By LOUIE STOUT
THE GOSHEN NEWS
When The Bassmasters take the Elite All-Stars to Muskegon Lake near Muskegon, Mich. Sept. 27-29, all eyes will be on a VanDam.
But with your help, those eyes could be on TWO VanDams.
The Toyota All-Stars is a national tournament with a festival atmosphere, including an outdoor show and live entertainment after the weigh-ins Friday through Sunday.
The Toyota Truck All-Stars is a special, end-of-the-season national bass tournament that pits the top eight 2013 Bassmaster Angler of Year point getters, the 2013 Bassmaster Classic Champion, 2013 Rookie of Year, and four others voted in by fans. The tournament will be televised on ESPN2 later this year.
The pros will fish Muskegon Friday and Saturday with top four advancing to the finals held on nearby White Lake on Sunday. Weigh-ins will be held at Heritage Landing in Muskegon at 4 p.m. daily and admission is free. Muskegon is about 2 ½ hours north of South Bend.
In addition to the All-Star event, eight collegiate anglers will compete for a Bassmaster Classic Berth on nearby Grand River and will weigh in along with the Elite pros.
Kevin VanDam (also known as KVD) of Kalamazoo is pretty much a lock on one of the top 8 spots. He was third in Angler of Year going into this weekend’s event on Lake St. Clair. He’s also one of the most popular pro anglers, having set records in wins, dollar winnings and championship titles.
But his nephew Jonathon (JVD), a third-year pro also from Kalamazoo, will need fan support to vote him in. He’s having a great year, but won’t crack the top 8 and lacks the national recognition that some pros enjoy.
Guys like Michael Iaconelli, Skeet Reese and Gerald Swindle, all of whom have gained celebrity status because of their successes and entertaining personalities, are always fan favorites.
That’s why I’m asking you to go to www.promotion.bassmaster.com/toyota/register and vote for Jon. You’ll have to fill out a short form then go to the voting page that will give you the list of all the Elite anglers, from which you vote for four. You can vote once a day.
Jon wants in badly. In fact, he promises to give away a fishing trip to Lake St. Clair with lodging, a G. Loomis GL3 rod with a Stradic fishing reel, and a Strike King Lure tackle pack with sunglasses and apparel, and two $50 gift cards from D&R Sports Center in Kalamazoo if he’s voted in. He’ll conduct a drawing from a list he’ll get from Bassmaster of those names of people who voted for him.
If he gets in, a VanDam showdown is quite possible and would make for an even more exciting finish. Kevin and Jon grew up fishing the 4,150-acre lake and Jon has more recent experience there than Kevin.
Both anglers are well known throughout Michiana and have fished and/or competed on many of our nearby lakes.
Jonathon is coming off a second place finish at the St. Lawrence River two weeks ago and has moved into contention for a Bassmaster Classic berth. He can lock it up with a good finish at St. Clair this weekend, another body of water he knows well.
Now in his third full season as an Elite pro, he’s earned more than $300,000 and beginning to establish credentials that rise above his legendary last name.
“Everyone knows me as Kevin’s nephew and there are certainly positive aspects of that,” says the 25-year old angler.
“But I want them to know I’m doing this on my own and love it. I want to gain people’s respect by proving myself a capable competitor - not as the nephew of the greatest angler on the planet.”
A berth in the All Stars and the opportunity to challenge for the title would be a big step in that direction.
Like they say in Chicago, you can vote early and often, so go help him get in.
Clint Gradeless (Huntington) and Lee Pilz (Wawaka) had 19.97 pounds to win the US Angler Choice Pro Tournaments on Winona Lake last week. They earned $1,015 for their catch which gathered around docks near deep water.
Richard Delagrange (Warsaw) and Don Whitaker (Chapman Lake) had five fish weighing 17.92 pounds for second ($493) caught on jigs on the outside of the weeds in 10 to 16 feet.
They also had a 4.64-pound bass to win the big bass prize ($170). Rodney Fannin (Muncie) and son Craig (Syracuse) were second ($202) with 16.48 pounds. They caught their limit using jigs and darters around piers.
There were 80 fish weighed in for a total weight of 216.54 pounds and an average weight of 2.71 per fish.
Justin Hahaj (Bridgman, Mich.) and John Gibson, Jr. (Lafayette, Ind.) targeted cruising fish in shallow water to bring a mixed bag of largemouth and smallmouth weighing 13.49 pounds and win the R&B Circuit event on Austin Lake near Kalamazoo.
Most fish fell for a Jackall Flick Shake worm (Cola and green pumpkin) and some were tricked by a green pumpkin jig. They earned them $746 for beating 46 other teams.
Andy Buss (North Liberty) and Mark Fennell (Lagrange) were second ($472) with 12.86 pounds caught on Xtreme Bass Tackle tubes (Canadian Mist Hybrid color) with D’s 5/16-ounce jigs worked slowly in barren areas on the flats.
They also caught the Money Mouth Baits Big Bass, a 4.79-pound smallmouth that earned them an additional $376.
Dan Powell (Rome City) and Charlie Compton (Kendallville) weighed an 11.88-pound limit for third ($348) by working a 1/16-ounce slider jig and Zoom centipedes (cotton candy and green pumpkin).
Bryan Seymour (Goshen) caught the second biggest fish of the day, a 4.39-pound largemouth, worth $94, on an Ernie B’s tube while CJ McCafferty and Tom Osbun (Fort Wayne) landed a 4.03-pound largemouth to win a C Flash tackle pack.
Contact Goshen News outdoor writer Louie Stout at firstname.lastname@example.org.