From Major League Fishing
Major League Fishing's first season debuts this week on Outdoor Channel. Don't miss this exciting event, airing Thursdays at 9PM ET.
DEL RIO, Texas - Like it or not, and his competitors certainly fall into the latter category, Kevin VanDam is the face of professional bass fishing.
That's what happens when you're 44 years old and are the all-time money leader in the sport with more than $5.65 million in career earnings.
Not to mention having won four Bassmaster Classic titles (including the last two); seven B.A.S.S. Angler of the Year titles (including the last four); one FLW Angler of the Year title, and 20 tournaments ... and counting.
So what does the current king of bass fishing think about the debut of Major League Fishing on 64,900-acre Lake Amistad?
Two thumbs up, that's what.
"I like the format," said VanDam. "It's right up the alley of what I've got confidence doing. This isn't about going out and trying to catch five fish and hoping to catch a big one. This is all about catching numbers of big ones and keepers."
Like most other bass tournament observers, VanDam is eager to see how this first ever Major League Fishing event plays out on Amistad with a mix of anglers that he has battled for years in the standard pro angling tournament format.
But this time, it's a totally different game on the water and that changes the angling strategies up for everybody, himself included.
"Guys like Tommy Biffle and Greg Hackney, guys that are big fish specialists, this (format) doesn't fit into their (style very well)," said KVD. "Their DNA is built towards fishing for big fish.
"Whereas somebody like Aaron Martens, who is such a guru at just catching fish, (may find) a school and then catch every single one of them. (He may do so) by throwing a drop-shot or something crazy and catch 100 fish, you know, (and if he does, he is) going to clean their clock."
So where does that leave KVD himself in terms of being crowned champion at the first ever Major League Fishing Challenge Cup?
Well, he wouldn't say because a lot that is about to happen is clearly in the unknown category. But he did say that all of the anglers in the field, himself included, will have to roll with the punches.
"It's going to be something for all of us to adjust to a little bit," said VanDam. "But at the end of the day it's competition and that's what we thrive on."
One of the potential adjustments that the field of 24 anglers will have to make is getting used to the iPad real-time scoring system utilized by Major League Fishing. And KVD is all for that.
"The real-time scoring is the number one thing that I thought professional angling was missing," said VanDam. "With this format and the smaller field, it allows us to do that. In other tournaments, it's just physically not feasible. Even here, due to the remoteness of the area, it's going to be challenging at times for the judges to get things scored.
"But knowing the score at every minute of the day, it's everything."
Why is that?
"As competitors, it's going to change the way that we compete. For the fan experience, it's going to bring out that thought process of what we have to do, knowing that I just went down five pounds or I just went ahead by seven pounds. With the strategies involved through the day, it changes everything."
Another one of the Major League Fishing event's big innovations is dividing the day into three periods and having a 30-minute break in between each one of them.
"The biggest thing that I think that is going to do, it's going to give guys a cool down period to where you can sit back and reassess where you're at, especially if you're behind," said KVD. "You can sit back, get your head back in the game, and almost restart yourself.
"In a normal tournament, the kind that we grew up fishing, you get in a rut and you don't know what the competition is doing and things aren't happening well and a lot of times you just keep going down that road. Here, it's going to give you that readjustment period to make the right adjustments."
"You see one guy that is doing really well, and shoot, maybe you're going to follow him out the next period and say hey, what in the heck is this guy doing."
KVD also thinks that this period of adjustment will be especially important on this particular body of water.
"At any time under this format, you're not going to be out of it," VanDam said. "It can happen in a hurry, especially on this lake. It's got big fish, it's got big numbers of fish, and you can make a big move in a short time here."
A big move all the way to the first ever Jack Link's Major League Fishing Challenge Cup presented by Busch Beer title.