VanDam statement

Editor's note: Following is a statement issued by Kevin VanDam as told to Steve Bowman, Tournament Editor.

 Kevin VanDam surprised the fishing world Monday by being disqualified prior to the start of the CITGO Bassmaster Elite Series "Santee-Cooper Showdown" on South Carolina's Santee-Cooper fisheries.

 But no one was as surprised as VanDam.

 "I was stunned," he said Tuesday morning while driving from South Carolina to his home in Michigan. "But it was my fault. I have no one to blame but myself."

 Trip Weldon, ESPN/BASS tournament director, disqualified VanDam for violating Rule 12 of the Elite Series Competition Rules.

 The rule, titled "Boat Operation and Expense," states in part: "Non-boaters are only allowed to drive the boat in emergency situations in both practice and competition with the exception of loading and unloading from trailers."

 According to Weldon, VanDam was spotted standing on the bow of his boat looking for spawning fish, while co-angler partner, Jim Stawiarski drove the boat.

 VanDam said the violation occurred in the final minutes of the practice day Monday.

 "This wasn't something that I did all day," VanDam said. "It certainly wasn't something I planned on doing."

 VanDam said that at the previous Elite Series event, held two weeks ago at Sam Rayburn Reservoir in Texas, that the built-in battery charger went out on his boat. During the off week, he had replaced the charger with a new one. The new charger, though, hadn't completely charged his boat's batteries for the first day of practice.

 "I didn't know that until Monday afternoon," VanDam said. "It was long before dark and my batteries are dead. I'm thinking, 'Oh man, I've got to get off the water, get this fixed or I'm going to fall way behind.

 "We were headed to the boat ramp and right there next to it was an area that I needed to check. I didn't have any batteries to troll, so I told my partner, 'Let's look this over real quick.'

 "We idled through there, went right by a competitor, not 10 yards from him. If I was trying to pull something, I certainly wouldn't have done that.

 "We didn't spend 15 minutes in that area. I was just trying to make the most of my day. I never thought anything of it."

 When Weldon phoned him and asked about the rules infraction, VanDam readily admitted to having his co-angler drive his boat while he looked over a spawning area.

 "It really caught me off guard," VanDam said. "I got the rules and sure enough I had broken that rule. It's tough to swallow. I have no one to blame but myself. I should have taken the time to read the rules word for word.

 "For 16 years I've tried to hold myself to the highest level of integrity. So this really blindsided me. It's tough to handle. I just have to take my lumps and move on."

 VanDam's disqualification is in effect until Sunday April 2 at midnight. He will resume competition in the CITGO Bassmaster Elite Series at the "Southern Showdown" scheduled for April 20-23 on Alabama's Lake Guntersville.