I’m writing this after interviewing Kevin VanDam on The Bilge Podcast, which I do with my wife, Trait. We’ve had the pleasure of sitting down and chatting with many professional anglers.
While talking with Kevin, it hit me that I was sitting next to greatness. He is literally the Tom Brady, the Tiger Woods the ultimate G.O.A.T. of our sport.
His accomplishments almost defy gravity. He has hoisted the victor’s trophy 26 times, claimed eight Angler of the Year titles, won four of the 28 Bassmaster Classics he has qualified for and raked in more than $7 million in winnings. He’s KVD, the angler all bass fans know by his initials alone.
The longer I get in the tooth the more I realize how hard it is to win a bass tournament. I can’t begin to explain how Kevin has won so many times. It’s almost like he has superpowers.
I recently watched Kevin compete in the final tournament of his 33-year career. It took place at Michigan’s Saginaw Bay and was the last regular-season event for Major League Fishing. He nearly won the tournament and finished second by power fishing for smallmouth bass.
It’s no surprise that he went out on a high note. He put a period and exclamation point on his amazing career.
We’ve all learned an enormous amount about bass fishing from Kevin just by watching him compete. That began for me when I was a fan watching The Bassmasters on TV. I literally learned how to fish a crankbait by watching him. I believe that’s true for many of us.
He also showed a lot of tournament anglers what it is to be an outstanding run-and-gun angler. He has an uncanny ability to fish fast with his trolling motor on high speed and to process information quickly. He never sits back and waits for fish to come to him. He moves around, samples different areas and relentlessly looks for clues.
Even when he isn’t getting bites, he’s processing information from what he sees and through feedback from his lures. It usually doesn’t take him long to figure out exactly what’s going on and what adjustments to make.
I’ve also learned from talking with Kevin that his slogan, “It’s all about the attitude.” It isn’t just a catchy phrase. It’s how he lives his life.
I’ve been thinking a lot about that lately because I’m having the worst season of my career. When I look back over my attitude this year, I’ve been undermining myself with negative thoughts like “I’m in a slump.” or “This year’s schedule isn’t good for me.” I’m sure I would have done better if I had taken Kevin’s slogan to heart.
A positive attitude has certainly done wonders for Kevin. The longer his career went on the better he got. He’s not retiring because he can’t do it anymore. He’s as sharp as ever and has more bass knowledge swirling around in his brain than anyone.
Despite Kevin’s accomplishments, he has remained humble. You never hear him boasting.
When someone in any sport sits atop a pedestal, there are invariably naysayers who try to bring that person down. But I’ve never heard any angler on any level speak with anything but respect about Kevin.
What this one individual has done to advance the sport we love is immeasurable.
Thank you for everything, Mr. KVD.