Kevin VanDam shares some of the tokens he never leaves for a tournament without. Photo by Alan McGuckin

He’s garnered eight tour-level Angler of the Year titles, four Bassmaster Classic victories, and three MLF Cup wins, and rest assured, if you were tossing bean bags in a game of backyard cornhole with him, Kevin VanDam would muster everything in his jerkbait-slingin’ fibers to win that, too.

Yet, within bass fishing’s all-time greatest angler lies a loyal and sentimental heart only those closest to him get to see. If you don’t believe it, check the Plano waterproof stowaway inside the pullout storage drawer of his Nitro Boat. That’s where you’ll find a collection of heartfelt tokens “KVD” never leaves home without.

“It started about 23 years ago when my twin sons Jackson and Nicholas were born,” says VanDam in reference to the collection of meaningful stones, a mini-cross, and a small red wooden sign that has traveled along in his boat since 1997.

“We spend about 200 days a year away from home and the people we love fishing tournaments. So, every one of these tokens makes me feel a little closer to them when I’m away.”

Always first-class, VanDam was gracious enough to share the backstory of each.

“Kisses” rock: “That was from Sherry, and it’s the very first sentimental piece I ever remember carrying.”

Dad coins: “Those are from the boys, of course. I think they were about 5 years old when they gave them to me. Each coin has its own unique words on it.”

Mini cross: “I got it at a Fellowship of Christian Anglers meeting before one of our tournaments.”

Heart rock: “It was one the boy’s projects at school.”

“Love You More” sign: “That’s the latest addition to my collection. It was just a sweet random gift from Sherry before the start of the season.”

And so, no doubt, while the trophies that line the fireplace in the VanDam family basement are virtually unmatched by any angler to every pick up a baitcaster, perhaps equally important to Kevin is the collection of tokens stored in his boat, and ultra-close to his heart.