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Remembering Billy Westmoreland...

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http://www.greenevillesun.com/news/smallmouth-bass-legend-billy-westmoreland-dies/article_858d587f-53c0-5b67-8881-aa6d7a1372f6.html

Smallmouth Bass Legend Billy Westmoreland Dies

True legends aren't created by one's actions. They're made when you receive the recognition of your peers and those around you. And living legends never draw attention to themselves; it happens because of their successes.

Billy Westmoreland was a true legend in the world of smallmouth bass fishing. The only living legend that I ever had the pleasure of knowing has passed on.

 

The 65-year old smallmouth man who grew up in Celina near Dale Hollow helped put the lake on the map. In return, Dale Hollow did the same for Bill Westmoreland.

Through the recognition and notoriety that Westmoreland brought to himself, he made smallmouth bass the king. Westmoreland was fishing bass tournaments and winning events long before most of us ever heard of them. His successes in the 1970's and the number of smallmouth bass over 8-pounds that he caught will long go down in fishing history.

Today, the number of rods and lures that bear his endorsements are incredible. If it's made to catch smallmouth bass, it needs to have Billy Westmoreland's approval. His books, TV shows, articles and his life revolved around smallmouth bass. His legendary status wasn't limited to Tennessee but was broad in the bass fishing community. From guest appearances at outdoor events, fishing tournaments, speaking engagements and seminars, Westmoreland was smallmouth bass and smallmouths were Billy Westmoreland. In one of his most popular books, he refers to "them ol' brown fish", a line that I've quoted on more than one occasion and what I'll always call smallmouth bass.

Known for his angling expertise with hair jigs, Westmoreland can also be credited with helping make the Silver Buddy lure a household smallmouth name. Along with its creator Buddy Banks, Westmoreland was said to have helped tweak it a few years back to give the bait its smallmouth prowess. His name on other lures made them just as popular.

Smallmouth anglers from all over the country have been honored to have the opportunity to get in the boat with him when he guided for short stints on Dale Hollow. Others were thrilled just to have him autograph one of his books.

The last few years have seen Westmoreland hit with some pretty serious illnesses, but it was still a pleasure to see him out on the water of Dale Hollow Lake. On Wednesday, September 25, he spent a good part of the day fishing on Dale Hollow.

That night shortly after 9:00 p.m., he suffered a major heart attack and would never regain consciousness. While on life support, Westmoreland passed away at 1:00 a.m. on Monday.

Jack Huddleston, a long time friend of the legend and owner of Horse Creek Dock will miss Westmoreland as much as anyone. For a number of years, Huddleston's dock has played host to one of the top smallmouth tournaments in the country each December named in honor of Westmoreland. Huddleston first met Westmoreland in 1968 before coming to Dale Hollow permanently; the longtime friends have seen a lot of smallmouth bass come into Horse Creek Dock.

Bob Coan, a fishing guide on Dale, recalls Westmoreland as never being one to let the fame and notoriety go to his head. Coan knew Westmoreland for over 15 years and said he always had the time to talk to anyone from bass fishing personalities, tournament pros, lure manufactures or dock hands. More than once, I've seen him take the time to shake hands with anglers coming in and out of Horse Creek Dock or have his picture made with them.

Perhaps the one story that many anglers won't forget about Westmoreland is the time that he was credited with saving another now noted bass fisherman's life and his tournament partner. In 1974, during one of the early B.A.S.S. tournaments, Johnny Morris, founder of Bass Pro Shops, capsized and sunk his boat in rough water. The water was cold, and Morris and his partner were experiencing the first stages of hypothermia when Billy Westmoreland spotted them and pulled them aboard, literally saving their lives.

Billy Westmoreland himself is gone now. It goes without saying that he will be missed but never forgotten. That's the way it is with true legends, their memory goes on. Thanks Billy for making smallmouth bass number one for all of us "ol' brown fish" anglers.

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BASSography: Billy Westmoreland

 

Just as Michael Jordan was a natural at basketball and Babe Ruth was seemingly created to hit a baseball, Billy Westmoreland was born to catch smallmouth bass.

By Ken Duke
MAR 30, 2010

Just as Michael Jordan was a natural at basketball and Babe Ruth was seemingly created to hit a baseball, Billy Westmoreland was born to catch smallmouth bass. In the eyes of many, he was the greatest smallmouth angler who ever lived. He is also almost certainly the only man to catch both largemouth and smallmouth bass that exceeded 10 pounds.


Westmoreland was born in Tennessee on June 30, 1937, just a few years before construction began on the dam that would create Dale Hollow Lake. As a boy, he fished and boated all over the 27,700 acres that formed the legendary trophy smallmouth fishery. His knowledge of the lake's underwater terrain was unequalled. So, too, was his fishing success there.

He began his professional guiding career on Dale Hollow at the age of 13, often skipping school to take clients out on the water. Initially, Westmoreland took the leftover clients, those who showed up too late to get a more experienced guide. Soon enough, though, those same anglers were requesting the youngster with a penchant for catching lots of smallmouth.

As a youth, Westmoreland's love of fishing split time with his passion for football. He was a star on his high school team, and the game was his ticket to college at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro. While there, he injured his knee and began to focus even more of his time on bass fishing.
 

Westmoreland was known not only for catching smallmouth bass but especially for catching big smallmouth bass. The largest he ever hooked was also the biggest he said he ever saw. On Christmas Day in 1970, Westmoreland tied into a brown bass he estimated at between 12 and 14 pounds — larger than the world record.

"I know how big it was because I had a couple of 7- or 8-pounders in the livewell at the time," he later said.

He was fishing a Pedigo Spinrite on a cold, windy day when the giant struck. After a long initial run, Westmoreland was starting to gain line on the bass when it surfaced and wallowed on top.

"I can't describe how I felt except I got very nervous, which I seldom ever do. It was because I really knew what I had. I couldn't believe how big it was."

He got the bass to within just a few feet of his boat before she sounded and got 15 or 20 feet down. Then disaster struck. The lure popped out of her mouth.

"Losing that one disturbed me because something I've dreamed of all my life was catching the biggest smallmouth anyone had ever caught," Westmoreland said. "But it bothered me so much and to the point that, over the next 16 to 18 months, lots of times I'd be home watching television at night and I'd start thinking about that fish. Then I'd think that maybe this was the night. The fish might be back on that point. I'd convince myself while I was in the chair watchin' TV that the fish was on that point waitin'. Out the door I'd go, and I'd hook on to the boat, slap that boat in the water and go fish for a couple of hours."
 

Westmoreland was so haunted by the big bass that he'd often chase after her at 3 or 4 in the morning in all sorts of weather. Though he never hooked or saw her again, he caught plenty of other big smallmouth, including one that weighed 10-1.

In the decades after losing that fish of a lifetime, Westmoreland told numerous friends and acquaintances just where he hooked the giant. Unfortunately for them, he told each a different location. It was an example not only of his sense of humor, but also his competitiveness. In the end, he took the location of the giant bass to the grave with him.

Westmoreland came to national attention in the 1970s while competing professionally on the Bassmaster Tournament Trail. In his seven-year career, Westmoreland qualified for six Bassmaster Classics, finished in the top 10 in the 35 professional tournaments he fished and won three national events — the 1974 and 1975 Florida Invitationals (both on the St. Johns River) and the 1977 Arkansas Invitational (on Greers Ferry Reservoir).

In 1973 at the BASS Arkansas Invitational on Beaver Lake, a tornado went through the area, and the boat containing Johnny Morris (founder and owner of Bass Pro Shops) and Robert Craddock filled with water and sank. The cold was numbing and the two anglers realized they could survive but a short time in the water before hypothermia would set in. Their situation was so desperate that they were scratching a message to their loved ones on an old gas can when their prayers were answered. Westmoreland had seen the gas can from the launch area and decided to go pick it up. He was concerned that another boat might not see it and that it might cause an explosion. As Morris described it, Westmoreland's big hand came out of the sky to save them.

In 1976, Westmoreland and South Carolina outdoor writer Larry Mayer published what stands as the seminal work on smallmouth bass fishing, Billy Westmorland on Smallmouths: Them Ol' Brown Fish. Three years later they followed it up with Largemouths and Tournaments … Good or Bad?

Westmoreland's homespun ways and charm shine through in Them Ol' Brown Fish. In Larry Mayer's introduction, he noted that the book was "written in the fishing language instead of the English language."

In addition to the trophies, books and tournament success, Westmoreland owned an interest in Horse Creek Resort on Dale Hollow Lake and designed several successful bass lures. One of the most notable baits he helped to design was the Silver Buddy, a blade bait manufactured by his friend Buddy Banks. Westmoreland called it the greatest lure ever devised for catching smallmouth.

Throughout his tournament career and with both of his books, Westmoreland spelled his surname without the second "e" — Westmorland. It was an affectation that perplexed even those who knew him well. He explained it by saying that the second "e" was difficult to write when signing autographs. For the rest of his life, he was "Westmorland" publicly and "Westmoreland" in all other cases.

 

In the 1980s, after having retired from professional tournament fishing, Westmoreland went into television with Billy Westmoreland's Fishing Diary. The theme song for the program, "I Like Catching Smallmouth Best of All," co-written by Westmoreland, says a lot about his love of the outdoors and smallmouth bass fishing.

 

 

 

 

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 summer's 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.

In his final years, Westmoreland was affectionately known around Dale Hollow as "the Legend of the Lake." No one did more for the area's reputation or more to put its smallmouth fishing on the map.


He died on Sept. 29, 2002, following a seizure in his home overlooking his beloved lake. He was 65 years old. His headstone bears his likeness fishing from a bass boat and fighting a big smallmouth. In 2004, he became the first person to be posthumously inducted into the Bass Fishing Hall of Fame.

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Google bass fishing archives & learn the history of our sport!

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If you are a smallmouth fisherman you need to know all you can learn about Billy Westmoreland. I read his book Them Ol' Brown Fish. The book really fills in the history of his life and what made him who he was. A true legend in our sport. 

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28 minutes ago, Dwight Hottle said:

If you are a smallmouth fisherman you need to know all you can learn about Billy Westmoreland. I read his book Them Ol' Brown Fish. The book really fills in the history of his life and what made him who he was. A true legend in our sport. 

I will have to keep an eye out for a copy at the local Half Price Books.

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Great fisherman and great book. We have forgotten a lot of great stuff from the pioneers of bassin'.

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I still have a couple Billy Westmoreland Signature spinning rods.

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Being partial to smallmouth fishing myself, I was always a huge fan. His "Fishing Diary" TV show was my favorite.

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Smallmouth bass are my mainstay, as many here know. Billy was my inspiration and my guidance every step of fishing success. Great angler....great man. His writings are priceless.

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I read Billy's book once a year, and I learn something new about Fishing Dale Hollow every time.  It really has made me a better fisherman. 

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Florida, thanks for the post and effort you put into it. As a young guy back in the 70's he was an inspiration to my smallmouth fishing. I'm a river rat and addicted to them smallies. I will be till the day I die. God bless his family.

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I watched his show all the time,Being a smallie nut he was someone who i looked up to.I wish they would dig his old shows out to view again.Im always looking for a copy of his book.Amazing man,Never be forgotten.

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I fished the 1977 Virginia Invitational BASS tourney on Gaston, as did Billy and many more stars to be.I used to have his book along with some Spinrites too.

To bad he didn`t achieve the world record smallie he chased  so long.

C22

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My name is Kenny Westmoreland, and I'm Billy's nephew.  I'm the long haired boy sitting in the back of the boat on the back cover of Them Ol' Brown Fish.   I certainly appreciate the kind words in regards to Billy.

Two years after Them Ol' Brown Fish, Billy wrote a second book titled Largemouths and Tournaments ... Good or Bad?   It's also a good read and contains a wealth of information about largemouth fishing.

Once again, thanks for remembering.

Kenny

 

 

 

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This man is the one i posted in the thread asking what pro you would like to fish a day with. He was instrumental in my bass fishing back in the very beginning for me, and will always be remembered in my eyes. It was a long time dream of mine to catch a smallie as the ponds and lakes I had access to in my area when i was young contain largemouth,.. Now, I have found the smallie waters in new england and fish them with the same tenacity, intensity, and dilegence I learned many years ago watching his show, with unparaleled intent.

 Being that smallmouths are well regarded as strong fighters, fiesty and tenacious advisaries, its no wonder that his legacy shall live on as these fish will always be considered #1 by top pro's

.Just Like Billy himself.

May your casts be long, your line be tight, and your quarry be bronze,...R.I.P.

 

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Good to have you chime in Kenny.  I try to re-read Billy's book each winter.  For those interested in smallmouth fishing books, Tony Bean wrote two very good books.  I think they are separated by about 20 years, but both are very good reads on the subject.

 

oe

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