
On the front of new products, the three said they are amazed with the advancements in fishing gear over the years. ICAST heralds in new products each year, and the three fishing amigos have seen, and used, a lot of it in their years. Dance said the advance in electronics is most impressive to him.
“The technology is better in everything,” Houston said. “Like we have copolymer fishing line that is just far superior to monofilament. We have hooks that are tempered and forged and remain sharp. We used to sharpen hooks. Very few fishermen today carry a hook sharpener anymore.
“Our rods, our reels. We’ve got reels that cost a fraction of what they cost even five years ago, and yet they’ll throw twice as long and they’ll last twice as long.”
“The rods are so light, so strong and so sensitive, it’s just unbelievable where we’ve gone,” said Dance, who has an appreciation for the new but likes that at least one product remains the same from his youth. “I’m looking at corks across the way; they’re even totally different than when we started, yet you still have some of the little old red and white bobbers that we fished with when we were kids.”
Dance said his granddaddy would never have imagined in his wildest dreams a glove made with Dyneema that protects the user from cutting himself, like one that bears Th3Legends logo.
“When you get the age of Roland and Bill, you have to have a glove that will not let you get cut,” Houston said. “Now listen, Bill, of course, was a great tourament fisherman, and Roland probably the best tournament fisherman of all time. We had fun tournament fishing. I can’t tell you some of the things he did when he came into my hotel room.”
Digs like that aside, each fishing great said they are proud of their long-lasting relationships. Dance put it in perspective.
“I’ve known these guys a long time and we’ve worked together on a lot of different things,” he said. “You’d think we’re competitors, we’re not. We’re just all in the same kind of business and we have a lot of fun.
“To be able to do this and maybe leave a legacy behind, I think it’s something mighty special. The power of three is a lot stronger than one. What we’ve accomplished over the years is something very special.”
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