KEVIN VANDAM: REDCREST will be a sentimental one for me - Major League Fishing

KEVIN VANDAM: REDCREST will be a sentimental one for me

Image for KEVIN VANDAM: REDCREST will be a sentimental one for me
Longtime Mercury Pro Team angler Kevin VanDam reflects on his final championship event as REDCREST approaches. Photo by Garrick Dixon. Angler: Kevin VanDam.
March 10, 2024 • Kevin VanDam • Bass Pro Tour

As I traveled to Lay Lake to compete in REDCREST 2024, I must admit, I was overwhelmed by a tidal wave of fond memories from the state of Alabama. This state and its fans have been so good to me over the years. I’ve had so many great events at places like Smith Lake, Guntersville, Wheeler, Eufaula, Logan Martin – and, of course, Lay Lake, where I won the Bassmaster Classic in 2010.

Birmingham is arguably one of the best places to hold a bass-fishing championship event because it is surrounded by so many great fisheries. Plus, everything is right there in one place at the Birmingham Jefferson Convention Complex in downtown – hotels, restaurants. It’s as fan-friendly as it can possibly get.  

The first time I ever stepped into the arena in Birmingham was at the 1992 Classic, after I won my first Angler of The Year title. The environment was electric – I still get chills thinking back on it. Back then there was no live streaming coverage, so in order to see the weigh-in, you had to attend it. The coliseum was packed to the gills. There were so many fans in attendance, they had to hold the overflow in the convention hall so they could watch the weigh-in on closed-circuit televisions.

I had only been to one other Classic before that at Chesapeake Bay, but when I stood in front of thousands of screaming fans in Birmingham, I truly experienced what the sport of bass fishing meant to folks in the South. North Alabama is certainly an epicenter of bass fishing, and it holds a special place in my heart. So I am looking forward to returning to a place that is so magical to me.

Back on the tournament horse

REDCREST 2024 will be VanDam’s first major tournament since the Bass Pro Tour finale on Saginaw Bay. Photo by Cobi Pellerito.

REDCREST will be the first time I’ve competed nationally since retiring after the Bass Pro Tour event at Saginaw Bay in 2023. I’m ready to get the competitive juices flowing again. I didn’t pre-practice or scout the lake in any way. We have three days of official practice, which is plenty. I’ve been to Lay Lake enough to know how it lays out and how it fishes this time of year.

Obviously, it’ll be much different than it was 14 years ago – we have a lot more technology in place now, which changes things up quite a bit. These days, there are a lot more options to consider. For that reason, I rigged up close to 50 rods before I left Michigan.

I’m certainly looking forward to competing in REDCREST, but I’m also looking forward to sharing my future plans with the fans as well. Since retiring, I’ve been extremely busy laying the groundwork for the next chapter of my life. During REDCREST week, I’ll be making some special announcements about the projects I have lined up for the coming years.

The Kevin VanDam Foundation booth will be set up at the show, raising money for many of the contributions we make through the foundation for conservation and youth initiatives. The foundation will be selling a limited run of my 33KVD tournament jersey, commemorating 33 years of competitive fishing. The jersey is the one I wore in competition during my last season on the Bass Pro Tour.

Only 330 of these jerseys have been made and each one is numbered, autographed and comes with a certificate of authenticity. One hundred percent of the proceeds from these jersey sales will go directly to habitat restoration, fish stocking programs, lake cleanup projects, college scholarships and providing fishing gear, tackle and life jackets for kids’ camps.

This is certainly going to be a sentimental week for me in Birmingham. There’s a lot of nostalgia that surrounds that place in terms of my 33-year career in competitive fishing. I’m probably going to get emotional at times. But I can guarantee my fans this: When the green flag drops and we go lines in, I’ll be all business in trying to win one more for all the great people who have cheered me on through the years.

I’m so thankful for all of the support I have had by all the fans of this great sport. This week is going to be extra special for me for a lot of reasons, and no matter how it ends, I’m going to be sure to appreciate the opportunity and enjoy the moment.