Exclusive interview with Kevin VanDam where he talks about tournament tactics and life as a pro!
Glenn: I am Glenn May and I am with probably the most recognizable bass pro on the circuit today, Kevin VanDam. Kevin, it's a pleasure to have you on here today.
Kevin VanDam: Glad to be here, man.
Glenn: Kevin, at your level of fishing, strategy has got to be the biggest thing, or one of the biggest factors to your success. Can you tell me a little bit about your strategy, how you approach a tournament, and does that change from tournament to tournament or is it basically the same?
Kevin: Well, what I've always tried to do is control the variables that I can and be aware of the ones that you can't control, you know? I mean, you can't control the weather, you can't control fishing pressure or spectator boats, things like that but you have to be aware of them and The Classic is probably the biggest one where you have to really factor that in and a lot of times it's unknown.
We don't know how many spectator boats are going to be out there and you really don't know what the weather's gonna be three days from now, so you just, I try to build a strategy based on the best information that I can and knowing my own fishing style, that's going to give me a chance to win and I don't fish the same as Peter T. or Aaron Martins or Bobby Lane, any of these other guys.
So I have to do things a little bit differently and that's what gives me confidence when I'm out there, is if I can do something that fits my style, and I'm in my comfort zone, and I can apply all these different factors that are gonna happen out on the water, or may happen out on the water, and have a back up plan if something does change and it doesn't go as you expect. You have to be prepared, you know?
So many guys go out there with a game plan, saying, hey, you know what? This is where I'm going to go and start, I found these fish here in practice. I'm going to go there and I'm going to catch the limit, then I'm going to go here and try to upgrade and you go to your first starting spot and there's five boats there and you don't catch anything and you go to your back up spot and nothing happens. The wind's blowing a different direction and it muddied the water and you don't have a back up. So I try to be aware of those things and have something that you can fall back on. Sometimes, you just don't. The reality of it is, only one guy can win and it's hard to be that guy.
Glenn: Now, for this season, is your strategies going to change a little bit from previous seasons or are you going to stick to what you've been doing?
Kevin: You know what? The thing that I've learned over the years is that the more experience that I get, the better the decisions that I make. So you just have to take every event by itself and look at the type of water that it is and look at the conditions when you get there. I mean, just because we're going to the same lake at the same time of the year doesn't mean it's going to be the same as it was the year before so I just really pretty much take it as it comes.
Glenn: Fantastic. Now, have you ever fished a tournament where you just haven't felt like you're on top of your game 100% but you still placed really well or you've actually won?
Kevin: Most of my really good tournaments are when I have a really tough practice, or a really poor practice, and I just don't have a lot to go on and you go out there and just make the most of what you had and sometimes you find that it's better than what you realize. One of the toughest things for me is when I go out and have a really good practice and I catch fish a lot of different ways in different areas because it's hard to narrow down what to do, where, you go out there and you don't catch many fish and you don't have a lot of areas, you go out there and you make the most of them and I've always fished real fast and those are the times when it really helps me slow down and really take my time and be thorough and I can usually pull out a good tournament.
Glenn: Now, if you have a bad day on the water, which I know is rare, but hey.
Kevin: It happens.
Glenn: If you have a bad day on the water, or maybe you have a bad tournament, how do you, how do you keep focused and keep going?
Kevin: You got to put the past in the past. What happened yesterday doesn't affect today and if you're dwelling on that, it's going to hurt you. So, I want to use what I learned the day before from that bad day to my advantage the next day. Learn from your mistakes. If you make the same mistake twice, shame on you.
Glenn: Okay. Now, as a pro, you've probably heard some of the chatter and stuff, people think about, what it's like to be a pro and the lifestyle and everything. And there's a lot of misconceptions out there. What do you think is the biggest misconception?
Kevin: Well, I think a lot of people, especially the average weekend angler that watches, you know, The Bassmasters on TV on Saturday mornings, they see that time when you're there in the finals and everything's going your way. What they don't see is what it took to get there. All the travel time and those tournaments where you don't do so well. The hardest part for me, for sure, especially having twin boys, is that time away from home. I love what I do, without a doubt.
It's a great life. I get to go out and I get to fish the best bodies of water in the country and some of the ones that aren't the best. But that change and that, all that time, being always fresh and new places to go, and that's what makes it exciting. But getting there, going back and forth, that's the grind of it, you know? Staying in hotels and eating in fast food restaurants and things like that. That's the part of it that is not so glamorous.
Glenn: Yeah, well. Now you also work an awful lot with your sponsors too. And you also work with your product lines, the Kevin VanDam, Sexy Free Shad and all that kind of stuff. How much involvement do you actually have in the development and the creation of those products? How much input are you allowed to have?
Kevin: We do almost all of it actually. I have several companies that I work really, really close with. Strike King in lures, their whole marketing budget basically, is based around their pro staff and they've got one of the best pro staffs in the industry. And they've got guys that are excellent at all the different techniques so when we're going to work on a new spinnerbait or crankbait, they're going to talk to the guys that they feel on their staff that are going to give them the best input.
And that's what we do, is we all kind of get together and tell them the things that we like or dislike and bring the ideas all together and take everybody's best points and put them in our new products. And we do the same thing with Quantum and it just goes right on down the line, whether it's MotorGuide with trolling motors. These companies have a great asset in their pros and in this market, or the tournaments, is what drives this industry. I mean, that's why we have better products all through it, whether it's the boat, the engine, the trolling motor, electronics. It's the competition that drives that whole industry, and we really make those products better. And it's through trial and error and testing, so the company. . .
Glenn: So it's a lot more than just an endorsement?
Kevin: Oh, without a doubt. I mean, I love that aspect of it. I love the development side of it, I love to work on things and I never have less than half a dozen projects that I'm diligently working on for my sponsors.
Glenn: Wow, that's, that keeps you pretty busy, doesn't it?
Kevin: Well, it's, again, I want the best stuff to fish with too and that's what it's all about right there, is bringing products that are going to be durable and are going to do what we say they're going to do, or a little bit better or do the job a little better, and that's what it's really all about, you know? I mean, that's what I enjoy to do. My reputation's on the line out there. If you see Kevin VanDam's name on a product, you can pretty much count on that it's something that I truly use and believe in and that reputation has really helped me over the years and that's why people really support it.
Glenn: Now I want to go back a little bit. You were talking about how much time you spend away from your family and on the water and with all these different elite pros and stuff, they're almost like your second family and you guys get along really good, I know that, and you joke around a lot. Have you been involved in any of those practical jokes I hear about or can you think of a really good one that was really good recently?
Kevin: One of the all time best ones, and it happens all the time, like you say, but we have a lot of fun. These guys are a second family and, you know, we usually stay in the same areas and stuff, but I can tell you Gerald Swindle is one of the biggest practical jokers out here. He's a fun guy to be around, he's funny, Gerald's a good friend. Couple years ago, Gerald had a custom painted windshield on his boat that one of his sponsors did with a G-Man on it and I mean, it was a really expensive windshield.
And we were staying at the motel and we went out to dinner, Gerald went out to dinner, and he had showed everybody this, he was so proud of this windshield and one of the guys went and took that windshield off his boat and hid it. And he came back, and I mean, he was livid. He was mad, fighting mad, to find out what happened to it. Because we'd had some extension cords and boat covers already taken at that motel and he wasn't sure if one of us took it or somebody else and I mean, he was fighting mad over that deal and he didn't get a whole lot better when we gave it back to him either. He didn't, Gerald's one of those guys that he can really dish it out but he doesn't like to have to take it.
Glenn: Well, I'm glad you guys had fun because like you said, he's dishing it out all the time. He's got to get it back every once in a while. Hey, Kevin, I want to give you a moment now, it's what I call the shameless plug moment, you can talk about your sponsors or maybe an upcoming DVD or book that you have coming out or if you just want to say something to your fans out there.
Kevin: Well, I've got a lot of great sponsors and we've got a lot of great products and things like that and for me, one of the big things, especially this week at The Classic, is an opportunity to get close to the fans and one of the tough things for me is getting to be able to spend that time at the outdoor show or the boat launch and things like that and get a lot of autographs for people, so we tried to do some extra things this year.
With Strike King, I've got a signature series bait that we got special that I signed every single one of them of a series 5 Sexy Shad crank bait that we're going to have available only here at The Classic. We do a lot of promotions and things on the website to help get some of that memorabilia and stuff out there too. So for me the reason that I'm out here and able to make a living at this is because of my sponsors and that's because of the fans that support my sponsors and me. So we just try to do as much as we can for them.
Glenn: Fantastic. Well Kevin, thank you so much for being with us today. I appreciate it. Have good luck out there.
Kevin: Thank you.