Original Caption: Kevin Vandam (sic) of Kalamazoo shows off two of the bass he caught during the last round of the St. John's River BASS Invitational in which he finished second to Guido Hibdon. March 1991, The South Bend Tribune, no photo credit

Keeping with the KVD retirement theme, today’s Throwback Thursday historical photo features Kevin VanDam and dates back to 1991.  It was featured in a local South Bend (IN) newspaper and written by Hall-of-Fame writer Louie Stout.  In the story, Stout writes, “Kevin began tournament fishing at age 16, has been a dominating force in the Michigan BASS Federation, winning Angler-of-the-Year titles in 1986, ’87, and ’89 and was runner-up in 1985 and ’90.”

It also stated, at the time, he’d also “won money in six of the eight pro events he’s fished.”

The article also had a couple noteworthy quotes from fellow competitors:

“When Kevin VanDam of Kalamazoo stepped off the BASS weigh-in stand in Palatka, Fla., veteran Bo Dowden was asked what he thought of the young phenomenon.

‘I just hope he doesn’t step on his bubblegum,’ grumbled the slow talkin’ veteran and former Classic champ from Louisiana.”

“Another prescient quote from Elkhart’s (IN) Don Rank, the only Michiana angler to ever qualify for the Classic through the pro division, says VanDam will not be a flash in the pan.

‘There’s something special about him,’ Rank Said. ‘He has a knack for making good, on-the-water decisions. I’ve always said that we’ve got pro material in this area, and Kevin is at the top of the list.’

One last quote of interest came from VanDam himself:

“I’m not eager to sign contracts,” he said. “My ties with the store allow me to use what I want to use, not what I have to use. That makes me more valuable to the store; when a customer asks for advice, he knows he’s getting honesty.”

Reflecting back some thirty years later, VanDam ultimately became the most highly endorsed professional angler on tour.