GP: Kevin, what makes you such a dominant angler? Luck, obviously, has nothing to do with it. KVD: That is a tough question for me to answer. The one thing I would say is that I love what I do and I put a lot of time and effort into it in terms of preparation. Because of my sponsorship commitments, however, I don’t get to practise as much as a lot of other competitors, but I spend plenty of time thinking about upcoming events. And when I am at a tournament I give 110-percent. I get up early, I stay out on the water late and I go after every win. In other sports you see people that are naturally talented. Others are successful because they train hard and go for the win. With me it is a combination. I’ve got good talent and I match it with preparation and that gives me a lot of confidence. I mean, it is what I am doing right now before the tournament. I am sitting here changing fishing lines, sharpening hooks and rigging baits. And the whole time I am rehashing in my mind what I did in prac- tice. I am thinking about how everything went. Mental prepara- tion is important for me. I spend a lot of time concentrating on the variables I can con- trol. A big part of this sport is mental and I’ve been doing it for a long time. I don’t make the mental mistakes I think some of the other people do. I’ve also learned that experience can be your best ally and it can also be your worst friend, because the fish don’t always do the same thing from one lake to another. They don’t always read the rule book. There are so many variables that you have to keep an open mind. A good example was the Classic on Lake Hartwell in 2008. I chose not to go down there and look at the lake before the off- limits period. I could have gone down in early December but I didn’t want to have any preconceived notions. I knew the lake was 10-feet lower than normal because of the drought. I knew there was a good chance the lake was going to be at a different level when the tournament began. And sure enough it was. Over the last three official days of practice I tried to see it all. The conditions weren’t the most conducive but I felt good about my chances. ( Editor’s note: VanDam finished third in that event and almost won the tournament.) I fished my way. Nobody fishes the same way as me, so talking to other anglers or getting outside information just isn’t the way I do it.
I have my own system for following the seasonal patterns to locate fish and that is what I use everywhere I go. I knew I was taking a chance not going there before the off-limits period. And it could have backfired on me. We had really bad weather and I could have been behind the eight ball. It can happen when you only give yourself three days to practise. But I am pretty efficient covering water and I wasn’t too concerned about it. I could easily have spent several many more days there learning the lake but sometimes it is good not to see too much. It is better to fish the current conditions than have something in your mind about the past or the future.
GP: Kevin, you’re noted as being a “power” angler. Some- one who turns the trolling motor on high and fires reaction- type lures like spinnerbaits and crankbaits. Yet finesse tech- niques and fishing slow is the rage these days. How do you rationalize the discrepancy? KVD: I have had to change a bit. These guys are so good these days that you have to be able to find the right fish. My style is real good for covering water and getting yourself into the right area, but once you find yourself in the right area or on a spot that has fish, you also have to be very efficient at catching them. Be- cause the days of running and gunning back and forth between spots are over. These guys are so good that if you hit a spot and then try to come back later, there’s going to be someone else on it. So you have to be prepared to catch everything that is there when you get the chance. I am not afraid to throw a shaky head or a drop-shot rig. you also have to learn how to maximize the fish on a spot. And sometimes you can power fish. I won two major events re- cently and didn’t back up a thing with finesse. I totally power fished those bass. I read the conditions that were going on and felt that was the best decision. Instead of staying on a spot and trying to finesse a few more fish after I’d hit ‘em with a crankbait and a spinnerbait, I moved on, then came back later and hit ‘em again with the same lures. But there is no question, other times fish are still sitting there and you can catch four or five more throwing a Carolina-rig, a jig or a drop-shot. you have to be able to differenti- ate between the two situations.