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Fishing Basics and Family Support

Editor's Note: Kevin VanDam of Kalamazoo, Michigan, one of the most-dominant anglers on the bass-fishing circuit, likes to fish with Strike King lures and particularly Strike King's Wild Thing, a creature bait that he used to win the 2001 BASS Masters Classic in New Orleans, Louisiana. Chosen Angler of the Year on the B.A.S.S. circuit in 1991, 1996 and 1999, VanDam also enjoys spending time with his family and hunting deer. This week, he'll share a few of his most unusual bass-fishing tactics, and he'll answer some of the industry's most-asked questions.

Question: What are some other common questions you hear?

VanDam: People ask me how I travel all over the country to lakes I've never even seen before and still fish so well. My answer to that question is that I just have a system in place that I always use to locate fish. Before I go, I'll get a map of the lake and determine the type of lake that it is. Then I'll cruise the lake to see what it has to offer - what the water clarity is, what types of cover it has and what the seasonal pattern is - and start my search process from there. I'll look at a few basic things and then determine the best pattern for that season of the year. Then I'll try to come up with a game plan that fits my style of fishing.

I'm not a nice fisherman. I don't like to fish slowly. I'm a power-bait fisherman. In other words, I like to cover water with spinner baits and jigs. And crankbaits are kind of my expertise, so I'll try to pinpoint the area in the lake for the season of the year that fits my style of fishing. As we travel around the country, I always seem to be able to find something that I like to do - even if my style of fishing totally goes against what should be happening on a particular lake.

Question: Can you apply some of these basics to every lake, or is it a whole different ballgame every time?

VanDam: I use the same formula on every body of water fish. I wrote a book that spells out my formula in detail. Bass fishing is a science that is not an exact science, but I do take the same approach at every turn.

Question: Can you give me one example?

VanDam: Each little piece of information you learn brings up another question. For instance, say you're fishing in the spring in shallow water, and you're throwing a spinner bait at some bushes. You get your first bite when you run the spinner bait by the sunny side of the bush where the wind is blowing. You have to ask yourself if the fish are concentrating on the sunny side or the shady side and if they prefer the windy side or the calm side. Then you may get a second bite on the shady side but the wind is blowing on that side too. Is the wind the key? You have to consider all these factors as they arise.

Question: Can you give me one more example of a question people ask you a lot?

VanDam: "How do you stay happily married?" I get that question a lot. "How do you keep your family life together?" I've been pretty fortunate to this point because my wife and I have twin 5-year-old boys. They're just starting school and have been able to travel and see the country and go to a lot of the tournaments. The schedule is going to be so hectic this year that we're not going to be able to do that.

I talk to them pretty much every night, though. I talk to my wife for sure at least three times a day. I talk to my kids at least every night when I get off the water, right before they go to bed so they remember who their dad is. We also try to plan little trips, or we'll try to pull them out of school for a few days so they can go with me at least once or twice a year. For example, if I'm going to be in a tournament in Florida, we go to Disney World or something like that. We try to make the time that we do have together the best quality time it can be.

Question: Can you make it as a professional fisherman without your spouse's support?

VanDam: I can't. My wife is my business manager and my booking agent. She keeps things scheduled. She gets my plane tickets. She handles all the day-to-day contacts with sponsors. My wife doesn't have a job that she goes to, but she has a big job taking care of the boys, the house and all of the day-to-day business of things in our lives.

Question: Is the lack of family support a big reason some anglers don't make it in this profession?

VanDam: If you don't have family support, you're at a huge disadvantage. I am very lucky. I have great family support, not only with my wife but also with her parents. They will do whatever it takes to watch the kids. Also, my brother has a big marine dealership and store, and that makes a big difference as far as keeping my equipment in tiptop shape all the time. If I'm in between tournaments, and I need to fix something on my boat, it doesn't matter how busy the guys at the shop are. I go there and do it myself, or somebody drops what they're doing and helps me get going. Most guys don't have that kind of luxury.