A Kevin VanDam victory is hardly an anomaly of the “man bites dog” variety. He’s earned 20 of them with BASS over the past two-plus decades, so the fourth of them, in the 1997 Virginia Invitational at Buggs Island, might seem unremarkable.
Indeed, it was a classic form of KVD domination. With 41-15, he outlasted second place finisher Wesley Kemper by an even 10 pounds. No one else even cracked the 30 pound mark, and the also-rans included a who’s-who of tour-level pros and top local sticks.
To earn the victory, though, Kevin would have to cross paths with one of his future nemeses.
Do you remember what happened?In the late 90s, the Bassmaster Invitationals still featured a pro-on-pro format. In other words, unlike today’s Opens in which co-anglers cannot fish from the front or choose fishing locations, back then both anglers had a say over the day’s events. Not only could they both fish from the front, but each was entitled to half the day on his water. Indeed, there might even be a battle over whose boat to use – a newcomer could force a Classic champion to flip a coin.
At the time, one such newcomer was Mike Iaconelli. This was the seventh BASS event the New Jersey native had fished (including a couple of amateur entries in the Top 100s) and so far the results had been inconsistent. He’d earned two checks (one as an am, one as a pro) for a total of $3,300. At the tightly-contested Virginia Invitational, though, Ike started to show his mettle. He was in 22nd place after Day One, in 9th after Day Two, and ended up 4th overall.
Ike’s second day partner was none other than KVD. Such were the realities of the pro-on-pro pairings – anglers in contention for the top spots might have to give way to someone else with more experience or a better shot at the victory. From the video footage, we can see that they took KVD’s boat and that they both fished from the front. No word on how well they got along, but it seems to have worked out for both of them – both in the short term and over the longer haul.
Here’s a video link to the event showing KVD and IKE fishing side-by-side.