Kevin VanDam & Kal-Valley

Bass clubs provide learning platforms article
By Kevin VanDam
Nov 15, 2013

If you have aspirations to becoming a full-time bass pro, or simply want to become a better angler, there’s no better place to start your journey than with a local bass club.

I joined my first club, the Kalamazoo Valley Bass Club, when I was 16 years old. My older brother got his start there, and I saw how it helped him learn and become a good fisherman.

I didn’t even have a boat that year but I think that helped me for a couple of reasons.

At Kal Valley, we fished six different bodies of water each season and you couldn’t fish with the same angler more than once.

That means I got to fish from other boats which helped me assess what I wanted in a rig before I owned my own. Secondly, I learned something different from each angler. That’s the beauty of bass clubs; you learn so many different styles and techniques. It seemed like each guy specialized in something different and I could learn about that technique from him.

That’s important for an angler starting out. It doesn’t mean you have to fish his way in the end, but it does give you a solid foundation for which you can build your own style and fishing preferences.
I know team tournaments are the rage these days, and they certainly are fun. But the learning curve is much higher when you’re fishing with someone different in each tournament. With a team partner, you only learn what each other knows.

Another advantage to draw club events is you get to see and use different types of fishing gear. You see all types of rods, reels, electronics and various ways other anglers store their gear and that will guide you to finding what you like and what works best for you.

As valuable as joining a club can be for novice anglers, I don’t recommend anyone join the first club they encounter without investigating it thoroughly. Each club is structured differently and has different goals. If a club fishes every tournament on the same lake, you’ll not learn as much as if you’re fishing different types of waters.

Also, some clubs travel a lot which adds expenses to the pastime, so make sure the one you choose fits your budget and the time you have to give it.

Once you find a club that fits, you can grow into it and progress at your own speed. After my first year with Kal Valley, I borrowed my dad’s boat and fished as a boater, but I still fished with different partners. I won the club’s Angler of Year title that year, and as my confidence and knowledge grew, I started fishing state and regional tournaments where I learned even more from fishing with different anglers around my part of the country. I won the Michigan Federation State Championship when I was 18, made the state team that went to the Federation Nation Regional and fished my first Bassmaster Invitational that same year.

The point I’m trying to make is that joining a bass club and learning from others is a great way to learn quickly, build a solid foundation of fishing skills and grow as a bass angler.

It’s good to get out of your comfort zone and start fishing with other and better anglers. It’s how the majority of today’s top pros got their start!

Remember, it’s all about the attitude!

* Informational note from the club’s tournament director: We now fish in a team tournament style of fishing, not the draw system that KVD talked of.