He’s been called the “Michael Jordan of bass fishing” and one of the most well-known names in fishing. So, what does the top bass angler in the world do when he’s not at work? He goes boating. That’s right, Kevin VanDam loves nothing better than having a good time with his family on the water. And, it’s been that way ever since he was a kid growing up in Michigan.
Discover Boating (DB) recently sat down with Kevin for some boating and fishing talk…
DB: How did you get started in boating & fishing?
Kevin: My dad took me fishing starting when I was 3 years old. I grew up fishing with my brothers and sisters, mostly for pan fish. As we got older, we learned to waterski and tube together. My grandparents lived on a lake and we would swim, fish and ski – just have a good time.
“It [boating] just changes my state of mind when I’m out there on the water.” – Kevin VanDam
DB: Why do you love life on the water?
Kevin: There’s something really special, even when I do it for a living, about watching the sunrise on the lake. I’m fortunate my job takes me all over the country to some of the most magnificent bodies of water. And, there’s always that “new-ness” – it’s just fun.
DB: Do you boat with your family?
Kevin: It’s strange because you would think when most people are off of work, they wouldn’t want anything to do with their job. But, for me, most of our vacations are based around water, whether it’s a houseboat trip on Kentucky Lake or Lake Cumberland or going to a place like Big Cedar Lodge. We love to go up north for a week and I’ll bring my own boat (Kevin owns a pontoon boat and a bass boat). Boating is something that is ingrained in my whole family – my brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews – that’s what we do. Especially through the summer, we get together as a family and go fishing, tubing, skiing, wakeboarding and kayaking.
DB: Any tips for someone getting started in boating?
Kevin: While boating can be a little intimidating in the beginning, it’s important to start with some research online with unbiased information like DiscoverBoating.com. Plus, you want to ask questions. Go to a marine dealership and talk to some of the salespeople there. Explain your family situation, what you want to do with your boat, and they’ll recommend a boat that fits your family. Then, get out there and try it because seeing is believing. Take a test drive – it’s no different than buying a car. I don’t know anyone who would buy a car without driving it first, and a boat should be the same way. Boating isn’t something that’s out of reach for the average person because there are great opportunities out there. Manufacturers provide packages that fit just about anyone’s needs and in any price range.
DB: What’s your favorite boating memory?
Kevin: Probably my first fishing trip alone with my father up north. I was 7 and it was just the two of us in a 14-foot aluminum fishing boat with a 7.5 horsepower motor. It was just me and dad for the weekend and I caught my first smallmouth bass that trip.
DB: Where are your favorite places to boat?
Kevin: That’s a tough one since I’ve had the opportunity to travel around the country and experience so many different places. For me, the most special place in the world is northern Michigan. I kind of grew up there as a kid. We took a lot of family vacations up north and that’s where I learned how to drive a boat and waterski. I still spend a lot of time up there each year with my family and show my kids the same things I grew up with. Without a doubt Grand Traverse Bay, in Traverse City (Mich.) is a place that’s really special to me. I love it there – beautiful area, crystal clear water – it just changes my state of mind when I’m out there on the water.
DB: What’s on your on-the-water playlist?
Kevin: We like to go boating with other families that our kids go to school with since we have boats in the same marina off of Lake Michigan. We run a lot of different music between the kids and adults. I have twin boys who are 15, so it’s pretty much whatever they’re listening to at the time. We like to have a good mix, with songs to pump you up and get you energized or sometimes more soothing songs – it really depends on the setting and time of the day. The playlist at sunset is different than the one at 2 in the afternoon. Personally, I’m more old school and a big Metallica fan. Their music is very motivating before a tournament.