Catching Up With the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year Kevin VanDam

BASS Reporter’s Notebook

It has been just more than a month since Kevin VanDam of Kalamazoo, Mich., won his fourth Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year title. Since that mid-August day, the Bassmaster Elite Series pro has been on the go.

Known as a “power angler,” VanDam also is a powerhouse off the water. It’s easy to see how his signature style of fast, hard fishing relates to his drive to always be doing something. But since the 14-time BASS winner captured the 2008 AOY title, he hasn’t always been the one doing the driving.

“I have been pretty much jammed up since the day I won Angler of the Year. The day after, I went to Bristol (Conn.) and did the ESPN ‘car wash’ and it’s been wide open since then,” VanDam said.

By “car wash,” he meant the process of making several ESPN show appearances in succession. VanDam appeared live on ESPN Radio’s Mike & Mike in the Morning, and then taped segments for ESPN’s morning show, First Take, and ESPNEWS. That was just the beginning of the media interviews for the Angler of the Year.

“With the tour schedule, we’re just so busy through the year, I schedule a lot of my other appearances — like television commercials, TV shows and things that I do for my sponsors — in the offseasons. When I won Angler of the Year, I ended up with quite a few different obligations added to my schedule.”

His most recent stint was a weeklong Tracker dealer convention that included meeting with the media as well as photo shoots for the boat maker’s catalogs and marketing materials.

“I do that for most of my sponsors, so that keeps you going,” he said.

He was not complaining, rather he was explaining. He has been able to have a few days at home with his wife and 11-year-old twin sons, and they have taken a family vacation. This week he’s in New Mexico on an elk hunting trip with five hometown buddies, last year’s Christmas gift from their wives.

If he’s not recognized as a famous bass pro during his trip, it would be only because he doesn’t meet any other hunting parties in the backwoods of New Mexico. Nowadays, VanDam is approached by fans almost everywhere he goes. Each time he gets personal recognition, he sees it as proof that the general public has become more aware of professional bass fishing.

“I don’t even have to be in my tournament jersey, and people recognize me. I get a tremendous amount of fan mail, a lot of letters, especially from kids, but I get them from people of all ages. It’s very flattering to be known, without a doubt, but everybody within our industry has worked real hard to build this sport, including BASS and ESPN, and it’s paying off,” he said.

VanDam recently was asked by The Topps Co. to be the only pro fisherman represented in a new “champions” set of collector’s cards that encompasses many sports.

“They’ve been on the market only a few weeks, and I am getting piles of them sent to me (for autographs),” he said. “It’s pretty amazing to me that I’d get that kind of response. I’ve already signed and sent back 75 to 100 cards, and that’s an individual sending one card.”

Ever the competitor, VanDam is looking forward to the upcoming Bassmaster Classic, Feb. 20-22 on the Red River out of Shreveport-Bossier City, La. It will be his 19th consecutive Classic, and he’s eyeing a third Classic title to add to those of 2001 and 2005.

While he says it’s not his habit to scout tournament waters, he might swing by to check out the Red River, especially if heavy rainfall pushes enough water into areas not normally accessible by boat — clear-water spots that can be key in a stained-water fishery.

“The Red River is a place I’ve been to a few times, so it’s going to be pretty exciting to get back down there and see it again,” VanDam said. “I’ve never been down there that time of year (February). I know what kind of fishery it is, and it really fits my style, so I’m excited about it. The Classic is the biggest single event in the sport.”

MORE ACCOLADES FOR ALTON: Last week, 2008 Bassmaster Classic champion Alton Jones received yet another award.

The Lifetime Legacy Award was presented to Jones by Legacy Outfitters in front of a group of more than 800 people at a banquet in Jones’ hometown of Waco, Texas.

“It’s really a big honor for me and I’m truly humbled by it,” Jones said.

Legacy Outfitters was founded in 2002 “to help men pass on a legacy of faith from one generation to another,” according to the organization’s Web site. “Legacy Outfitters brings together men who share a passion for the outdoors.”

HEAVEN ON EARTH: Bassmaster Elite Series pro Bill Lowen and his wife, Jennifer, welcomed Nevaeh Ann Marie Lowen into the world Sept. 9.

“Nevaeh” is “heaven” spelled backward.

“You’ll have to ask my wife,” Bill Lowen said when asked about the origin of his daughter’s name.

Jennifer Lowen explained that her 17-year-old brother suggested it, and she liked it, so Nevaeh it is. The name is pronounced “Nah-vay-yah,” she said.

For Bill, the arrival of his 6-pound, 14-ounce daughter crowned the North Bend, Ohio, pro’s impressive Elite season. He qualified for his second Bassmaster Classic by finishing 11th in the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings, a marked improvement from his 50th-place finish in 2007.

GUNTERSVILLE OPENING: After four years of renovations, Alabama’s Lake Guntersville State Park Lodge is open, just in time to host the Oct. 16-18 Bassmaster Southern Open.

Guntersville also is scheduled to host the Southern Challenge, a Bassmaster Elite Series regular-season tournament, for the next two years: May 7-10, 2009; and May 6-9, 2010.

The 2007 Elite Series last stopped at the popular Alabama lake in 2007. The 2008 Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year, Kevin VanDam of Kalamazoo, Mich., won that event with 66 pounds, 3 ounces.

The lodge complex features a restaurant, convention center and hotel rooms that overlook 69,000-acre Guntersville Lake. Accommodations at the park also include mountaintop chalets, lakeside cottages and a 366-site campground.

CLASSIC BOUND: “I can’t get the Classic out of my mind. I've been to several as a commentator and behind-the-scenes operator. But now I’m going as a competitor. The more I think about it, the more it gets to me. I’m really going to fish a Bassmaster Classic! That’s no small thing.” — Bassmaster Elite Series pro Byron Velvick of Del Rio, Texas, in his Sept. 10 “The Velvick Touch” blog on

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