(Wednesday, Dec. 29, 2021 edition)
Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee and fishing icon Bill Dance recently announced a new initiative to improve and enhance Tennessee lakes, increase visitation and honor Dance’s legacy with the creation of Bill Dance Signature Lakes. TWRA and the State of Tennessee will invest $15 million in improvements both above and below the water at 18 lakes which bear fishing legend Dance’s stamp of approval. Tennesseans will benefit from increased stocking, habitat and fisheries management, as well as improved access for fishing and boating. The collaborative effort between Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, Tennessee State Parks and Tennessee Department of Tourist Development seeks to solidify Tennessee as the heart of fishing in the southeast and drive economic activity across the state.
Tennessee is home to half-a-million acres of lakes and 1.7 million people who fish according to the American Sportfishing Association. Bill Dance Signature Lakes touches 39 counties including 22 at-risk or economically distressed counties, and is an important step in helping those communities create new revenue streams through increased visitation. Fishing generates $1.2 billion in economic impact annually and supports 7,480 jobs across the state.
“Bill Dance is a tremendous advocate for our Tennessee rural communities and we are thrilled to partner with him,” said Lee. “The Bill Dance Signature Lakes highlights the importance of lakeside tourism with premier fishing opportunities and we believe this project is especially important as communities recover from the recent storms.”
“I’m unbelievably humbled and excited to be involved in such a helpful project that will benefit so many people and our natural resources in my great home state of Tennessee,” said Bill Dance. “You can bet your favorite lure this project will definitely have a ripple effect for a mighty long time, not only giving the weekend fisherman, but tournament anglers a wonderful fishery as well, thanks to the great state of Tennessee and my friends at TWRA.”
Bill Dance Signature Lakes includes nine large reservoirs with a proven track record for quality fishing for a variety of fish. In partnership with the Tennessee Valley Authority, reservoirs will receive new or upgraded best-in-class ramps to improve public access for both recreational and tournament anglers. Each of the 18 lakes will see such above-water upgrades as courtesy docks, ample parking, additional access points, fishing piers and signage, to name a few. Several smaller lakes, many of which are located within Tennessee State Parks, will be managed intensively by TWRA for Bill Dance approved family fishing with regular stockings to ensure the best chance for success.
Each lake was selected by agency partners and Bill Dance for its ability to be a destination fishing location and provide quality-fishing fun for avid anglers as well as families. Endorsed by Bill Dance Outdoors, projects are slated to begin in 2022 and near completion by fall of 2024.
Bill Dance, professional bass fishing’s first superstar, has taught generations to fish. Dance began competing – and winning – in bass tournaments in the early 1960s. With over 2,000 shows under his belt since 1968, he has educated millions of fishing enthusiasts as host and producer of “Bill Dance Outdoors” and “Bill Dance Saltwater, airing respectively on the Outdoor Channel and Sportsman Channel. Dance has written seven books and his articles have been published in Sports Afield, Field & Stream, Bassmasters, Outdoor Life and more.
Former Rhea Economic and Tourism Council Director, and current Tennessee Department of Tourist Development, Chief Customer Officer, Dennis Tumlin, had the following to say about the “Bill Dance Signature Lakes” Initiative:
“When I first interviewed for the role with the TN Dept of Tourist Development back in 2019, Commissioner Ezell mentioned to me that he had a vision to create a unique asset for Tennessee by partnering with iconic Tennessee sportsman, Bill Dance, to make Tennessee a “best in class” global destination for fishing. At that time, it was a long term “dream” project for the department, because Tennessee was experiencing so much growth in the hospitality & tourism sectors, that our department parked that project on a shelf to focus on existing opportunities. When COVID struck, our hospitality & tourism partners in our larger destinations were the hardest hit. However, we saw an increase in all things related to outdoor recreation. Many of our rural communities actually saw visitor increases, which resulted in increased sales and lodging tax generation.
I am pleased that we are creating something that all levels of anglers can enjoy, from novice to serious tournament anglers. The Bill Dance Signature Lakes will offer 18 uniquely Tennessee experiences.
While planning this program, I wanted to make sure that extra resources were committed to increased fish stocking, habitat and infrastructure enhancement and overall fisheries management. I am pleased that our final budgets have stayed true to our commitment to build and maintain a best in class experience, not only for visitors, but for our local residents to enjoy.”