BassWestUSA - May/June 2009, Page 31

Kevin VanDam takes aim.

reer earnings in BASS competition to- tals $3,264,958, which ranks him first on the ca- reer earnings list. Those monies, when coupled with $370,950 in FLW earnings, it brings his total career earnings to more than $3.6 million. With all of the statistics compiled, even more impressive is the fact that VanDam is never easily overlooked when pundits are asked to handicap a tournament. No matter what body of water, or what state the tournament is being held in, the angler, who was known early in his career as ‘ The Kalamazoo Kid’ is always considered amongst the candidates to win. The other measure of VanDam’s reach is that his competitors are always aware of his position, and that even when he looks like he is out of contention, they don’t count him out. The comparison of VanDam’s influence on the sport of profes- sional bass fishing as to Tiger Woods’ on golf has been made on many occasions, and in perspective there may be no better com- parison. More often than not, he is in the neighborhood of win- ning fish, and his ability to make them strike is almost inhuman, his instincts are finely tuned, and his approach is efficient and fast. Coupled with his skill is an almost unnatural drive to succeed, de- spite his truckloads of accomplishments, and it all results in a man with the skills and knowledge to win that possesses a ruthless killer instinct. All of these attributes combine to make the most feared angler in the sport; and it all started in his youth.

The roots of his desire to win can be traced back to his family, “I come from an incredibly competitive family,” said the 41-year- old pro. “My dad, my brothers and sisters are always competing against each other in one way or another, my wife Sherry is always laughing about it.”

The Beginnings

While his spouse might find reason to chuckle about his family’s drive to win, his up- bringing is responsible for the drive he feels to win; “I have always been serious about winning, from the time I was a kid, I wanted to come out on top,” revealed VanDam. “I played baseball Little League, all the way to my sophomore year in high school, when my coach and I argued about how much time I spent fishing, he told me fishing would never take me anywhere, so I quit baseball.” Leaving the baseball diamond, and the fact that he didn’t play any other team sports because, “they cut into my time for hunting and fishing,” left the young VanDam with plenty of time to enjoy the out of doors in pursuit of fish and game; and he did so, anytime he had the chance. “Growing up in Michigan allowed me to fish for a bunch of dif- ferent species in all sorts of waterways,” said VanDam of his youth spent fishing in his home state. “I fished in clear water, dirty water, smooth bottoms rocky bottoms and weedy lakes and rivers too. I targeted Muskie, Pike, Trout, Bass and anything else that swims in the waterways of Michigan; in fact I think it’s the variety of my experience as a youngster that has helped me compete across the country over the years.” Competing on the water would come sooner for VanDam than most people; he would fish his first tournament at 14 years old with his brother Randy. However, even before he fished competitively, he would practice with his brother for his tournaments. “Randy [who owns D&R Sports Center in Kalamazoo, Mich. a Tracker Ma- rine and Triton Boats Dealer as well as a fishing and hunting re- tailer] would come back from the tournaments and I would ask him how it went,” but his questioning was more than a casual inquiry. “I would ask him if he caught fish on the docks or specific pieces of structure; I would basically thoroughly interrogate him. My dad has always done the same thing when he practiced with me.” His first tournament with his older brother was a testament to his competitive nature. “It’s actually kind of a neat story,” VanDam said of the experience. “We finished the event in 2nd place, Randy paid for everything, but I caught all of the fish, so I thought that

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