1937 - 2002
|If the measure of a man, is
how many fish he caught then Billy Westmorland was a Big
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 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.
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
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.