Kevin VanDam has won the BASS AOY 4 times and the Bassmaster Classic two times. He has also won the Angler of the Year for the FLW Tour as well. He is arguably the best bass angler of all time and is again at the top of his game this year going into the final two events in Alabama in the “Dash for Cash” AOY Chase. We caught up with him while he was relaxing and you guessed it…..fishing. We even made him miss one while he was speaking with us. That may be the only bass he has missed this year.
Sitting down with the personable and articulate VanDam is always a learning experience even for a well seasoned journalist and this time was no different.
1. Kevin, you have won everything in bass fishing….4 times AOY and 2 time Classic winner on the BASS side and a FLW Tour AOY as well. Does it still hold the same feeling winning one of those titles? What would winning it the 5th time?
“Without a doubt is what I shoot for every year. Every tournament means something and I try to win them all but most of all I judge my season on how I stack up in the Angler of the Year rankings. Every time I have been fortunate enough to be AOY it was better than the last time. I appreciate it more each and every time because of the caliber of angler we have out here. I don’t look at the record books much but I am super competitive. Whether its an Elite Series event or fishing with Zona…I want to win.
I always try to get better. That drives me. I always want to raise my game and the AOY is what I shoot at every year. I do as good as I can every time and am always working to get the most out of my abilities every time.”
2. What do you think about the new BASS format?
“Its hard to tell right now. I have to get through the season to know for sure. To be honest most guys are apprehensive. In years past it would right now be between Skeet and I and with the new format more people are now in it. Its truly anybody’s game. It has definitely increased my intensity level all year.
I think it’s important for fishing to have a postseason. Whether its football, baseball or hockey they all have playoffs and the mainstream media is looking for us to have it to I believe. Everything revolves around the championship series in other sports…why not fishing?
Its different so many guys are in a wait and see mode but ultimately I hope it works out well. It’s a risk.”
3. What happens if after leading all year you fall out after these two events?
“I feel the same as every year. I want to win it and would be disappointed if I don’t. Nothing has really changed there.
4. Most media people who cover this sport think you can do everything very well. What are your biggest strengths? Do you have any weaknesses?
My strongest deal is my confidence. The mental part of this game is the most important part. I believe in myself. You have to know you can win and being positive and having a positive attitude is critical. You see it in a rookie who comes out and immediately has success. Success breeds success and its catchy. The rookie doesn’t stay a rookie long with success.
I fish the conditions and try to find out what they are biting on. If I do that I feel very confident I can catch them. I like it all…spinnerbaits, cranking, flipping and pitching and all of the other techniques. During the year you may have to use them all I want to be the best I can be at each and every one.
As far as weaknesses, I could be a better worm fisherman and maybe my finesse techniques could be better. I am confident in them both but look at Aaron Martens. He has mastered the drop shot. How about Dean and the frog. He has brought frogs to the forefront. There are so many techniques now . Its trial and error and you have to have confidence and believe in what you are doing.”
5. Since you brought up techniques we here a lot of people talk about the good old days. From a technology perspective aren’t we living in the good old days now?
“The biggest innovations in fishing have happened in the last few years. Mainly the last two. Whether its more accurate GPS, Navionics Mapping, Side Imaging or the clarity of our electronics it is much better now. Our boats and motors, rods and reels, lures, line, hooks or whatever they are now job oriented. Each tool is better and each one has a place.”
6. Do you set goals every year? Do you work out in the off season?
“Not really. I live for the highest level of competition and that drives me. I love this sport and have to be at the top of my game to compete with the guys out here. They are the best anglers in the world and that drives me to be at my best all the time.
I never used to work out but as I get older I have started to run and do my best to stay in physical shape. I used to do most of that through deer hunting but I have started to take a little more time to exercise now. I am a naturally active person and don’t sit around much so that helps too.
I work very hard to lead by example. It’s important to do things right every time and if you do that others will want to be in the sport.
7. Who are the most influential anglers in your career?
“Most of the guys from the Bass Tracker/Nitro Team had a big influence early in my career. Guys like Larry Nixon, Tommy Martin and Stacy King talked to me and showed me the ropes. Denny Brauer is another one who helped me in my career.
We are like a big family out here. We go to dinner together and do things together. Away from the water we are like a big brotherhood. These are good guys and good friends out here on the trail. ”
8. Any parting shots?
“If you don’t have a bunch of Strike King Sexy Shad Crankbaits you are not much of a crankbait fisherman”….laughing
Another thing I have seen is mainstream media is more engaged. I truly believe that