The king of bass fishing, Kevin VanDam, and his family have launched a college fishing series in his home state of Michigan.
The College Bass Tour begins at Michigan’s Muskegon Lake on June 16. The competition will move to nearby Grand River for a second day of fishing on June 17. Each day is a separate tournament. The entry fee is $60.
The new series is a family affair with KVD’s wife Sherry, brother Randy, and sons Jackson and Nicholas all involved.
“As much as all of us have benefited from fishing and tournament fishing, we wanted to give back,” said VanDam. “Michigan really needs something like this. College and high school fishing are in their infancy here.”
The tour’s second event will be on Sanford Lake, July 14 and Wixom Lake on July 15. The championship will be held out of Alpena, Mich. August 11 and 12, with the fishing on Long Lake and Hubbard Lake. All of the tournaments are held on weekends to make it easy for college anglers to get involved. Participants must be full-time students, and the age limit is 26.
“It’s a diverse schedule,” said VanDam. “A mix of smallmouth and largemouth, the west side of the state and the east side too. It’s all about learning.”
The VanDams have signed an impressive set of sponsors to support the tour, including: the KVD Foundation (more than $6,000 in scholarships), D&R Sports (Randy VanDam’s store), Tracker Boats, Mercury, Bass Pro Shops, K&E Lures, Nitro, Minn Kota, Talon, Humminbird, Toyota, Strike King, Mossy Oak, TH Marine, Plano, GoPro, Mustad, Oakley, Yeti, Costa, ShowSpan, Midway Chevrolet, Wahoo and Body Armor.
“The growth of college and high school fishing is the most exciting thing I’ve seen in my career,” said VanDam. “The College Bass Tour is an investment in the future, and a way for us to help grow the sport.”
Rules for the new series will mirror Bassmaster tournaments. And VanDam wants everything to be very transparent. “The payouts are listed on the website, and we’ll keep them consistent when the field size is the same,” he said. “Everything sponsors are spending will go back to the kids and the overhead of running the tournaments. We won’t make a dime on it.”
Jim Sprague and crew will run the tournaments.
VanDam knows it is difficult for college anglers to gain sponsorship. “I’ve seen kids struggle to get support,” he said. “It’s tough, and tournament fishing can be expensive. Hopefully we can provide these young anglers with some opportunities. Most of them are not going to become professional anglers, so we want to make the tournaments fun. We’ll have tailgates with food for the anglers and their families, and raffles with prizes from sponsors.”
As to the future, VanDam has heard other Elite anglers talk about starting a college or high school series in their home states. “I would love to see other anglers do this in their backyard,” he said. “Hopefully we’ll have a good model to share with them. We’ll learn a lot this first year. I’m excited about it.”