KVD Charity: Pro athletes embrace bass fishing

James Overstreet
Elite Series pro Chad Pipkens and Lions’ punter Jason Hanson were proud of the only keeper they managed to boat. The paired also shared a boat with Jerry McKinnis.

Could the Bass Pro Shops KVD Charity Classic lead to more interaction between major sports teams and pro bass fishing?

B.A.S.S. owner Jerry McKinnis would love to see it.         

McKinnis, a handful of Elite Series anglers and regional Michigan pros participated in the second annual KVD Charity Classic with the Detroit Lions on June 10, 2013. Corporate sponsors who contributed to the cause joined a Lions player and angler in a boat for a four-hour tournament on Kent Lake near Detroit. B.A.S.S. tournament staff conducted the weigh-in.

“The upside to this is the charity benefits,” explained McKinnis. “But wouldn’t it be great if we could do something with more than one team? What if we could do it with four NFL or Major League Baseball teams? Then you’d get those great athletes even more interested in our sport; and when that starts happening, we would grow even more.”

One thing is certain: The Lions sure love participating in the KVD Classic.

The players were in the midst of their mini-camp, yet Coach Jim Schwartz let those participating in the KVD Classic leave practice early.

“There was a lot of talk in the locker room from the guys who participated last year and how much fun they had and how they wanted to prove they were better at bass fishing this year,” said Schwartz. “Of course, we have golf outings, too, but a lot of the guys aren’t golfers but most of them love to fish.”

One of the repeats was backup quarterback Shawn Hill who spends his free time fishing for bass at Lake St. Clair and nearby lakes.

“I participate in a lot of charity events, but this is my favorite,” offered backup quarterback Shawn Hill. “I’m familiar with these anglers because I watch The Bassmasters and other fishing shows on TV.”

Offensive lineman Derek Hardman was equally familiar.

“I grew up reading Bassmaster Magazine and we had B.A.S.S. stickers on everything we own,” said the West Virginia native. “To come out here and meet the pros I’ve read about and watched on TV is pretty exciting.”

Since joining the Lions as a free agent in early May, Hardman had only seen the practice field and his motel room until he got into the boat with Michigan pro Greg Mangus.

“I’ve been dying to fish in Michigan, and to get this opportunity and learn so much from Greg, not to mention have a blast at an event like this, is gratifying,” he added.

Jason Hanson, who retired from the Lions after last season as its all-time great field goal kickers and holder of four NFL records, couldn’t say enough about his experience. He fished with McKinnis and Elite pro Chad Pipkens.

“I’m more of a trout fisherman, but, man, what a treat to be here and fish with pro anglers,” he noted. “I may be stepping out of my element a little, but to learn from these guys and fish competitively was a ball.”

Defensive end Willie Young, paired with Bassmaster TV host Mark Zona, was among the most serious of the Lions anglers.

“That dude is a competitor and can really handle a rod,” Zona said of his NFL partner.

“That’s because I love fishing and really like the competitive aspect of bass fishing,” Young explained. “To be out here and pick the brains of guys like Zona and KVD – who are really great guys – is a special treat for me. I’m here to learn and have a good time.”

Young said that during public appearances and autograph sessions, he writes “Let’s go fishing!” under his name on the placard at his table.

“I want people to know I have a passion for fishing,” Young grinned.

Lions cornerback Bill Bentley admits he stepped out of his comfort zone when he signed up to participate, but says he’s glad he did.

He caught the boat’s biggest bass – a 2 1/2-pounder – on a soft stickbait while fishing with Jonathon VanDam.

“JVD was good teacher,” he said. “It was my first time bass fishing and in a bass boat. I really embraced it and these bass guys made it easy for us. I hope to get the opportunity to do it again.”

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