For Bassmaster Elite Anglers, the Holidays are All About Family

Do Bassmaster Elite Series pros want to find fishing tackle in their Christmas stockings?

Even Elite anglers don’t own every piece of fishing gear, but the ultimate present for Elite pros is time with family and friends. After all, these guys are on the tournament trail or making appearances throughout the year.

“The best gift I will have for Christmas is a visit in Arizona with my boys, my 14-year-old son and his brother,” said Ben Matsubu of Hemphill, Texas, who in the 2007 season won the final event, the Sunshine Showdown on Florida’s Lake Tohopekaliga.

When pressed to name one material thing he’d like to receive, Matsubu revealed he does have a secret Christmas wish.

“About two dozen left-handed Shimano Curado D’s — I throw right-handed and reel with my left,” he said. “If I got two dozen of those for Christmas, that would be fantastic.”

For most people, the holidays are a time to share special foods – to tuck into Grandma’s turkey or gorge on Aunt Martha’s cookies. Pro anglers are no different.

Matsubu’s favorite holiday food is sushi. “My family is Japanese, so we always have a lot of sushi during the holidays,” he said.

Tall, trim Kevin VanDam of Kalamazoo, Mich., looks like food is just fuel to him, but he’s into holiday fare. “I have a lot of favorite holiday foods, but the top one is prime rib,” he said.

Has VanDam sent his list to Santa?

“My wife has been asking me and asking me what I want, and I really don’t need anything. I’m happy with everything I’ve got,” said VanDam, BASS’ all-time career earnings leader, holder of three Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year crowns and two Bassmaster Classic titles.

“What I’d like more than anything is to have a really nice Christmas with my family, which we’re going to do again this year,” he said. “To me that’s more important than any gift.”

But pressed to name a present he’d be pleased to receive, VanDam came up with one gift suggestion: “I would really like to get a hunting trip with my friends, that would be a great gift.”

A TRITON IN HER STOCKING: … and a Mercury motor and MotorGuide trolling motor. That’s what Julie Nixon of Grand Ledge, Mich., won last week. Not a holiday gift, but close enough to make this holiday especially memorable for her and her family.

Nixon learned Dec. 7 she was the winner of the Triton Boat Giveaway Presented by BASS, an online sweepstakes she entered at The fully rigged boat package is valued at $53,000.

“I was floored, especially when I found out I won out of 175,000 entries,” said Nixon, who is a director of network systems for a major insurance company. “My youngest son, David, is 10, and he lives to fish.”

Nixon said the family often fishes together on Michigan lakes. Besides David, her family includes husband Joel; 14-year-old twins Andrew and Kevin; and daughter Katelyn, 16.

The family will take delivery at a Kalamazoo, Mich., dealer, D&R Sports Center. Coincidentally, it is owned by Randy VanDam, brother of Bassmaster Elite Series pro Kevin VanDam

ROOKIE MOJO. The 2007 season, during which two Bassmaster Elite Series rookies take home event titles, also was the debut of one-season wonder Jay Fuller of Kingston, Okla.

In just one year on the Bassmaster Central Open circuit, Fuller earned 2008 Elite status and a berth in the ’08 Bassmaster Classic, Feb. 22-24 on South Carolina’s Lake Hartwell.

Will “rookie mojo” work for Fuller for the 2008 season? It’s only speculation that the Elite wins of 2007 rookies Derek Remitz of Madison, Ala., and Casey Ashley of Donalds, S.C., could be duplicated, but the parallels are there.

At 24, Fuller is about the same age as Remitz (25) and Ashley (23). Like the 2007 rookies, Fuller qualified for the Elite Series through the Opens level.

Although Fuller had never competed in any type of BASS event before he signed up for the March 2007 Bassmaster Central Open, “I’ve been fishing since I could walk,” he said.

“I decided to get in on BASS tournaments because the Open came to Texoma,” added Fuller, who worked at a Lake Texoma marina. “I just never had the chance before. But being an Elite angler has been a dream of mine for quite a while, and I’m looking forward to it.”

BONUS BUCKS. Toyota Trucks is offering a bonus payout to anglers who compete in BASS events during the 2008 season.

The program, Toyota Tundra Bonus Bucks, will be available to contenders at all levels of BASS competition, from the top-tier Elite Series to the amateur BASS Federation Nation program.

Bonus payouts will be made to the highest-placing eligible angler (as long as he or she finishes within the top 50) at an event. For many events, the two highest eligible finishers will earn bonuses.

To get the bonus, an angler must own or lease a model 2007 or newer Toyota Tundra or Sequoia truck, and must have completed the free bonus-registration process.

The bonus program is scheduled to begin when the BASS season kicks off Jan. 17-19 on Florida’s St. Johns River with a Bassmaster Southern Open event. The Elite season begins with the Feb. 22-24 Bassmaster Classic on South Carolina’s Lake Hartwell.

SIZE MATTERS, BUT IT’S ALL RELATIVE. “The key to doing as well as I did was getting past the 3-, 4- and 5-pounders and trying to catch those 8’s and 10’s.” — Elite pro Steve Kennedy of Auburn, Ala., in an interview on how he broke the all-time tournament-bag record with his 122-pound, 14-ounce haul in 2007, working a swimbait at the Clear Lake, Calif., Elite event

Bassmaster Magazine January Issue on Sale Today

The January edition of the award-winning Bassmaster Magazine is in BASS member mailboxes now. A must-read for pro anglers and their fans, the 11 annual issues are the most popular benefit of BASS membership and continue to provide tips and strategies that help anglers reel in big catches. To join BASS and start receiving Bassmaster, visit A special rate of $15 is being offered now.


A DAY ON THE LAKE WITH MIKE WURM. The Day on the Lake segment is one of the most popular in Bassmaster Magazine, bringing top Bassmaster Elite Series pros to obscure bodies of water and giving them seven hours to unlock the secrets. Bassmaster senior writer Don Wirth logs a trip with Mike Wurm of Hot Springs, Ark., on a snowy winter day. Despite the adverse conditions, which include periods of heavy sleet and snow, Wurm gives a lesson on perseverance, boating a 7-pound, 1-ounce lunker on a crankbait in the afternoon.

A BASS BOAT FOR ANY BUDGET. For the bass angler looking to purchase a bass boat, Wirth provides information on the myriad models available and the pros and cons of each, as well as pricing information and options for compromise boats for those with families.

A COVER STORY: PROS AND THEIR FAVORITES. Four BASS pros discuss their favorite types of cover and the proper techniques to dissect them and boat the biggest bass. Bassmaster Elite Series pros Kelly Jordon, Gerald Swindle, Ish Monroe and Women’s Bassmaster Tour pro Judy Wong contribute.


DESTINATIONS: LAKE SOONER. One of Oklahoma’s most unusual fisheries because of the warm-water discharge it receives and the sustained aquatic vegetation, Lake Sooner regularly yields double-digit lunkers. The 5,000-acre fishery, home to Florida-strain largemouth, can be tamed by throwing crankbaits and Carolina rigs along the shoreline riprap.

TRASHING THE TALK. Bassmaster editor James Hall learns the hard way that trash-talking an Elite Series pro is not a good idea. Hall spent a day this fall on Lake Lloyd, located in the center of Daytona International Speedway, with Elite pro Greg Hackney of Gonzales, La. While Hall landed the first two bass of the day, Hackney effectively worked a crankbait, boating a limit weighing more than 25 pounds and leaving Hall speechless.


BASS is the worldwide authority on bass fishing, sanctioning more than 20,000 events through the BASS Federation Nation. Guided by its mission to serve all fishing fans, BASS sets the standard for credibility, professionalism, sportsmanship and conservation, as it has for nearly 40 years.

BASS stages bass fishing tournaments for every skill level, culminating with the Bassmaster Classic. Through its clubs, youth programs, aquatic resource advocacy, magazine publishing and multimedia platforms, BASS offers the industry's widest array of services and support to its nearly 530,000 members. The organization is headquartered in Celebration, Fla.