Mercury Angler Kevin VanDam Wins Bassmaster Classic
Feb 22, 2010
Kevin VanDam, sponsored by Mercury and MotorGuide, overpowered the final-round field Sunday at the 40th Bassmaster Classic to earn his third world championship and a half-million-dollar payday.
VanDam, 42, of Kalamazoo, Mich., bagged 15 fish weighing a total of 51 pounds 6 ounces over the three days of competition on Lay Lake to cruise to a five-pound victory. Going into the final day, however, the leaderboard was absolute gridlock with three pros separated by just three ounces. In fact, VanDam trailed fellow Mercury Pro Angler Jeff Kriet of Ardmore, Okla., after Kriet put together the biggest bag of day two. But the Oklahoman came up short on day three, bringing in five fish weighing 14 pounds 5 ounces to finish second in the final standings.
Russ Lane, competing on his home fishery, boated 18 pounds 1 ounce on the final day to give himself a chance to win, but VanDam hauled in the biggest bag of the day – 19 pounds 7 ounces – on championship Sunday to pull away. Thirty-three of the 51 qualifiers were powered by Mercury; VanDam has run Mercury engines his entire career.
The Bassmaster Classic, bass fishing’s world championship event, was contested Feb. 19-21 on Lay Lake, 40 miles southeast of Birmingham.
The Classic Weigh-In was held each afternoon in the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex, adjacent to the Classic Expo trade show, and televised on ESPN2. Unseasonably cold weather leading up to the tournament brought snow on one of the practice days, and each day of competition the anglers launched their boats with temperatures in the 20s, making fish hard to find and harder to get to bite for many. Nine anglers were skunked on Day Two.
However, with 51 of the best bass anglers in the world vying for the $500,000 first-place check and a place in bass fishing history, the fish were eventually found and boated. The field weighed in a total of 451 fish over three days, tipping the scales at 986 pounds. VanDam dragged the two biggest bags of the tournament into his Mercury 250 Pro XS-powered Nitro boat en route to the title: 19 pounds 8 ounces on the opening day, and 19-7 in the championship round.
The VanDam victory puts yet another superlative on what is considered by many to be the most complete resume in the history of the sport. He now has three Classic titles (trailing only Rick Clunn, who has four), the first coming in 2001 on the Louisiana Delta and the second in 2005 on the Three Rivers fishery surrounding Pittsburgh, Pa. His string of 20-straight Classic qualifications is the longest active streak in BASS. He is the first and only pro bass angler to surpass $3 million in career earnings, and his Lake Lay rampage has pushed his total to nearly $4.2 million – almost double the next closest man on the list.
VanDam is also the reigning Bassmaster Angler of the Year and is only the second in history to win the Classic at the conclusion of an Angler of the Year season. His five AOY titles are second only to the legendary Roland Martin, who has nine.
“I don’t really have a lot of long-term goals,” VanDam said. ”I compete every year to win Angler of the Year and to qualify for the Classic. This is my 20th Classic, and I sometimes look back and wonder where the years have gone.
“My biggest motivating factor to get to the Classic this year was not making the final day a year ago. I had to watch the others compete that final day, and I knew then that I wanted to be fishing the final day in 2010.
“We get to experience some of the greatest fisheries and some of the most difficult fisheries in the world. I enjoy the challenge and I’ve typically done better at the tougher spots. This year I only used about a quarter ounce of gas in my Mercury, but I relied heavily on my MotorGuide the entire tournament.”
Another Mercury pro made history in Birmingham: Pam Martin-Wells of Bainbridge, Ga., is the second woman in history to earn a Classic Berth, and she is the first to make the two-day cut and fish on Sunday. She reeled in 15 fish weighing 25 pounds to place 22nd. Martin-Wells earned her ticket to the Classic by winning the Women’s Bassmaster Tour Angler of the Year title, and she is the all-time leading lady angler in terms of career BASS earnings.