NEW ORLEANS — For the past few years, Kevin VanDam has been giving bass fishing fans plenty of reason to sit back and look at his remarkable career in absolute awe. Back-to-back Bassmaster Classic championships and back-to-back-to-back Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year awards is enough to generate conversation about anyone — but KVD is special, and those awards are just part of the story.
From highest to lowest, here are the numbers that help to define VanDam’s career:
5,078,976 — That’s the number of dollars that KVD has won in his B.A.S.S. tournament career. Not only is he first in career winnings, but he’s won more money than the next two guys on the list (Skeet Reese and Denny Brauer) combined!
21,798 — That’s how much money VanDam earns, on average, for every B.A.S.S. event he enters. No one else is close to that mark.
190 — That’s how many times KVD has finished in the money out of 233 career tournaments. He earns a check 82 percent of the time.
142 — That’s how many times VanDam has finished in the top 20 of B.A.S.S. events over the course of his career.
91 — That’s how many times VanDam has finished in the top 10. Only Rick Clunn (with 103 in 363 career tournaments) has more.
43 — That’s VanDam’s age. He may be closer to the end of his productive professional years than to the beginning, but he still has lots left in the tank and a drive to succeed that is unmatched on the tournament trail.
39 — That’s the percentage of times KVD finishes in the top 10 of tournaments. 22 — That’s how many Bassmaster Classics he qualified to fish … in a row! Only Clunn, with 28 in a row, has done more.
20 — That’s how many BASS tournaments he’s won. For a few months, he was tied with Roland Martin at 19, and some may point out that Martin had to defeat more individual opponents in his era. But most would agree VanDam has faced more skilled competition.
6 — That’s how many Angler of the Year titles he won, but the number could easily be higher. He was ineligible to fish the Top 100 series (a precursor to the Elite Series) when he started out, so all he did was dominate the Invitational series on his way to qualifying for the Top 100s. A disqualification in an Elite Series tournament in 2006 cost him that AOY title. It’s certainly not inconceivable that KVD could be fishing for his record-tying ninth AOY in 2011.
5 — That’s where he ranked in ESPN’s Greatest Angler Debate in 2005. If the same balloting were conducted today, he would almost certainly defeat Rick Clunn, Roland Martin, Bill Dance, Denny Brauer and everyone else who’s ever fished for bass. In fact, the fifth-place finish seemed to inspire VanDam. As soon as his ranking was announced, he went on a tear, winning three tournaments in a row, including the Bassmaster Classic.
4 — That’s how many Bassmaster Classics VanDam has won. Only Rick Clunn has won as many.
3 — That’s how many B.A.S.S. events he won in a row back in 2005. It’s also how many AOY titles he’s claimed in a row.
2 — As in back-to-back Classic victories in 2010 and 2011. Only Rick Clunn has ever done that.
1 — That’s where Kevin VanDam would rank if the Greatest Angler Debate were held today. Any votes for any other angler would have no credibility at all.
Editor’s note: The 2011 Classic was historic. Keep checking Bassmaster.com for more coverage of the record-setting event all week. Watch the 2011 Bassmaster Classic Saturday at 10 a.m. ET on ESPN2. Check out the complete Classic TV schedule.