Most weeks, world-class anglers like Kevin VanDam excel at displaying their angling skills on the front deck of a bass boat.
But like everyone else, as summer time off and holidays arrive, the attention of KVD and a number of other anglers turns to family-and-friends outdoor-gathering fun.
Truth be told, these top-notch bass pros are pretty handy too when it comes to trading in their bass-catching chores in for an afternoon of manning a grill or smoker out.
KVD's Citrus Soda Ribs
As this recipe title suggests, KVD – a regular on such TV programs as Outdoor Channel's The Bass Pros and Strike King's Fish Hard! program on Sportsman Channel – is pretty handy around a grill.
“One of my favorite recipes is one for ribs,” said VanDam, the four-time Bassmaster Classic champ and a seven-time BASS Angler of the Year. “It’s very easy and it’s super good.”
To prepare these ribs, KVD says to take a few racks of baby back ribs and cut them into smaller sections that can easily be managed with a pair of cooking tongs.
Then add your preferred rib seasoning: “I like a rub called Patty’s that is from the Kentucky Lake region,” said VanDam, now a 22-time winner on the BASS tournament trail. “But you can use your own favorite rib rub or something like Tony Chachere’s.”
Once cut and seasoned, VanDam will put the ribs into a throw-away aluminum cooking pan and submerge them with a two-liter bottle of a lemon-lime soda.
“Cover them with Sprite, 7-Up, Squirt or some other citrus-based, non-diet soda," said VanDam, the BASS tour's newly minted $6-million-dollar earning's man. "It’s got to have the real sugar in it.”
Then KVD, a former FLW Tour Angler of the Year and a two-time MLF Cup champion, will cover the aluminum throw-away pan with tin foil and put it in the oven for three to three and a half hours at 350 degrees.
“By doing that, it boils most of the fat off of them and they become fall-apart tender,” said VanDam. “When they are finished in the oven, I put them on the grill over low heat for a just a little while – not very long – to finish them off. All you need to do then is add your favorite barbecue sauce.”
When it's all said and done, KVD says this rib recipe is something that has been a cookout staple in his family for a long, long time.
“They come out very tasty and fall-off-the-bone tender,” said KVD. “It’s not a very time consuming recipe; you don’t have to watch them and cook them for hours on end. They turn out super good and I’ve never had anyone I’ve shared this recipe with say otherwise.”
Brent Ehrler's Smoked Brisket
If KVD has a one-day future heir to his throne, it might be California Bassmaster Elite Series pro and MLF champion Brent Ehrler.
After all, Ehrler wowed the fishing world on Championship Day as he beat VanDam, Mike McClelland and Kelly Jordon en route to winning the inaugural MLF Challenge Cup contested on Texas' Lake Amistad.
With 10-career wins (victories that include Ehrler's 2015 Toyota Texas Bass Classic win, his 2012 MLF Challenge Cup win, the 2006 FLW Tour Forrest Wood Cup championship and a 2004 FLW Everstart Championship triumph), Ehrler is also a pretty mean cook.
Especially when it comes to firing up his Traeger smoker and turning out a delectable smoked brisket.
"(As far as selecting a good brisket), I know nothing about it, so I just go to a good butcher shop and take their word for it," laughed Ehrler, a regular on Jack Link’s Major League Fishing. "I have one close to my house in Newport Beach and I basically walk in and say 'Give me your best brisket.'"
As for the brisket prep work, Ehrler takes the meat and carves most of the fat from the brisket cap. Once he does that, he will take an injectable marinade and inject it into the entire brisket.
"Any excess that is flowing from the injection spots, I simply rub that into the brisket," said Ehrler, who has earned more than $2 million in career earnings. "I then take Traeger BBQ Rub and coat the entire brisket with it. I follow that up by preheating my Traeger grill to 250 degrees and filling it with wood pellets, usually mesquite."
The top-notch West Coast bass pro then places the brisket directly on the grill with a meat probe in it.
"I will then cook it until the internal temp is 170ish," said Ehrler. "I then pull it, wrap it and then put it back in until the internal temp is just over 200 degrees "Once that happens, I will pull it and leave it wrapped and let it sit on the counter, in the oven (not on it) or in a K2 cooler (not on ice). The K2 cooler is just something that is insulated to help the meat keep the warm temp.
"I'll let it rest for at least an hour. I'll then pull it, unwrap it, glaze it with Traeger Honey Bourbon BBQ sauce and now it's ready to cut and serve."
Ehrler says one trick for a great piece of brisket is to remember that a consistent temperature is critical.
"The trick with the Traeger is that it maintains the grill temp," he said. "I can set it and literally never check it. It's fantastic. I've also checked it a bunch and it only varies about three to five degrees, doesn't get hot or cold (spots) and remains the same until you shut it down.
"And it produces an unreal brisket and a great meal."
Shaw Grigsby's Buck Burgers
If ribs and brisket are not your cup of tea for cookouts, then how about some burgers from the backyard deck of Shaw Grigsby, host of One More Cast with Shaw Grigsby on Sportsman Channel?
As in Grigsby's Buck Burger recipe, a way of cooking that the Florida resident uses to prepare the ample supply of ground venison that finds its way into his freezer during the annual autumn whitetail bowhunting seasons.
Editor's Note: In addition to ground venison, this recipe will work well with any store-bought ground beef or turkey.
"I use the beer-can method to make a pocket in the patty," said Grigsby, a winner of nine BASS events. "Wrap them with a strip of bacon. Then fill the pocket with whatever you want."
Grigsby, who has 15 Bassmaster Classic appearances and career earnings of more than $2 million on his resume, says his favorite pocket filler is Gorgonzola cheese and chopped jalapeño peppers.
"Bryce, my grandson, likes cheddar and bacon," laughs Grigsby, a Championship Day finalist at the MLF Challenge Cup on the Harris Chain of Lakes in central Florida.
"Cook the burgers on the grill over low indirect heat for approximately one hour until the meat reaches your desired level of doneness.
"I love that you can customize these burgers for each person. Once you make one of these burgers this way, you'll never cook a regular burger again!"
Jimmy Houston's Grilled Deer Steaks
While Jimmy is best known for his bass fishing prowess, he's pretty handy in the deer woods too.
And that leads to his favorite way of preparing venison:
- 2 to 3 pounds of tenderized venison steaks
- ½ cup teriyaki sauce
- ¼ cup soy sauce
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
"Mix all of the ingredients together very well in a gallon-size Ziploc bag," said Houston, the Oklahoma resident, bass fishing hall of famer and host of Jimmy Houston Outdoors on World Fishing Network.
What's next? Houston, known far and wide as America's Favorite Fisherman and a longtime television personality on networks like Outdoor Channel and WFN, says it's time to add the venison steaks to the sealable bag for an overnight marinade session.
"You'll want to turn them often as you marinate them," laughs the fish-kissing, blond-haired bass pro and two-time BASS Angler of the Year.
The next day, Houston says to grill the venison steaks on low heat to the desired level of doneness: "Reserve the leftover marinade, bringing it to a boil and using it as a steak sauce."
Kelly Jordon's Red Snapper on the Half Shell
If your family's outdoor cooking meal isn't complete without some sort of fish recipe, consider this recipe from East Texas resident Kelly Jordon.
A top-shelf red snapper recipe, one of KJ’s specialties on a red-hot grill on the backyard deck of his Flint, Texas, home.
"My favorite way to fix it is with a recipe that I call 'Red on the Half Shell,'" said Jordon, a four-time BASS winner. "It's one of my favorite recipes."
Jordon says to prepare, a backyard griller should start with a red snapper fillet that has the skin still remaining on it.
"Put it on the grill scale-side down over medium heat," said KJ, also a one-time winner on the FLW Tour. "You can set it to the side of the direct heat after the first three or four minutes if you want it to cook slower."
Once Jordon reaches this point in the snapper's preparation, he will let the grill do its work.
"I close the grill and don't turn the fillet over," said Jordon, who won the MLF Challenge Cup contested on North Texas' Lake Ray Roberts. "I will occasionally baste it with butter or olive oil and squeeze a lime over it a few times to taste."
Jordon – the only angler in bass fishing history to win a top level tour event on the sport's top three circuits of the Bassmaster Elite Series, the FLW Tour and with MLF – says that he likes to occasionally add some lemon pepper to the fillet to provide a bit of additional flavoring.
"It is good, just be careful not to add too much," said KJ, a nine-time Classic qualifier.
Likewise, Jordon says that a dash of Tony Chachere's Creole seasoning is always an excellent idea if you like a Cajun signature to your food.
"Just remember to go light with it," said KJ. "Red snapper is really good stuff and it doesn't need much seasoning. The light texture and flavor of this great eating fish is easily overpowered."
Which is why Jordon offers this laughing reminder when preparing red snapper on the grill:
"You've got to remember when you're cooking red snapper on the half-shell, this ain't no redfish!"
When is the red snapper ready to eat? KJ says it is done when the fillet starts to get firm to the touch.
"The fillet should still jiggle a little bit like Jell-O," said Jordon. "When it does that, it's perfect."
And the guess here is that if you will utilize some of these outdoor cooking recipes from a collection of world-class bass pros, hopefully, that's how the food end of things will turn out for your family's own warm-weather cookouts.
Perfect, just perfect.