In the first eight years of the Bassmaster Elite Series, Kevin VanDam missed the first cut (top 50 or so; it's varied depending upon field size) four times — once in 2007, once in 2008 and twice in 2010. That's 73 tournaments and 69 checks (95 percent!). During that stretch, his worst finish was 59th. It was an amazing run — almost certainly the greatest in professional bass fishing history, by the man who is the greatest professional bass angler of all time.
But in 2014, things have changed and VanDam is struggling. In just seven events he's missed the first cut three times and has posted the worst three finishes of his Elite career — 70th at the St. Johns, 71st at Dardanelle and 97th at the Delaware River.
Are his best days behind him? Of course they are. To say they aren't would mean that he has seven more Bassmaster Angler of the Year titles ahead along with four more Bassmaster Classic wins, and no rational person believes that.
Does he have another AOY or Classic victory ahead of him? I wouldn't bet against him. He's the best of all time and has plenty left in the tank. He's almost certainly going to win more B.A.S.S. events before he hangs it up.
Right now, though, he's 42nd in AOY points and he needs to move up at least four or five places to qualify for his 25th consecutive Classic. That run is the second longest of all time (behind Rick Clunn's 28), and I'm certain KVD has his sights set on equaling and then passing Clunn.
I'll be shocked if VanDam is not competing in 2015 on Lake Hartwell. And when he is, I'll make him one of the favorites to win it.