From tarpon to NASCAR bassin’

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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.

Saltwater fishing may seem totally unrelated to bass fishing, but both types of anglers can learn from each other.

I found that out again last week while winding up our family vacation in Key West, Fla. After writing last week’s blog about shark fishing with my boys, we fished for other species as well. Elite Pro Terry Scroggins and Kelly Jordon took the boys diving for lobsters one day and we went tarpon fishing on another.

Both were great experiences but the tarpon fishing was incredible for the boys and me.

I really enjoy being around saltwater guides and picking their brains about tricking fish. Even though it’s different, there are things I learned that can be applied to bass fishing. They showed me some of the circle hooks they use for different applications and new knots and methods for tying on leaders that I know I can use in bass fishing.

While we were out there, I decided to try a Strike King Shadalicious Swim Bait. When I pulled it out of the box, the captain’s eyes lit up.

“Tarpon might eat that,” he said. And man, was he right.

I hooked four tarpon with it and landed one about 40 pounds. It wasn’t big for a tarpon, but it sure was fun on bass tackle. We were testing Quantum’s new XO rods and reels with 40-pound braid and 40-pound fluorocarbon leaders, and they worked great.

I fished the Shadalicious like I would for bass. When the tarpon hit, it was an electric strike! No wonder people love fishing for them.

Other than live bait, the Shadalicious was the only thing we could get them to hit. They obviously found the natural action tantalizing.

At the time of this writing, I’m headed to Michigan International Speedway (MIS) to fish in a “Fish Your Bass Off” charity tournament for MIS Cares. NASCAR is racing there this weekend, and anglers will be paired with NASCAR drivers and celebrities prior to race activities. It’s held on nearby Wampler’s Lake, and the public will pay an admission price to watch us weigh in and meet the personalities.

I’m fishing with my good friend and NASCAR star Ryan Newman, who loves fishing as much as he does racing. Jamie McMurray, who drives the Bass Pro Shops car, and fellow Michigan Elite Pro Ryan Said will be participating, too. Bassmaster TV and Zona’s Awesome Fishing Show host Mark Zona will be fishing; and he and I will emcee the weigh-in.

Proceeds help fund Newman’s Foundation and several MIS area charities. Last year, the first year, we raised more than $30,000 and expect to do even better this year.

Before I close, I want to offer well wishes to Mitchell Schmidt, a teenager from Iowa who is recovering from a bone marrow transplant. I hooked up with Mitchell a few years ago through the Make A Wish Foundation after he was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. I took him smallmouth fishing in Traverse City, and we have remained friends. I wanted him to know my family and I are thinking of him and wishing him a speedy recovery.

He’s a tough kid who loves to hunt and fish. And, like me, he knows… it’s all about the attitude.

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