KVD’s reign appears to be over…

UPDATED–Kevin VanDam did not have a good year. Check that, the iconic KVD did not have a good last two years.

But just a note to apologists. His 53rd place finish this year in the 106-angler Bassmaster Elites is not an illusion.

You have just witnessed the end of the dominance and uncanny consistency of the guy who once made every right decision and out-worked virtually every other competitor.

Is he through? No. His experience over a 24-year career gives him a war chest of technical options and waterway familiarity. And his seven Angler of the Year titles (some still requiring asterisks) and his many tour wins should provide him with a depth of confidence on the road back to prominence, right?

But, it doesn’t work that way.

In his career, his cycle burned incredibly hot. But it’s a bit of a cycle, not a full circle. There is no return to that same place or the same form that saw such dominance.

And why? It’s not better competition, though of course, the guys are better. It’s not the lakes on the schedule. It’s not the rules, which changes so favored his celebrity, but could not keep him on top.

The fact is, KVD is not the fresh-faced, hard-charging 20-something who won his first AOY years ago. Neither is he the seasoned 30-something combining physical strength with youthful exuberance, plus the addition of networking with other top pros and the guile acquired through tough competition.

At 40-plus, he is every bit the angler he was at the height of his run, but he is not the same person. And I don’t mean the guy who looks spent after six or eight days on the water, though that’s part of it. He’s no longer the free-wheeling, I-can-crank longer-than-you-can, or the you-don’t-have-a-big-enough-lead-on-me guy he once was.

He’s more collected. He’s more thoughtful. (Maybe more stubborn?) And he’s been there and done that. So by virtue of this reality, he can’t just turn it on even after a deliberate off-season. Because there is no “switch” and there never was one.

Ask Roland or Rick or Hank or even Gary.


3 Responses to “Kissing KVD Good-bye”

While I would never feel comfortable betting money against VanDam, I’d have to say I’m on board with Kramer on this one. A sure way to lose in your football pool is to bet with your heart, not your head. And, while statistics aren’t the final word on anything where human emotion and determination have a say in the outcome, the numbers concerning the career arc in professional bass fishing are overwhelmingly not in favor for anglers of a certain age.

Why? As George spoke to, it’s a whole slurry of things. Yes, even these guys get stubborn because their belief systems (stubborness) is precisely what made them all that money. Like many other greats – Denny Brauer comes to mind – KVD seemed like a pretty open book when it came to what he would do in any given situation. The problem for the competition was simple: He just did it better.

I also agree that the rules were not directly at fault here. I say “directly” because the shift to cautious competition rewarded lack of innovation – there was just too much of a downside to flaming out at any one competition. KVD’s brilliance was outgunning his competition. Unfortunately, the amount of information available to anyone at the pro level dwarfs what it was like even a decade ago. These guys know what everyone is doing and where. And, without fearing some new gunner with a new technique or lure (insert A-rig here), the rest of the field will get better at the old reliables – jigs, cranks, etc. And why not, that’s all they have to focus on. It’s a video game with fish and we all know the age demographics for the top video gamers.

As other aging veterans have shown, they are capable of an occasional, brief comeback. If KVD jumps back up into a dominant role next season, as Howard Cosell once said, “You’ve got a scoop.”

Wow, I just posted the other day on Facebook that KVD missed his first Classic in 24 years. Then Larry Nixon responds that he was about KVD’s age when he missed his first Classic.

by Chris Nietzel

First El Nino, now KVD? Come on George, they both still have some gas left in the tank! Stoked to see Hackney rolling but rooting for Aaron to catch him.