“One time a cop pulled me over for running a stop sign. He said, ‘Didn’t you see the stop sign?’ I said, ‘Yeah, but I don’t believe everything I read.’”
-Comedian Steven Wright
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Kevin VanDam entered last week’s Bassmasters Elite Series Diamond Drive tied for second place in the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year race. Four tournament days later VanDam emerged as the AOY leader, 55 points ahead of Edwin Evers’ second-place total of 1,676.
On the Arkansas River last week, Alton Jones dropped from a second-place tie with VanDam into fourth place with 1,608 points. And Terry Scroggins, who held the AOY lead going into the week, fell all the way to sixth place, 134 points behind VanDam.
So why was VanDam made to feel like he’d had a bad tournament? Maybe KVD should quit believing everything he reads.
“I feel great about it,” said VanDam, who was in second place after Day Two before finishing 10th overall in the Diamond Drive. “I knew if I had a top 12 finish, I’d at least be in (AOY) contention.”
VanDam, the six-time Toyota Tundra AOY champion, can’t wait to get started on claiming his seventh crown, which would mark his fourth-straight AOY title. The Bassmasters Elite Series tour moves to Alabama’s Wheeler Lake this week for the series finale. It’s part of the Tennessee River chain of lakes where VanDam has had success in the past.
“I like Wheeler,” VanDam said. “It fits my style. It should be an offshore bite, which fits my style.”
Any disappointment VanDam experienced on the Arkansas River last week was because of his hot start on the first two days, followed by a cool finish. The 43-year-old Kalamazoo, Mich., native put up a second-place total of 25 pounds, 11 ounces after two days – just 8-6 behind leader and eventual winner Denny Brauer, then weighed only two fish each of the last two days.
“My goal coming in (to Little Rock) was to do as well as I can,” VanDam said. “Did I disappoint myself those last two days? I did. I thought I’d catch them all four days. But some of the guys around me (in the AOY race) had tougher days.”
Some of the guys around him? How about almost all the anglers around him. Only Steve Kennedy picked up ground on the leader. He went into the Diamond Drive 98 points behind Scroggins and now sits 60 points back of VanDam. Evers essentially held his own, starting 53 points behind Scroggins while now trailing VanDam by 55 points after his 18th-place finish at Little Rock.
VanDam will be an overwhelming favorite to add another Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year title to his impressive list of bass fishing accomplishments this week.
“Kevin always has a knack for finding them,” Dean Rojas said. “He’s just a good closer. I think a lot of pros aspire to be like him when they’re in a position like he is now – close to that Angler of the Year title.”
Maybe, just maybe, VanDam left the door open a little bit by catching only two keepers on both Saturday and Sunday on the Arkansas River. But considering VanDam’s record as a closer, well, maybe you shouldn’t believe everything you read if you plan on beating him.