Nearly every piece of modern bass fishing equipment has a KVD model. There are KVD boats and motors, depthfinders and trollers. Of course thereís rods and reels carrying the KVD moniker, not to mention the thousands of KVD lures stuffed into KVD tackle bags. Thereís even KVD push-poles and boat shoes.
But it was TH Marine that got it right. The marine aftermarket dealer hung its hat on a single word to better describe VanDamís contribution to product design, as well his placement in the world within the eyes bass junkies: Kong.
VanDam truly is King of the Jungle.
Last week, Kong proved it again in convincing fashion with a wire-to-wire win at the sportís most historic smallmouth venue, sealing victory with a final-day surge that included the eventís biggest bass.
VanDam did so utilizing a plethora of self-designed and endorsed lures, including jerkbaits and plastics, and a spinbait weíve yet to see. Iím sure that will be the next member of the KVD family, available at our neighborhood Bass Pro Shops.
With his latest victory, VanDam jumped to third in the Angler of the Year standings, with lakes Champlain and St. Clair next on the schedule. God help the two competitors ahead of him.
After a brief absence from the big screen, Kong is back. Any remaining doubters of the sportís greatest ever can now be silenced. The 2015 season was merely a stumbling block, proving that even VanDam is human. With that behind him, VanDam can now concentrate on AOY No. 8.
With any justice, VanDam will take down another points crown, as well as two more before he finishes. Combining with a fifth Classic title will clean everything up in the record books, and put the King above everyone else, regardless of generation or competitive arena.
Right here, right now, VanDam is exactly where he wants to be. Itís the chase that excites him; the blood in the water. With Northern smallmouth fisheries ahead on the schedule, VanDamís confidence is understandably high. Such feeds more into his ability, as well as his supernatural persona within the competitive circle.
Those who fear him are doing so more now than ever.
The race is on, bringing with it excitement like we havenít seen in some time. Itís great for pro fishing and adds validity to the most recent tournament model being offered by BASS: more events, through more regions of the country, culminating in an end-of-year championship for the Angler of the Year. While I was once critical of such a campaign, assuming the title would be sewn up long before such a tournament and simply add obligations to tired anglers, it appears the tournament genie may have been right on track.
As with any athlete separating from the crowd, VanDamís success was occasionally met with skeptics and back-room whispers from critical cohorts. Iíve heard all the excuses: he gets help from locals, he was given winning GPS coordinates; even fans mailing him numbers in unmarked envelopes. For real.
But any critic can now be silenced, for VanDam has proven that, at any age and any level, he is simply the greatest tournament bass fisherman of all time. Ití s hard to believe heís lasted this long, adding more validity to the argument.
However, the greatest attribute of VanDamís ability isnít measured in pounds and ounces. Itís his capacity to juggle all of the things we opened with: endorsements, namesakes, product development and marketing Ė and still maintain competitive dominance. Other professional anglers have done all they could to silence the outside noise, yet VanDamís brain somehow continues to focus solely on the cast at hand, despite the constant ring of the phone.
How a professional tournament fisherman can continue to perform at this level Ė despite the overwhelming distractions that should prove otherwise Ė continues to baffle me.
At almost 50 years old, Kong is far from done. He continues to prove that he is capable of staying ahead of the competition no matter how young, hungry or determined they are. His mere presence at the top paints a target on him that pushes VanDam even harder. Watch, youíll see.
Disappointed with a studioís attempt at constructing his monster, King Kong creator Merian C. Cooper lashed out: ďI want Kong to be the fiercest, most brutal, monstrous damned thing that has ever been seen!Ē
The attack planes will be ready at Champlain, as Kong continues his climb.
(Joe Balog is the often-outspoken owner of Millennium Promotions, Inc., an agency operating in the fishing and hunting industries. A former Bassmaster Open and EverStart Championship winner, he's best known for his big-water innovations and hardcore fishing style. He's a popular seminar speaker, product designer and author, and is considered one of the most influential smallmouth fishermen of modern times.)