KVD-JVD: A new kind of competing duo

TAVARES, Fla. --

Dion and Guido Hibdon have been there. Chad and Denny Brauer have done it.

There have been father and son duos at fishing's top level before, but no family is better known in the fishing industry than the VanDams.

Though they're not father and son, Kevin VanDam and his 22-year-old nephew, Jonathon, are taking on the Elite Series together -- sort of.

Though they're blood relatives, Jonathan's new occupation now makes the two competitors. But, this is nothing new.

"We're a really competitive family. Whether we're playing horseshoes or whatever, we always want to win," Jonathon said. "But, this is really special having Kevin out here. I've learned a lot from him, so it will be cool."

Kevin has helped Jonathan grow and develop as an angler, from assisting him in gaining sponsorships to showing him the basics of a new lake. However, Jonathon's wanting to become a pro is something that took Kevin by surprise.

"What's strange is that as I watched him grow up, I never knew that he wanted to be a professional angler, but for these past few years he says that it's all he's ever wanted, so to watch him progress to this level is interesting," Kevin says. "The neat thing is that I see a lot of myself in him. He's got a lot of confidence and that's the same way that I was when I began."

Though he's got sponsors, confidence and a great mentor, Jonathon has a lot of learning to do.

"The one thing that he lacks is experience," Kevin says. "I've been doing this for 20 years and I still learn every time that I go out. My experience gives me a lot of information to draw from, but he's still got a ways to go. However, he's a very good angler."

Part of the reason that Jonathon made it to the Elite level is thanks to the tutelage from his father, Randy, and Kevin. But, Kevin also says that the chips may be stacked for Jonathon thanks to technology.

"There's a shorter learning curve today thanks to the Internet and TV," he says. "I want him to play this game at the level he wants to."

If Jonathon has it his way, that would be a very high level. He'd like to beat his uncle in an event or two, but not because Kevin is family. It's because Kevin -- along with 98 other pros -- stands between him and winning.

"Winning at this level is more prestigious than say, the Opens level," Jonathon says. He earned an Opens-level win last year. "Everyone here is really good; you can't get here by not being good."

Jonathon may have an easier transition into the Elites than the rest of the rookie class. He has grown up alongside the sport and many of the pros. In the past he has fished on the co-angler side of the Elites, and has traveled extensively with the tour. He counts many of the pros as friends, and has received a warm welcome to the Elite ranks.

While on the road, the pair plan to room together for several events, but when they hit the water, it's all business.

"I can lean on him for advice at an event -- and he might tell me more than if another guy is asking - but he won't tell me everything," Jonathon says.

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