Reports of Kevin VanDam’s demise were greatly exaggerated.
That misappropriated misquote of Mark Twain kinda fits since there was talk that the Kalamazoo Kid, not really much of a kid anymore at 48, might never win another bass fishing tournament.
That hubbub made it to the Bassmaster LIVE crew, who were asked their thoughts. Balderdash, poppycock and malarkey were the initial responses.
Wait, he missed his first Classic in 25 years in 2015? His last regular season win was six years ago? Hmmm. Wow, 94th at Bull Shoals/Norfork, and a 67th at Wheeler after a Day 2 zero?
Nah, surely there’d be an event where he’d sum up the magic that made him the all-time victory and money leader in B.A.S.S. But negative thoughts even crept into the darkest corner of his mind.
“You always wonder a little bit about your decision making when you have those bad events. I’ve had two of them,” he said. “I just had the worst nightmare day ever on the water. Probably the worst day of my career fishing-wise. You start questioning the way you do things, your decision making, so to come back this week …”
Yes, he sent all that talk to its grave by winning the A.R.E. Truck Caps Bassmaster Elite at Toledo Bend.
The entire scenario reminds me of a reporter who in 2007 said he didn’t get the whole “KVD-is-the-greatest-of-all-time” claims. Sure, at the time VanDam only had two Classics titles among his 10 wins. Yet he had won three Bassmaster Angler of the Year titles, but that person argued, what has he done lately?
Not sure if that doubting Kevin stuff was ever written, but KVD still served him plenty of crow in the next five years, winning at least two events each season, tying Rick Clunn with four Classic titles and stringing together four consecutive AOY seasons.
Winning after a 5-year drought just made VanDam even more appreciative of being able to fish for a living. His friendly, unassuming personality shone on the water even before he won.
“Every one is special,” he said of victories on LIVE Sunday. “The older you get, each time you appreciate it even more. It’s been a while since I won an Elite Series event. You don’t get yourself in position very often.”
On stage with the trophy, he said all the Elites have gratitude to the fans who follow the competitions, and he sure enjoyed those who were there and reinstituted the chant, “KVD, KVD.”
“I’ve been doing this a long time, but you never know when that win is going to be your last one,” he said. “Fortunately, I think I’ve got a few good casts left in me. Some people were wondering for a while. This one really means a lot to me. Every one is special, but definitely the last one is special.”
We certainly think “last” meant “most recent.” During LIVE, Mark Zona said he has asked KVD if there were retirement plans from competitive fishing in his near future. The answer was no.
So expect KVD to be around awhile longer.
Long live the King!
DRAWING COACH KNIGHT'S INTEREST
During a break on LIVE, Mark Menendez shared an interesting story involving several basketball Hall of Famers. During the Elite 50 on Lake Dardanelle in 2004, Coach Bobby Knight was greeting anglers after delivering an inspirational talk, and Menendez asked Knight if he could guess who taught him a jump shot.
Knight, a fishing buddy of Jerry McKinnis, knew Menendez was from Kentucky and gave his best educated guess. “Joe B. Hall?” He was a famed University of Kentucky basketball coach. But no. Think Hall's mentor, the man who the current UK arena is named.
“Bobby Knight fell out when I told him it was Adolph Rupp,” Menendez said. “He stopped the line. Jerry said, ‘C’mon Bobby.’ He said, ‘Hold it, I’m talking to Mark right now.’”
Menendez was at Memorial Coliseum with a family friend for a youth basketball clinic, and he remembers the legendary coach's hand on his shoulder, and the words, "keep practicing."