Editor’s Note: Very-few fishermen have reached the heights in competitive fishing that Strike King’s own Kevin VanDam of Kalamazoo, Michigan, has. Rarely is as much expected of a tournament fisherman as there is of VanDam. We wondered what living in this bubble was like and talked recently with VanDam.

Part 1: Kevin VanDam Only Worries About the Things He Can Control

Kevin VanDamQuestion: Kevin, you’re one of the few professional fishermen whose fans expect you to win every tournament you compete in, and when you don’t win, they wonder why. How does that make you feel?

VanDam: At times, living with those expectations is tough. But I also have those same expectations of myself. However, I don’t wonder why I’m not performing well enough to win every tournament. The difference between a great tournament, a mediocre tournament and a poor tournament is one or two bites – a missed bass here and there. Many times I feel like I’ve fished really well in a tournament, but I’ve had bad luck or a couple of bad circumstances that have kept me from contending like I want to contend. Kevin VanDamBut hearing that assessment and trying to answer that question of what’s wrong with me does get old.

Before I went to the Kentucky Lake tournament I won, fans were asking me this question. But I was thinking about my 20th-place standing in the fight for the Angler-of-the-Year title and my solid position to fish in the 2011 Bassmaster Classic. Most tournament anglers would be thrilled to be in my position, even then, yet fans kept asking me what was wrong with me.

Question: You won the 2010 Bassmaster Classic on Alabama’s Lay Lake in February and then had a couple of weak tournaments, didn’t you?

VanDam: Yes, I did.

Kevin VanDamQuestion: Was the problem all the distractions that came with winning the Bassmaster Classic and the sponsor pressure, or did the bass just jump-off your hook?

VanDam: My problem wasn’t the pressure of the Classic or the sponsors. I just missed some opportunities in the two tournaments in California at the first of the season. I finished in the 30s in one tournament and in the 50s in the other. But I had chances at both those tournaments to do well. I had the bites, but I just couldn’t get the bass in the boat.

Question: You actually make news when you don’t win a tournament. What do you tell people when they ask why you aren’t winning?

VanDam: I don’t worry too much about what people say. I worry about things I can control, like the sharpness of my hooks, the shape my equipment’s in and the type of lures on my line. Kevin VanDamI can make sure I have fresh line, that my boat’s in good shape and my tackle’s organized. But other factors, such as spectator pressure, bass jumping off my hooks and the weather, are beyond my control. I try to block-out everything else and focus my attention on the things I can control. When I’m fishing and competing, I don’t think about what people are saying about why I’m having a bad year. I know what I can do.

Every day on the water, I go out and do what I can, take care of what I can control and don’t think about what people are saying. I’m concerned about what my fans think, and I try to give them the best answers I can. But there are many things in life none of us can control, so why worry about them?

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