Editor's Note: Thirty-four-year-old Kevin VanDam, of Kalamazoo, Michigan, was the 2001 BASS Master's Classic Champion and won B.A.S.S. Angler of the Year three times. He competed in the Classic for 12 consecutive years and had six top-10 wins.
Question: Why did you believe at 19 years of age that you could become a major bass-fishing pro?
Answer: I grew up watching all my heroes like Denny Brauer, Larry Nixon and Rick Clunn, and I just thought I wanted to go out and see how good they were. You don't know until you go and try.
Question: What did winning your first Angler-of-the Year title feel like?
Answer: I felt pretty awesome. I didn't truly appreciate what that title meant at the time. I've done it three times since, and each time winning the title gets a little bit better. But last year winning the Classic was the highlight for me.
Question: Were you intimidated about fishing with the bass pros you had read about all your life?
Answer: At the very first tournament, I went out with a very big-named guy on the first day. I was very intimidated at that time. The great thing is we kind of had a rough day, and I learned not to be intimidated a very important lesson.
Question: How did you learn not to be intimidated?
Answer: Because I knew my own ability and what I was doing, I knew that these guys were just regular guys just like everybody else. They weren't larger than life or magicians. This knowledge gave me a lot of confidence -- realizing that they were human too.
Question: Do you do anything to make sure you don't intimidate other fishermen?
Answer: I try not to. I try to really work close with my partners and help them out because that is the future of our sport, especially in these pro-am tournaments. I hope everybody that I've ever drawn will say that I'm a pretty good guy. I can sleep at night after I fish with somebody for sure. I don't treat them badly. I don't front end them. I help them out and give them lures or whatever. For instance, at the Lake Eufala tournament, my partner whipped me like a yard dog. I gave him half the baits in my tackle box so he would have stuff to fish with because he was leading the tournament.
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