KVD was the prize, but he received one as well.
Winners of the Busch Catch One Win Big contest to fish with Kevin VanDam, a popular 2016 sweepstakes on Bassmaster.com, voted to go to Alaska, and VanDam couldn’t have been happier. That meant several days galavanting about in Otter seaplanes to fishing camps on the Kenai River and Crescent Lake, a glacial lake in the mountains. It was a first-class experience with spectacular sights and a great group of people, VanDam said.
“It was killer. Alaska is incredible,” he said. “We fly into that lake and there’s a grizzly bear 200 yards across on the opposite shore walking down just hunting for fish. A great big one, a 1,000-pounder. While we were fishing, a sow and cub swam across the stream about 80 yards upstream from us. They played in the river for a bit while we were fishing.”
The group, which included five contest winners, their guests, KVD and Busch folks, had top-notch accommodations at Tower Rock Lodge in Kenai, where the world record king salmon was caught. VanDam and crew caught and ate silver salmon, and he recorded a first by catching a Dolly Varden trout.
As the all-time top money earning in B.A.S.S., VanDam has been afforded some great outdoor opportunities via a bevy of friends and sponsors. Last year, he and Busch sweepstakes winners fished for peacock bass in the Amazon.
So, maybe the true measure of a trip for him can be how bad he wanted to go back, and KVD gushed about The Final Frontier.
“That flyout was just unbelievable. When we left (the lake), the pilot took us through the mountains and right over the glacier, and I’ve never seen anything like that,” he said. “It’s pretty amazing, but it was too dang short. I got to see enough to know I wanted to go back.
“I’d love to take my boys there. I’ve been to Montana, Idaho, Colorado, even Arizona. There’s a lot of great places in the country with some incredible sights, but there’s nothing I’ve ever seen like the places in Alaska.”
Here are a selection of the Busch photos of Alaska.
SWINDLE REMINISCENT OF ROCKY’S ‘CUT ME’
“Cut me, Mick.”
Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) said it to trainer Mickey (Burgess Meredith) in the first “Rocky,” when his eye was punched shut. The premise was an incision would release the blood, ease the swelling and let him see.
That’s a rough analogy of what Toyota Angler of the Year Gerald Swindle went through starting Sept. 26. They cut his thigh open to relieve pressure that could have damaged muscle, taken his leg or worse. If you can stand gory pictures, Google fasciotomy, the limb-saving procedure Swindle needed.
The ordeal had to be horrific for Gerald and LeAnn, who learned way more than they ever wanted to know about that treatment. They are rejoicing they returned to the doctor when his right leg swelled terribly from arthroscopic knee surgery. It was a major health scare.
MARSHAL CONNECTIONS; FISHING IN THE MOMENT
In Swindle’s column this week, “High-fives and hugs are special medicine,” he revealed how he and his Marshals bear hugged a number of times this past season. Nothing weird, mind you.
The hugs came after some of the many important, and dare we say critical, fish catches that propelled Swindle to his second AOY. Good, good, good stuff.
Go a little further down on the Bassmaster home page, and in the video section is a special interview, “Swindle talks AOY on Ike Live.” G-Man gives interesting takes on fishing the moment and the difference between a mediocre season and an AOY year.
“Not much. I had tournaments I felt like I could win, and then I had tournaments where I felt like I belonged back in the bass club … ”
Swindle goes on in a way that explains the fine line of good to great, and it’s worth it just to see him in an old-style red jumpsuit.
CRICKET SPITTIN’ CHAMP LIVES IN MY HOUSE
Guess all those watermelon spitting fights with my six siblings ended up serving me well after all.
Saturday, I woke up just normal ole me. I went to bed that night as the Cricket Spittin’ World Champion, complete with major award and dinner gift cards totaling around $200. (Sadly, I am no longer eligible for amateur bug-spittin’ competitions of any kind. No grasshopper, beetle, scorpion, nothing – so don’t ask.)
The wife, Heidi, and I took our little guy, Zane, 5, to our town’s annual fall festival, and passing the competition arena, she says I need to try spit a cricket to win a TV. No big deal. The boy needs one. Only $1 a bug. I’ll take two.
Get into the octagon and hey, wait a second, I thought they were frozen. They’re not. Umm, OK. The original cricket-spitting contest at Purdue’s Bug Bowl uses frozen. So I half-heartedly open the box of about 78,000 live crickets, and the smell hits. Eww. (The name “cricket” comes from the sound they make, and a group of crickets is aptly called an orchestra, and their smell is a caca-phony.)
I had already put down my $2 exacta, so I was in. Yeah, in it to win it. Figuring one of the bigger, darker house crickets might fly farther, I kept grabbing for that one. Where’d he go? Evasive little buggers. Don’t remember it being this hard last time we fished for bream. Finally, I just went for a grouping and hoped for any of them. Got one.
Now, for technique. I know how to spit – I played organimanized baseball for 20 years. But the idea was to have the cricket in my gob the least amount of time possible. So, the plan was mouth, step into it and let ‘er fly. Load and fire.
Ptui. There she blows.
Surprised myself when the official measuring dude said 22 feet. That was significantly shy of the mark to beat by the adult division, an impressive 29 feet, 9 inches. So my final effort needed a lot more leg. Or wind. Right before loading No. 2, a gust was discernible so let’s go quick fire. Ppttoooey!
I let out a whoop as I saw that airborne chirper fly near the farthest line 30 feet away. Sure it was wind-aided – and it might have gotten that last inch crawling – but measuring man made my day when he said, almost non-chalantly, “That will put you in first.” Officially 29-10.
Well, isn’t that something. Where’s my TV?
What? I have to come back to a spitoff at 5 p.m. against the youth and teen division winners?
A guy with a camera hanging around his neck asked if I had practiced. A big fan of Mad magazine’s Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions, I responded. “Oh yeah, I’ve been walking my yard every day picking up whatever moves and spitting it.”
The wife and I had fun during the wait. She told me not to eat this or do that, it might ruin my spitter.
As we assembled with the church group running the spitoff, I attempted to psyche out the competition, telling them, “I was Missouri State Cricket Spittin’ champ from 1992-96 then was forced to retire … but now I’m back, baby.”
Only one person laughed.
Drawing second straw had me attempting to top the youth winner’s 12-foot best attempt. The old pretend-to-put-one-in-my-mouth-but-swallowed-it prank got another laugh, then my best hock-ptooey struck fear in the teen winner as it flew a respectable 23 feet.
He couldn’t even muster 20 feet in his three tries and it was all over but the shouting. I shouted. I did. Zane also jumped up and down cheering. “You get a new TV!!” Change that to “I,” son.
While still doing the happy dance, the measuring man had me come to accept my major award. (Been awhile since that’s happened.) That’s when the boy, who is his mommy’s No. 1 spider stomper when I’m not there, rushed onto the playing field and turned it into a dance floor. That’s right, he did the Cricket Spittin’ World Champion dance. (Crickets were harmed in the making of this story.)
Oh, and Dave Mercer, eat your heart out, er, your cicada out.