In Championship Round Again, KVD Hopes to Finish Off Strong
By Lynn Burkhead
July 26, 2017
In the very best Sheldon Cooper voice that I can muster, he's B-A-A-A-C-C-C-K-K-K!
He being Kevin VanDam, the GOAT (greatest of all-time) in the sport of bass fishing, an angler who has made quite the habit of advancing to the final day Championship Round of Major League Fishing events.
With his appearance in this week's 2017 MLF General Tire World Championship event in Nacogdoches, Texas, KVD has now participated in nine MLF events since the very first one that occurred back at Lake Amistad in November 2011.
For those keeping score at home, VanDam made the four-man Championship Round field in that inaugural MLF event, eventually coming in second to champion Brent Ehrler.
Since then, VanDam - who is a two-time MLF Summit Cup champion with wins in Alpena, Mich., and at Lacrosse, Wis. - has made four Championship Rounds, coming in first on two occasions; second on one occasion; and third another time.
Add in today's final round appearance on southeastern Texas' Lake Kurth, a small water body not far from Sam Rayburn, and it's now six times and counting that KVD has been in the final day of competition at an MLF event.
Out of nine total MLF competitions, mind you.
With all of the other accolades in his unparalleled career - seven B.A.S.S. Angler of the Year titles; four Bassmaster Classic titles in 26 appearances (including back-to-back wins in 2010 and 2011); one FLW Tour Angler of the Year title; 23 B.A.S.S. wins; 16 B.A.S.S. runner-up finishes; 18 third place B.A.S.S. finishes; 110 "Top 10" B.A.S.S. finishes; and more than $6.1 million in career B.A.S.S. earnings - and it's easy to see why VanDam's career is unparalleled by anyone else in this sport.
And once again, here he is, the angler once known as the "Kalamazoo Kid," in another Championship Round as he seeks to add the 2017 MLF General Tire World Championship trophy to his burgeoning trophy case back in Michigan.
After his sizzling Sudden Death performance yesterday on Lake Jacksonville, don't bet against him getting that done today.
"Yeah, I knew that I had something finally figured out (yesterday morning) and when you get something working (like that), it's a great feeling for sure," VanDam said.
"It's not very often when you can get into that kind of a zone where you feel it, see it and make it happen like that."
For VanDam, the last round involved some trial and error before he really dialed things in.
"I caught one with a jerkbait before the wind picked up, but I was still throwing at some isolated stumps and targets with a Shaky Head," KVD said. "So I wasn't exactly sure (early on). But when I started getting bit off the docks in deeper water with the jerkbait, I thought 'Yeah, it's over.'"
KVD said the wind picking up on Jacksonville really helped his cause in the Sudden Death round yesterday.
"For sure," VanDam said. "I couldn't get them to react at all (before that) and you had to throw something to them that was slow moving and sinking. It just totally changed everything though when that wind picked up."
And with that, KVD went on a sizzling jerkbait run - just like he's done countless other times during his amazing career - and booked his trip to today's MLF World Championship title round.
"I'm excited to be here for sure," smiled VanDam. "That was my goal, my dream, my plan all week, just to have an opportunity to be here on Saturday. And I've got that chance (now)."
Despite his one in four chance of winning today, VanDam doesn't think he has any sort of an edge.
"These guys are the best in the world for a reason," he smiled. "But, it's hard against this group to not have an off day, especially in Sudden Death when you have a cut weight (to go up against).
"So it feels good to be here (today) and I'm going to give it everything I've got."
What does VanDam think about the changeable weather this week - including cloudy conditions today after sunny conditions yesterday - something that may have made it harder to dial things in?
"Yeah, it really has been," VanDam said. "The first round was a big adjustment because we had two extremely different days. And the fish acted totally different on each day, I fished two completely different patterns (on those days), on the same water."
But that's why the MLF field this week is the best in the world, they can make the necessary adjustments and just keep on going.
"You've just got to try and stay up with the changes and make an adjustment," VanDam said.
And that includes today's Championship Round on Lake Kurth, a 726-acre alligator filled lake featuring plenty of stumps, plenty of grass and a lot of good sized bass.
Having not seen the day's venue when this interview was conducted, and not knowing yet where the field would be going, VanDam indicated that he will try and be prepared for any contingency.
"I've got everything from deep crankbaits to heavy punching stuff to everything in between - and finesse, too - because anything is possible and you have to be prepared," VanDam said.
With so much championship experience under his belt, VanDam has plenty to fall back on as he tries to secure yet another title today.
"More than anything, just the experience that I've had in Major League Fishing (over the years), that has taught me how to transition your game plan towards this format," he said. "And today, there's no cut weight, you just want to let it all hang out.
"It fits my style (of angling) well and we're in a great area of the country at a great time of the year and there should be some real fireworks today."
And if the past is any indication, it's very likely that an angler named Kevin VanDam will be the one lighting up those fireworks and sending them up into the Texas sky for the rest of the angling world to see.
He's certainly done that before, so don't bet on him doing it again today in the Nacogdoches area.
And that's making bass fishing history yet again, the way that only the great and legendary Kevin VanDam can.