Here are some more excerpts from my interview with pro bass fisherman Kevin VanDam, who was featured in Sunday’s “Collected Wisdom” in The Oklahoman newspaper.
On bass fishing as a kid:
“I definitely had a passion for it a young age. My grandparents had a place on the lake and I would go out there in the summer and stay a week at a time and that’s all I did, all day long, every day, was fish. My grandmother had a bell that she would ring, so that no matter where I was, walking the bank around the lake, that I could hear it to know to come in for lunch or dinner.
“I really started doing a lot of bass fishing at (age) 6. As a kid, I would fish for whatever would bite, but bass were probably my favorite.”
On fishing in his home state of Michigan:
“In Michigan, there are lots of lakes with salmon and trout. There are rivers with trout in them. The salmon run in the fall, the steelhead run in the spring. You got walleyes running in the spring. Walleye fishing in the summer. You got northern pike.. You got largemouth and smallmouth bass. The great thing it does is spread the pressure out on all the species, so none of them get too much. We have excellent bass fishing. Bass fishing is very popular there. There are lots of tournaments. It’s a big deal. There are tons of bass clubs.
On becoming a pro:
“By the time I was 18, I fished my first B.A.S.S. (Bass Anglers Sportsmen’s Society) tournament. I went (to college) for two years. I never got a four-year degree. My brother opened a big sporting goods store and marine dealership. After two years of school, I started doing that and was still fishing tournaments. I started fishing full-time shortly thereafter.
“I wanted to go out and just see how good Larry Nixon, and Denny Brauer and Rick Clunn, Hank Parker and Roland Martin and all those guys were.
“At my brother’s store, some of those guys started making appearances there. I remember one time Larry Nixon and Tommy Martin came to our store and I was too embarrassed to go up and even talk to them.
“Those guys were extremely nice and very helpful to me early on. That’s one of the things I think is real special about our sport is that, we don’t have some of the issues that other sports do. You don’t see after a Sunday Packers-Bears game a whole lot of them going out and eating dinner together. It’s not like that with our group. We help each other out and hang out together. We spend so much time on the road at tournaments with these guys, they are like second families.”
On spending time with his boys:
“I got twin boys that are 12. One of my favorite things in the whole world to do is just be home with them. We love to fish and hunt. My kids, this is their first year for deer season at home, and both of them killed the first deer they had in the youth season at the end of September. I was so passionate about the outdoors, both fishing and hunting, that I really hope that they have that same drive that I did. It’s something, for me, that would be really fun to share. I remember the times I hunted and fished with my dad, and I still do, and at the time I never really thought much about it. Now, I know what he went through, the patience that he had with me, which wasn’t easy at times. I am just hoping to get the same opportunties to share some of that.”
On the biggest misconception about pro bass fishing:
“Non-fisherman, especially, think there is a lot of luck involved. That you got out there on the water and you just sit back and cast out and wait for the fish to come and bite. I don’t believe in luck at all. Getting them to bite in the first place is not luck. There’s a lot to it. It’s a science that is far from exact.
“Compared to other sports, there is so much guess work in it. It’s very much a mental sport. We don’t know where they’re at. We can’t see them. We are just guessing based on the season and water conditions and lake conditions and things. It’s like golfing where the tee moves by the minute. All of a sudden you go to hit it at the flag and all of a sudden the flag is over here. It’s a challenge.”
On growing the sport through televised events:
“All of the tournament organizations are getting better at that. The challenge is it’s really expensive to do it. But now with the Internet, they are streaming the weigh-ins and footage during the days. It’s making it to where we have a true live event.”
On tournament bass fishing:
“I feel blessed that I have been able to make a living at something I truly love to do. To me, that is a real measure of success. Every day I get to go out and make a living at something I am passionate about.”