By Todd Ceisner
It doesn’t seem to matter what jersey he wears, Kevin VanDam has proven he can out fish just about anybody. Just look at the numbers.
The man with more B.A.S.S. victories (25) and career earnings than anyone has also proven over the past seven years that regardless of the format he's competing under, he’s a force to be reckoned with.
A BassFan analysis of the results of every Major League Fishing Summit and Challenge Cup events held since the organization launched in 2012 revealed that VanDam is just as dominant in the every-fish-counts-catch-weigh-release format as he has been in traditional tournament setups, perhaps even more so.
With the completion of the 2018 Challenge Cup held in Natchez, Miss., and Vidalia, La., won by (you guessed it) VanDam, MLF has held 13 Cup events. Each event has three stages to it – Elimination Round, Sudden Death and Championship. That’s 39 possible rounds of competition.
Despite missing one event due to a scheduling conflict, VanDam has competed in 32 of the 36 rounds he’s been eligible for, posting a series-best 10 first-place finishes, meaning every time he hits the water for a round of Cup competition there's a 31 percent chance he's going to prevail. He is the only MLF angler to advance to the Sudden Death round in each Cup event he’s competed at and his three Cup titles also lead all competitors.
That consistency has allowed him to pile up some astonishing statistics. Here’s a sampling:
> His 531 total fish are far and away tops among Cup anglers. Aaron Martens is 2nd with 400 and Martens has competed in all 13 Cups.
> VanDam’s 930.1875 pounds is also first among Cup anglers. Martens’ 702.625 is the next best total.
> VanDam far exceeds the average production during a given round of Cup competition. He averages a series-leading 16.59 fish and 29.07 pounds each time he puts on an MLF jersey for a Cup event. The series averages are 11.43 fish and 20.05 pounds. The average weight of a bass caught in Cup competition has been 1.754 pounds and VanDam is nearly even with 1.752.
> VanDam has qualified for the Championship Round at eight of the 12 Cup events he’s been at. Only three other anglers (Martens with seven, Brent Ehrler with six and Edwin Evers with five) have made it to at least five final rounds.
> He’s caught 40 or more pounds in nine different rounds and has recorded three of the top four individual round weight totals in Cup competition. His two best single-round weights have come in Championship rounds.
> VanDam’s weight total at the 2014 Summit Cup (190.5625 pounds) is more than 40 pounds better than the next best single-event total (Martens had 147.625 at the ’17 Summit Cup).
> VanDam is one of two anglers to crack the 40-pound mark in all three rounds at a single event. He and Greg Hackney both did it at the 2014 Summit Cup at Alpena, Mich. Here’s the kicker: VanDam also did it at the 2012 Challenge Cup at Lake Amistad, MLF's inaugural event.
> VanDam is the only competitor who’s caught 40 fish in a single round, logging an even 40 during the Championship round of the 2016 Summit Cup at La Crosse, Wis.
> He’s one of six competitors in the 30/50 Club, those who’ve caught 30 fish in a single round and amassed 50 pounds in a single round. The others are: Mike Iaconelli, Ott DeFoe, Todd Faircloth, Martens and Ehrler.
Aaron Martens has racked up some impressive numbers in MLF competition, but is still seeking his first Cup title.
Other notable numerical nuggets include:
> There have been 45 anglers who’ve competed in at least one round of an MLF Cup and 26 of them have competed in at least one third of the total rounds (13 of 39). All 26 of them have recorded at least one 4-pound bass during competition.
> Of those same 26 anglers, Jacob Wheeler (2.03) and Ish Monroe (2.01) are the only anglers who’ve cracked the 2 pounds-per-fish average.
Speaking of Wheeler, he’s been dynamic since qualifying for the Cups through the Selects series. He’s finished first in five of the 13 rounds he’s competed in, a .385 clip that is tops among those with 13 rounds on the books.
> Kelly Jordon is the only angler with two 7-pounders to his credit during Cup competition. His 8-02 from the 2014 Challenge Cup ranks only behind Bobby Lane’s 8-05 caught at the 2015 Challenge Cup as the biggest bass recorded during a Cup event.
> Iaconelli has caught 262 bass in Cup competition with 78 of them (nearly 30 percent) coming at the 2017 Summit Cup at Grand Rapids, Minn., which he won.
> Gary Klein has caught the most fish (270) of any Cup competitor without winning a round of competition.
> While MLF’s format rewards an angler’s performance on a given day, I re-ranked the finalists in each Cup by the cumulative weight caught at that event. Three of the Cups would’ve had different winners if cumulative weight had determined the outcome.
Ehrler’s 113.9375 pounds at the 2015 Summit Cup in Waterville, Maine, was slightly more than event winner Scott Suggs, who tallied 112.3125 pounds. Ehrler wound up finishing 4th in the championship round.
At the 2017 Summit Cup at Grand Rapids, Minn., Martens would’ve run away with the title as he logged 147.625 pounds, nearly 20 more than Iaconelli, who totaled 128.8125. Instead, he finished 3rd in the championship round.
Martens also would’ve won the 2018 Summit Cup in Alpena, Mich., with a total of 97.8125 pounds, about three pounds better than Skeet Reese, who took home the victory. Martens finished 6th in the final round.
Here’s a rundown of the top 5 anglers in several key statistical categories for the MLF Cups (min. 13 rounds):
Total Fish Weighed
1. Kevin VanDam: 531
2. Aaron Martens: 400
3. Edwin Evers: 345
4. Brent Ehrler: 326
5. Greg Hackney: 303
Fish Per Round
1. VanDam: 16.59
2 (tie). Martens: 13.79
2 (tie). Mike Iaconelli: 13.79
4. Evers: 12.78
5. Hackney: 12.63
1. VanDam: 930.1875 pounds
2. Martens: 702.625
3. Ehrler: 623.0615
4. Hackney: 587.6875
5. Evers: 565.51
Weight Per Round
1. VanDam: 29.07 pounds
2. Hackney: 24.49
3. Jacob Wheeler: 24.37
4. Martens: 24.23
5. Iaconelli: 24.21
Highest Per-Fish Average Weight
1. Wheeler: 2.031 pounds
2. Ish Monroe: 2.0104
3. Jason Quinn: 1.946
4. Greg Hackney: 1.9396
5. Kelly Jordon: 1.918
Biggest Individual Fish
1. 8-05 (Bobby Lane – 2015 Challenge Cup)
2. 8-02 (Kelly Jordon – 2014 Challenge Cup)
3. 7-09 (Shaw Grigsby – 2016 Challenge Cup)
4. 7-06 (Takahiro Omori – 2013 Challenge Cup)
5. 7-05 (Boyd Duckett – 2016 Challenge Cup)
Most Fish Caught – Single Round
1. 40 (VanDam – 2016 Summit Cup – Championship)
2 (tie). 39 (VanDam – 2014 Summit Cup – Championship)
2 (tie). 39 (Evers – 2017 Summit Cup – Elimination)
4. 37 (Martens – 2017 Summit Cup – Elimination)
5. 34 (Iaconelli – 2017 Summit Cup – Elimination)
Highest Weight – Single Round
1. 88.00 pounds (Martens – 2017 Summit Cup – Elimination)
2. 82.4375 (VanDam – 2014 Summit Cup – Championship)
3. 74.5625 (VanDam – 2016 Summit Cup – Championship)
4. 66.9375 (VanDam – 2014 Summit Cup – Elimination)
5. 62.125 (Ehrler – 2014 Summit Cup – Elimination)