Trying to explain KVD, part 2


Mike Suchan

Okay, here we go again, trying to have a little fun while attempting to dissect the parts and pieces that make Kevin VanDam tick. If you missed part I, check it out.

One of the more serious questions I get about Kevin, especially from other pros, is how he avoids burning out on fishing. Many of the best pros in the sport today have to stay married to the water to stay on top of their game. And in doing so, fishing becomes very monotonous. But to be quite honest, Kevin really does not fish that much in between tournaments. Trust me, his off-the-water promotional schedule is so intense he really doesn’t get that much time to fish.

And in some odd way, I think that is what keeps the fishing fire burning for him. He really relishes going to a tournament so he can actually…wait for it…fish!

Knows what the fish are doing before the fish do

Personally, one of the most amazing things I’ve ever experienced with Kevin is his ability to tell me exactly how a tournament is going to be won – long before the event even begins. And it’s not always himself he sees in the winner’s circle. But whoever it is, he describes in detail how it’s going to go down and so many times he is exactly right.

I can’t tell you how many times he has called me before an event and told me what the fish were going to do and exactly how he was going to catch them. And it’s like the fish read his script – it’s seriously uncanny how often he is dead on accurate about that. In fact, I got that same call a few nights before the Grand Lake Elite Series event started. And everything went just as he said it would. 

Being the best

For Kevin good is not good enough; great is not great enough; only being the best will do. No matter what the activity, his approach is to identify the most efficient and effective way to do that activity and reach an outcome that is likely going to be much better than everyone else’s outcome. Please understand, this is not just in his fishing, it’s in everything he does: seminars, photo shoots, making commercials, tackle prep, cooking, grilling, planting flowers. (Yes, KVD does plant flowers and, yes, he is pretty good at that, too.)

Here is a case in point: making s’mores at a bonfire. To me, it’s graham crackers, marshmallows, chocolate and fire. Cram everything together, stick it near flame and bingo, it’s done, right? Not so with Kevin; he knows the best crackers, the best marshmallows, the best chocolate, the best order to put them in and, God’s honest truth, the exact spot in the fire that will produce s’mores that are not just brown, but brown and  crispy.

If it sounds like I’m picking on Kevin, let me be real clear here: Yes, he absolutely wants to be the best at everything, but here’s where he is a bit different. Kevin does not want to be the best purely for personal gain. Trust me, Kevin could easily just fish tournaments and never do another thing except deposit his checks. But he wants to be the best because being the best gives him the credibility to teach others and share knowledge. He has a deep-seated need to teach, and in his mind, to have the credentials to teach, you need to be the best. No matter if it’s fishing or cooking s’mores.

The KVD people see on the water may look like a callous competitor, but off the water Kevin has a huge heart. He is incredibly giving of himself in ways that are far too numerous to count. He goes out of his way to accommodate numerous requests in this industry on a daily basis. He is the absolute epitome of what a professional should be. At the end of the day, Kevin wants to help other people be their best, too, even if it means being the guy we all want to beat on the water.