Kevin VanDam: Bassmaster Elite Series Pro

Kevin VanDam: Bassmaster Elite Series Pro
Kevin VanDam: Bassmaster Elite Series Pro - Awesome Mitten
Photo courtesy of Joel Shangle

Most people don’t find their passion at 3 years old.

Kevin VanDam isn’t most people.

VanDam, or KVD as he’s known as in the fishing world has been winning tournaments since he was a teen, and reeling in Classic victories since 1990. Pun intended. Kevin joins the Michigander Selfie Series as a native from Kalamazoo. He’s not sure what a selfie is, but is pretty sure he couldn’t snap one and fish at the same time.

KVD had his first ice fishing experience when he was just 3 years old. At age 7 he was finally allowed to travel to northern Michigan with his dad on an all day trip, which as a big deal in his family. “I had a blast. After that I was totally infatuated. All kids are drawn to the water to begin with, but the experience also really created a passion in me to fish.”

Since then, this Bassmaster Elite Series Pro winner from Kalamazoo has cultivated an impressive roster that includes winning his first fishing tournament at age 14, fishing his first National Bassmaster at age 18, and winning his first National Bassmaster at age 22. He has won 4 Bassmaster Classics,  Angler of the Year 7 times, and is ranked the #1 Angler in the World.

Kevin VanDam: Bassmaster Elite Series Pro - Awesome Mitten
photo courtesy of Duane Bethke

Fishing isn’t like any other sport. According to KVD, “It’s a progression and takes hard work.” Having his nephew Jonathan VanDam out on the trail with him gives him the opportunity to pass his wisdom along. You would think that an angler’s job is mostly fishing, but KVD believes it’s a balance with the business side as well. “The business side is a critical area. You need to learn about sponsors. A marketing degree would be a huge benefit to these co-angler’s so they can understand what sponsors are looking for.” He stresses the importance of learning to carry yourself in crowds and the business arena in order to serve a company’s brand and products well. Considering KVD has recently become fishing’s first $6 million dollar man, this advice is gold.

KVD treasures the diversity of his work. He gets to experience a multitude of fisheries around the country, and even at when at repeat lakes, the weather and people freshen the setting every time. The downside, of course, is travel that takes time away from his family, who are also clearly as infatuated with the water as he is.

“Most people leave their jobs and go do something different. Not me.”  Kevin loves to spend time with his family boating on the water. One of his favorite Pure Michigan activities is the time he spends in up north in the summer with his family. Also, he loves to hunt for just about anything with his boys, “Mushrooms, turkey, whatever. I love Michigan. It has four unique, distinct seasons and great outdoor activities.” KVD rolls his eyes at the southern angler’s who perceive Michigan to be buried under snow 6 months out of the year and complain about the weather. Because honestly, he can’t imagine being anywhere else.

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Kevin VanDam: Bassmaster Elite Series Pro - Awesome Mitten
Photo courtesy of Michele Eichstead