KVD's Secrets of a Champion

It’s hard to believe that Kevin VanDam’s Secrets of a Champion was published more than 20 years ago, in 2002. VanDam wrote the book with Louie Stout and at the time he was just a year off from winning his first BassMaster Classic (2001). He would go on to win the crown three more times (2005, 2010, 2011). He would win a total of eight Angler of the Year titles before announcing his retirement from tournament fishing in early 2023. His accomplishments in professional bass fishing are incredible, and it would probably behoove any bass angler to give KVD’s Secrets of a Champion a thorough reading.

This is VanDam’s second book, his first being Bass Strategies: A Handbook for All Anglers, initially published in 1996, although there has since been an updated and revised issue. Secrets of a Champion has slightly less of the mental approach to bass fishing and more of the nuts and bolts of lure modification and presentation, tactics for different conditions, and equipment strategies that even includes boat considerations.

KVD's Secrets of a Champion Hard Baits

VanDam peppers the book with juicy tidbits. For example, in the section on lures he advises using a pliers to crimp a quiet buzzbait rivet to cause it to squeak when retrieved, and he will file the front of a thick crankbait lip so that it will cut through the water more intensely. These are just two of several dozen brief tips VanDam shares for getting the most out of your baits. I’d be surprised if you don’t pull at least a few of the tips from this section and employ them in your own fishing. As they say, it’s the so-called little things that can make all the difference.

In section two, VanDam gives his advice and tips on hook selection, sinkers, jigs, line considerations, rods and reels, and how to get the most from your boat. He even has a page or two on maximizing the battery power in your boat. This, to me, perhaps more than anything else, speaks to VanDam’s success over the years. The man controls everything that he can control that might contribute to his getting a couple more bites.

KVD's Secrets of a Champion Chapter 17

The final section covers tactics VanDam uses for fishing in the summer, capitalizing on the wind, fishing pressured lakes, and sneaking up on bass. I particularly like his advice on running your trolling motor. Better to run a trolling motor constantly in an area, says VanDam, than to do it in starts and stops, which is more likely to alarm fish. Also, adjust the height of the motor and pick your routes before moving through an area, to lessen the chance of hitting underwater objects and startling bass. It’s just common sense that I’m sure a lot of anglers don’t think about. 

This is the shortest section of the book but might be the most fun reading because it also includes practically an hour by hour account of how VanDam won his first BassMaster Classic. You really get an insight into the mind of a champion bass fisherman here and the pressures that go along with fishing at that level. It’s great stuff!

KVD’s Secrets of a Champion is a relatively short how-to volume that’s loaded with extremely easy-to-digest tips and techniques that will surely help any bass angler improve his or her odds on the water, even if you just employ a couple of his suggestions. The writing is simple, straight-forward and engaging. This book would be a welcome addition to any modern angler’s library, and I predict you’ll return to it more than once.