As a native of Kalamazoo, Kevin VanDam spent plenty of time fishing in West Michigan, from the Grand River to Muskegon Lake.
That was back before he became the most well known name in professional bass fishing.
VanDam gets a chance to revisit his West Michigan roots this weekend as he competes in the 2013 Elite Series Toyota All-Star Week.
The event pairs 14 of the best and most popular Bassmaster Elite Series pro anglers, with $100,000 on the line.
“When I first started tournament fishing, I fished a lot of tournaments in the whole area, the Grand River, Muskegon Lake — those were the two best tournament venues on the west side of the state,” said VanDam, who has since gone on to earn more than $5.5 million on the Bassmasters tour, with 20 career wins. “It’s been a long time since I’ve competed up there, but I sure used to fish up there a lot. It’s a really good fishery. I’m pretty tickled just to be back there.”
The Evan Williams Bourbon Championship kicks off on Muskegon Lake on Friday and Saturday, with all 14 pros in contention.
After Day 2, the top four will advance to Sunday’s final round on White Lake. The pro with the heaviest five-fish catch from White Lake will claim the All-Star title and a first-place prize of $50,000.
The 14 anglers competing this weekend include the top eight in the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year point standings: Angler of the Year winner Aaron Martens of Leeds, Ala.; Edwin Evers of Talala, Okla.; VanDam; Bobby Lane of Lakeland, Fla.; Keith Combs of Huntington, Texas; Alton Jones of Lorena, Texas; John Crews of Salem, Va.; and Chris Zaldain of San Jose, Calif.
Bassmasters Classic champion Cliff Pace of Petal, Miss., and Rookie of the Year Hank Cherry of Maiden, N.C., also qualified.
The final four pros were selected through voting at Bassmaster.com — Brandon Palaniuk of Rathdrum, Idaho, who was the top vote-earner; Michael Iaconelli of Pittsgrove, N.J.; Skeet Reese of Auburn, Calif.; and Gerald Swindle of Warrior, Ala.
“We’ve got a real star-studded field,” VanDam said. “Guys who have performed all year long, a lot of past champions. As much as you might think it’s an advantage (having prior knowledge of the fishery), these guys are all real good. There are going to be a lot of fish caught. The trick is going to be how to catch bigger than average size fish.”
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