Battling sharks with the boys

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Kevin VanDam

Kevin VanDam

In the world of professional bass fishing, Kevin VanDam is at the pinnacle and arguably the best in the world.

Sometimes it’s fun to do something a little off the beaten path, and that’s exactly what I did this week.

I got to film a shark fishing TV show for Bass Pro Shops’ new Outdoor Adventure program to air sometime late winter or early spring.

Best of all, I got to do it with my boys, Jackson and Nicholas, off Key West, Fla., and watch them battle 6- to 10-foot sharks on spinning tackle and 12-pound line.

It’s Shark Week on the Discovery Channel so the boys were pumped up. I’d done a shark fishing show with Mark Zona a couple years ago and thought the kids would like it. So, when the producer asked if I’d like to do one of the new adventure shows with the boys, I jumped at the chance.

As luck would have it, some of the other Bassmaster Elite pros were down there on vacation with their families. We got to hang out with Gerald and LeAnn Swindle – which is always a hoot; Terry Scroggins and Kelly Jordon were there with their families, too. It’s always fun to hang with Elite pros, but it’s special when we can do it away from the tournament scene.

The shark trip was something the boys will always remember. We were on a huge center console boat with a fly bridge, so they could climb up there and watch the sharks stalk our bait.

If you’ve never shark fished, the first thing you do is catch barracuda to use for bait. That, in itself, is fun because they put up a pretty good fight as well.

And man, you talk about fish with a lot of teeth. I’m accustomed to catching toothy northern pike, muskie and walleyes around my Michigan home but these saltwater fish are an entirely different breed of cats.

Anyway, the barracudas were cut up and dropped behind our anchored boat on the flat we were fishing. The sharks pick up the scent along the chum line on an outgoing tide and start following it toward the boat. It was like sight fishing for smallmouth, but very big smallmouth with large, dangerous teeth.

It’s in-your-face fishing.

With sharks.

The boys had all they could handle. When they first bite, sharks will smoke your reel on a long run, then it becomes an arduous task to work them back to the boat. Needless to say, the kids were pretty worn out by the end of the day.

Most of the fish we hooked were released alongside the boat, but we brought one 6-footer into the boat for photos. The captain had the fish by the tail and the thing swung around and bit him in the crotch! He was only nicked – nothing serious – but enough that blood seeped through his pants. The entire scene was caught on tape and will likely make it into the show.

He’s been battling sharks for years, so it goes to show you how important it is to be careful and expect the unexpected with any fish.

I’ve always said fishing is “all about the attitude” and that’s what I like about shark fishing. Those big dudes wake up with an attitude and stay that way all day long.

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