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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.

I'm putting this one together in the airport in California. The plane's broke. I've been sitting here for about seven hours. Have you ever noticed that planes break on the way home when you want to see your family? They never seem to break when you're going somewhere, unless it's on vacation.

This is why I don't like to fly if I have a choice. There's always something to delay you. And you're not in control of anything so you can't do anything about it. I don't like not being in control.

The show went well, though. It's sponsored by Anglers Marine (www.anglersmarine.com) and is a big deal out here. There are a lot of vendors. Many of them are selling handmade swimbaits made from every imaginable material and in every imaginable color. This is the area where they're most popular, you know.

Some of the very best are rainbow trout imitations. They're niche baits for the lakes out here where they stock trout for the bass to eat. They're pretty and unique, but I'm not sure how useful they'd be in other parts of the country.

Walking around the show it's easy to find evidence of a downsizing trend. A couple of years ago most of the baits were 7-10 inches long. Now they're 4-7 inches long. That's the natural trend of most baits. Almost always they come out in a full-size model and then later they'll be released in a smaller version. And, finally they'll end up in a mini size.

To be honest, I think the smaller versions are more useful for most applications. They'll catch bass in more lakes and rivers than the giant models. And besides, most anglers have more confidence with smaller baits.

The craftsmanship is extraordinary on some of them. They are more like fine works of art than fishing lures. The finishes are hand painted and the actions are realistic, almost too realistic. It's hard to tell some of them from the real thing as they're swimming through the water.

Everyone has a copy of the Sexy Shad finish now. It's kind of funny. Guys will show me their version of it and ask me for my opinion. They want me to rate their copy of my color. I usually give them an honest opinion, some are really good and some are not so good.

Several of the makers gave me one of their lures — in Sexy Shad, of course — to bring home with me. I won't fish with them. That wouldn't be right. They'll go in my trophy case as a memento of my career.

I don't care about knockoffs, and I certainly don't take it personally. It's a part of our industry. You go with what works. Heck, look at Zoom. How many watermelon plastics are on the market these days? And besides, they say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

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