Despite his youth, Jonathon VanDam has been an elite angler for quite a while. In 2011, though, the 22-year-old pro from Kalamazoo, Mich., will make it a capital "E" as he prepares to join the Bassmaster Elite Series. As angling pedigrees go, they don't get much better than JVD's
. His uncle, Kevin, is the consensus greatest bass angler ever to weigh in, and his father, Randy, owns the Ohio state record for smallmouth bass.
That Jonathon would eventually excel in the outdoors seems inevitable. "I'm really excited about fishing the Elites," VanDam said. "It's been a dream of mine for a long time. I can't wait." Bass fishing fans who have followed JVD's career expect him to announce his presence on the top tournament trail with authority. He may be young and have just 15 professional tournaments on his résumé, but he's had a lot of success in his brief career.
VanDam won the 2009 Northern Open on Lake Erie and has three other Top 10 finishes. In fact, Jonathon was three years younger than his uncle was when each won his first B.A.S.S. event. One reason JVD is optimistic about his chances in 2011 is the Elite schedule, which features several waters that the Elite pros haven't seen in a while. "I've fished the Harris Chain, the St. Johns River, Pickwick, Toledo Bend, the Arkansas River and Wheeler," VanDam said, listing six of the eight Elite sites for next year.
That's about the same experience level that most of the other Elite pros will have with the schedule. "With the Opens, I had five days of practice to get ready for a tournament. In the Elites, it's just 2 1/2 days," JVD explained. "It'll be a challenge, but I'm looking forward to it.
I'm just going to go out there and try my hardest." The rest of the Elites have reason to worry. There's another VanDam in the field!