Drew Benton, this is Kevin VanDam.
Kevin, this is Drew.
Shake hands, and come out fishing.
Through seven events, Elite Series anglers Benton and VanDam have yet to be properly introduced, despite a final 12 together at Cayuga. That will change in the Classic Bracket on the Niagara River.
They are pitted against each other in the first round of the head-to-head, bracket-style event July 19-22 in Buffalo, N.Y. The top eight finishers from Cayuga advanced to fish for cash and an automatic berth into the 2017 Bassmaster Classic. Each of the competitors know one another pretty well, except for the rookie.
“To be honest, I haven’t actually met him yet,” Benton said of KVD. “Slowly but surely, I’ve met the majority of the Elites. I just really haven’t fished around KVD this year, haven’t been around him … just hasn’t happened yet.
“It’s kind of been a whirlwind. I haven’t had the chance to meet him leading up to this event … so maybe I’ll meet him.”
Count on it, Drew. They’ll actually meet and talk things over at a B.A.S.S. news conference at ICAST this Wednesday. They’ll head north right after and get one day of practice on July 18 before facing off in Bracket A’s Match 1. After two days of fishing three hours each, one will eliminate the other.
“It’s kind of come full circle for me to be able to go head to head with someone like that, kind of gauge where I’m at,” Benton said. “I get to face off with KVD, who I have extreme respect for. I respect the way he goes about business, and he’s the best to ever hold a rod and fish our sport.
“I’ve got a tall task. It’s kind of like bull riding. For somebody to get a good score, they’ve got to draw a good bull. I’ve definitely got a good draw. We’ll see how this all plays out.”
Benton, 28, said he didn’t really grow up a big KVD fan but appreciates anglers who are versatile, something he strives toward. He likes anglers who fish the moment in whatever method works.
“I like to be super versatile, so really guys who can catch them all different ways, a guy who does what it takes to get it done that particular week on that particular lake,” he said. “And KVD is obviously one of them.”
Neither Benton nor KVD know exactly what it will take on Niagara, as both said the fishery is basically a mystery to them. Even so, Benton said he feels at somewhat of a disadvantage.
“Never been there,” Benton said. “It’s an interesting deal. I don’t really have a lot of background fishing smallmouth. I’m going to use it as a learning experience. We’re guaranteed to get paid.”