Lions players and Elite pros fish for charity

James Overstreet
Kevin VanDam and Detroit Lions coach Jim Schwartz.

MILFORD, Mich. – Drizzle and the threat of thunderstorms didn’t discourage Detroit Lions football players from joining B.A.S.S. pros for a charity tournament showdown on Kent Lake Monday. See photos here.

The weather Gods held back the storms during the second annual Bass Pro Shops KVD Charity Classic with the Detroit Lions, enabling corporate sponsors, pro anglers and NFL players to compete for bragging rights in an increasingly popular fund-raiser.

The bass were less cooperative as many of the favored teams struggled. Kevin VanDam, teamed with Lions Coach Jim Schwartz, weighed in only one bass while Bassmasters TV co-host Mark Zona and defensive lineman Willie Young zeroed.

In fact, Casey Ashley was the highest finishing Elite pro team, claiming seventh place.

“The weather made it a challenge and the fishing wasn’t as good as it normally is on this lake,” said VanDam, who spearheaded the event with his wife Sherry and Lions officials.

“But this is more about the experience of putting talented bass pros in the boats with NFL players – both of whom are dedicated to their craft - and corporate sponsors who make this happen and help us raise money for a good cause.”

The total amount hasn’t been tabulated but both Kevin and Sherry expect the benefit to top the $60,000 that last year’s inaugural event raised.

Fishing wasn’t that tough for everyone however. For example, Team WYCD-FM, consisting of Steve Grunwald and Jim Palmer, former Lion safety Stuart Schweigert and Michigan pro Don Watts found it a bit easier. They won the event with 13 pounds, 15 ounces that also included a 5-14 that won them big bass honors as well.

Watts, known throughout the state for his jerkbait fishing skills, said most of the bass his team caught came on stickbaits fished throughout the shallow, weedy lake.

Second place went to Team Plano with regional pro Aaron Feeback and teammates Greg Yourst, John Bonamego and Roy McBurne who had 11 pounds, 9 ounces.

Team Keller (Kurt and Todd Keller and Paul Caldwell) were third with 11-8.

There were 29 teams comprised of regional and Bassmaster Elite pros, 26 corporate sponsors, and 22 current or former Detroit Lion players. Elite pros who participated along with KVD included Ashley, Marty Robbins, Davy Hite, Jonathon VanDam, Aaron Martens, Terry Scroggins and Chad Pipkens.

Lions players participating included Shawn Hill, Jason Hanson, Riley Rieff, Ziggy Ansah, Brandon Pettigrew, Jason Fox, and Stephen Tulloch, to name a few.

It was a first time experience for some. Ansah, a defensive lineman and first round draft choice from Brigham Young, had never fished before.

“It was fun, but I was frustrated because I couldn’t catch a fish,” the Ghana native said afterwards.

But when it was pointed out that his pro partner Terry “Big Show” Scroggins couldn’t play football like him, Ansah offered a broad smile and said, “Yeah, you have a point.”

Eight-year NFL veteran Stephen Tulloch, a Lion linebacker, said he had fished many times in saltwater.

“But this was my first time on an inland lake and to be bass fishing,” said the standout defender. “But my pro partner (Trevor Janscaz) taught me a lot today. One thing I learned about bass fishing is you gotta be patient.”

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