Billy Westmorland 1937 - 2002
If the measure of a man, is how many fish he caught then Billy Westmorland was a Big Man.
If the measure of a man, is how many fishing tournaments he has won, then Billy Westmorland was a great man.
If the measure of a man is his courage, then Billy Westmorland was a Giant of a man..
If the measure of a man is who shows up at his funeral then Billy Westmorland was a LEGEND in his time.
I met Billy as most folks call him at the first Jim Strader Hunting and Fishing Expo. We did a little talking about Smallmouth and a fish I had seen on Lake Cumberland. That was the full extent of my personal contact with Mr. Westmorland.
A few years later I got to know many people that Mr. Westmorland called friends around Dale Hollow Lake, although most of the time when I visited, Billy was elsewhere with Family.
Mr. Westmorland was one of the original reporters on this site. There is a link on the Bottom Left to the last page that we did with Billy and some of the ads for Billy's Products are on the left of this page. Billy realized the the power of the internet would eventually help to sell products. What better place to have your product than on the fishing report someone is reading on the way to the lake..??
Billy started his career as a guide on Dale Hollow. Legend has it that his first guided trip was as a boy of 13. Later he guided during summer breaks to pay his tuition at Middle Tennessee State University. One of the people who eulogized Billy was an old College Professor Ed Riehl PHD. He told stories about Billy and his fishing exploits with him on Dale Hollow. Porter Wagoner, and Johnny Morris owner and founder of BASS PRO Shops also spoke.
He worked as a Football Coach, coaching the Byrdstown Team for 4 years and later as an Insurance Salesman, Marina Owner and later as a Professional Fisherman.
He was part owner of Horse Creek Dock with Jack Huddleston, and Horse Creek Dock was Billy's Sponsor on the B.A.S.S Trail for his first few tournaments.
Billy was one of the first to fish the B.A.S.S Circuit.
Billy won 3 tournaments in his 6 years on the tour. Twice winning the Florida Invitational on the St. Johns River. His total winnimgs on the trail even with 3 wins would not equal what you win on one tournament today. $32,215.00 was his total earnings on the trail in 6 years. What a difference between winning then and now.
Below is a picture of Billy Westmorland and his trophies from the Florida Invitationals. Photos Courtesy of ESPN/Bass Publications
We were notified by Ed Reasoner of Billy's death. Below is the e-mail I recieved. It says much more than my poor writing capabilities about Billy.
Billy Westmorland, my dear friend and legendary smallmouth fisherman passed away five minutes until Midnight Sept. 29th, 2002. Billy had suffered a seizure in his home prior to the weekend and never regained conciousness. He will be surely missed.
It was a privilege and honor to have known him, to have shared our fishing time together and to have written his television themesong along with Fred Carter Jr. I have fond memories of writing the song in his living room in Celina back in the 80's.
I'll share the lyrics with everyone as follows. For my dear friend, Billy.
I Like Catchin' Smallmouth Best of All
Theme of the Billy Westmorland Fishing Diary
Copyright 1984, Nash-Angeles Music BMI / Sweedie Music BMI
Everyone I know Loves Fishin
And Leavin Cares Behind
The Feelin' of a Big One on the Line
I Like Freshness of the Springtime and Colors of the Fall
But I like Catchin' Smallmouth Best of All
Sure do like the Easy Feel of a Lazy Summers' Day
The Sun on My Back, Wind across my Face
But I start Feelin' Warmer, Come the First Snowfall
Cause I like Catchin Smallmouth Best of All
Dave Precht is the director of publications for B.A.S.S. and the editor of BASSMASTER magazine. He has often worked with Billy Westmorland and offered this statement on behalf of B.A.S.S. when contacted by Fishin.com
> Billy Westmorland was a legend in bass fishing, one of the pioneers on the BASSMASTER Tournament Trail. He was a favorite source of information for articles in BASSMASTER Magazine on the subject of smallmouth bass, his specialty. Few knew more about what he called "them old brown fish" than he did, yet he excelled at catching largemouth bass, too. In his brief pro career, he won three B.A.S.S. tournaments, including two on the St. Johns River in Florida. Billy will be missed by readers of BASSMASTER.<
In the 80's Billy was one of the first to have a weekly TV show. He inspired many to fishing with that show including me. I fell in love with Dale Hollow the minute I saw that a world record fish had come from a body of water so close to home. Billy's show simply fueled the desire to fish there.
Mark Menendez a Professional Fisherman who fishes the BASS Circuit and Paducah Kentucky Angler said: "I grew up at the time when Billy was at his peak in BASS. I used to watch his show and that was the impetus for my pushing to learn how to use spinning tackle for many situations." Billy influenced an entire generation of anglers.
The story most told about Billy and what seems to be the defining statement about a man many considered to be a gentle giant is the story of how he rescued Johhny Morris from the cold waters of Beaver Lake during a tournament there in the early 70's. Mr. Morris tells the story that in the storm he and his partner Robert Craddock were swamped and thrown overboard with life jackets on, but the cold water was taking its toll when they decided to try to scratch a message to their loved ones on an old Mercury Gas Can they were clinging too. Johnny says all of a sudden this big hand came out of the sky, it was Billy Westmorland and he was the answer to a prayer. Dave Moore who fished with Billy the last 5 or 6 years says Billy told him he saw a gas can out in the lake and in concern for other anglers left the safety of the dock to go and get the can to prevent someone from hitting it and maybe having an explosion. I am sure that is true. The main theme of each speaker was Billy's love of people and his concern for others, especially children.
To that end Billy was to have run a tournament for Cardinal Hill Hospital in Lexington this weekend for the 20th year. All proceeds went to the Childrens wing of the hospital. That was Billy's Focus. Helping others.
A few weeks ago at the MDFF tournament when the MC cancelled at the last minute Billy agreed to come and help the tournament director Ray Rigby. Billy saved the day again.
I will end this story with this. Over the years the location of the BIG MONSTER fish that Billy Talks about getting to his boat late one evening on Dale Hollow was a secret. I have talked to 3 people over the years who say Billy confided the location too them. I hate to tell them, but each of you was told a different location.
I don't think Billy did this out of mischievousnous or for any reason other than... the fish won in that battle of Fish and Man and as a tip of the hat to that great fish Mr. Westmorland is taking the location of that spot with him.
Heck he and that fish are probably having a heck of a discussion right now. I am sure all "Them Ole Brown Fish" go to Heaven.
Goodbye Billy, I wish I had known you like others did. It would have been a true honor. Without you I would not be at Fishin.com today.
At the funeral for Billy folks told many stories about his kindness or about his character.... From time to time as I remember them, or get more stories I will add them...
Porter Wagoner fished a lot with Billy over the years and they became good friends. Porter once confided in Billy that he really loved Pineapple Upside Down Cake. The last time Porter came to Horse Creek Dock, the small 4 table restaurant there had a supply of Pineapple Upside Down Cake for him, at Billy's Request. Porter said it was the best he had had in over 25 years.
A Tribute to Billy Westmorland from Bill Dance.
Billy was the kind of guy that whatever he told you, you could bank on it! If he told you a flea could pull a plow, you better hitch him up. For many years I looked forward to my annual 3 or 4 day fishing trip with Billy on his home lake, Dale Hollow. I was his house guest during those memorable times where we fished from daylight to dark and many times way into the night. He would awaken me in the morning with a hot cup of coffee and he was the first ever to cook me breakfast with scrambled eggs, biscuits, and frog legs. Memories are made to last forever and the great times Billy and I had will always be remembered. When the good Lord made people like him he did a great and wonderful thing.
Bob Coan, Guide at Horse Creek:
Billy was the kind of guy who treated everyone the same. He was friendly to everyone. Bank President to carpet cleaner to lawyer to sales cashier Billy would talk to any one who stopped him at the Dock.
From Frank Wojciechowski
I had the privilege of fishing with Billy as my guide for five days in March of this year. I would like to share some of the events and conversations we had during those five days. Even though I only knew Billy briefly I will miss him and he will be in my thoughts when I am Smallie fishing, he was a fine man. You may share any of these on your website if you wish.
Breakfast : We had breakfast for those five mornings together at the little Horse Creek Dock restaurant at 6:45 a.m. They open at that time because that's when Billy likes to get started. Billy always ordered Biscuits w/gravy and jelly on the side ( pronounced "jilly " by the waitress ).
Lunch: For the first three days Billy brought along Tuna sandwiches for our lunch that were made at home. On the fourth day Billy gave me a Ham and Cheese sandwich. He said he told the little lady that " Frank said he was tired of those **** Tuna sandwiches ". I never said that but Billy likes to have fun withhis boat partners.
"Get ready Frank your gonna get your bell rung when we get to this point " Meaning I will catch a good one.
"Okay Frank I'm ready to dip a few for ya " Meaning he wanted to net a few Smallies for me.
"There goes a Sport " That's what Billy called the hotshots that flew across Dale Hollow making a rooster tail and beating the banks w/spinnerbaits when the Smallies were in 15 to 30 feet of water.
"Let's catch a few of my pets before we go in " We would stop to fish at the last cove or two before going back to the marina and try to catch a few more Smallies, he called those fish near the marina his pets.
" I'm gonna call Dance when I get back and have him clean the boat " We had accumulated quite a few branches and dead leaves in the boat retrieving Luhr Jensen Hot Lips out of the trees and he kidded about Bill cleaning the boat.
Billy was pre fishing for a tournament years ago in Florida with Roland Martin. A friend of Billy's gave him five hand made spinner baits before they left that morning. Billy was smokin Roland that day, not because of the handmade spinner baits as Roland thought but because Billy was casting to an underwater ditch he knew of and Roland was not. Roland begged twice for a spinnerbait, even though he had a tacklebox full, and lost both, one to a defective knot and one to a snag. When they got back to the dock Roland heard Billy telling a friend the story and was livid when he realized Billy played a trick on him.
We fished for five days, ten hours a day, and used nothing but 1/4 oz Luhr Jensen Hot Lips. Billy had 8 or 10 rods in the locker and they were all the same. Bass Pro Shop Billy Westmorland Signature Series Crankbait rods with Shimano 2000 Stradics spooled with 6 lb test line. Billy would cast sitting in front of the boat with the rod at a 45 degree angle in front of his chest and
parallel the bank. When the lure was about to hot the water he would pull back slightly and the lure would barely make a splash. Me being 17 years younger would stand in the back of the boat with identical equipment trying to cast as far as he effortlessly did and was not able to. My entry into the water was more like a brick than his feather like entry.
We caught some nice 3 - 4 lb Smallies and Billy never used the drag, it was always disengaged. He backreeled every fish due to the 6 lb test line, very
Just thought I would share my trip with Billy with you. He was a pleasure to fish with and I only wish I would have known him sooner. Oh yeah, make it four people that Billy showed the secret location to that he thought he had hooked the world record Smallie on years ago. He told me " you know that stump you just got snagged on a while ago ", that was where I hooked that fish. He pointed it out on the way in and was whispering even though the nearest boat was about 300 yards away. Not sure if that was the spot or not but he sure acted like it was.
Like so many, I met Billy Westmorland in the early days when B.A.S.S.was in it's infancy and the idea of a grown man making a living catching fish in a tournament only to release them was unheard of.
Anyone who knew Billy can tell you of his legendary abilities on Dale Hollow catching smallmouth bass. Billy had a special relationship with "Them Ol' Brown Fish as he lovingly referred to them over the years. What most people aren't aware of was Billy's soft heart. A giant of a man, quick with a smile, bright eyes that truly laughed, and a generosity that knew no boundaries. How many times Billy helped only slight acquaintance with a problem will never be known. How many anglers today are living their dream motivated by Billy, there's no way of counting. There is no reason to keep score of the lives Billy touched, he certainly didn't. A favor wasn't thought of as a debt by Billy, just something you did to help out another with no thought of anything in return.
I was truly saddened by Billy's passing, not so much because another of the rare breed of fishing pioneers was gone, but because my friend was no longer a telephone call away. Billy was one of the first to call when hearing of the passing of my father. He always asked about my wife and children when we spoke. At the end of nearly every conversation I was reminded that if I needed anything to just give him a "holler" For thirty years I called Billy Westmorland my friend, but he was more than that to my family and me, he was my fishin' buddy. God speed BillyWestmorland, now "Set the hook!"
Captain Roc McGuffey - Almost There! Charters - Key West, Florida
On December 20, 2002 I first read of the passing of the great angler Billy Westmorland. The best cast that I ever saw was made by Billy at the Cincinnati boat and fishing show in the early to mid 1980's. My friends and fishing buddies Kenny Bell, Jim Perry and myself road from our hometown of Brookville, Ohio down to the Cincinnati Convention Center to see the latest and greatest in fishing and boating equipment. We also went to see who we were told was the World's Best Smallmouth Fisherman, Billy Westmorland. We had a great interest in listening to Billy, as we had fished together for smallmouth a number of years.
When we arrived we made our way to the hawg trough where Billy had already started speaking about the "Bass Magnet" and how great it was for catching bass. As Billy made numerous casts, he spoke about the "Bass Magnet" and bass fishing in general. We were amazed at how well he could cast, sending the lure to the end of the tank, within a few inches, on each cast. Billy also had a great sense of humor which kept the audience laughing and smiling.
Towards the end of Billy's presentation my friend Jim asked Kenny and I what the "Bass Magnet" was. We both answered that it was the lure that >he had been swimming through the hawg trough for the last 10 minutes. Jim, as stubborn as ever, said "No, it's what the lure is attached to the line with". Kenny and I disagreed with him, but Jim didn't believe us.
When Billy's presentation was over he asked the audience if there were any questions. Up popped Jim's hand in a flash and Billy called on Jim for his question. "What is the Bass Magnet?", Jim asked. Billy shook his head a little in disbelief at the question he had been asked, then made the best cast I ever saw.
Billy from his platform above the tank and crowd, cast the lure and hit Jim square but lightly in the middle of his baseball capped forehead. The lure then bounced off the bill of Jim's cap and into his hand at which point he saw that it was an imitation crawdad lure attached directly to the line by a hand-tied knot. That's the best cast I ever saw!
Later we talked to Billy and found him to be friendly, humorous, informative and an all around great guy. I believe Billy was also responsible for selling about 10 "Bass Magnet" lures to us that day.
Kenny and I bought two each and I believe Jim bought six.
I spoke with Kenny the day that I read of Billy's passing and we were both saddened. A great angler, speaker and all around good person will be missed by his family, friends and those of us who had just a few minutes to see the best cast of our lives.