Until the first name sank in. Nope, it wasn't Kevin VanDam; instead, KVD's nephew Jonathon made his mark yesterday (July 1) by winning the second-to-last regular-season Elite Series stop of 2012 with a four-day total of 79 pounds, 2 ounces.
"I went through the highest of highs and the lowest of lows today," VanDam said onstage moments before his uncle handed him the tournament trophy and set a Green Bay Packers' cheese head atop his fishing cap. "I didn't have my first keeper until about noon. I was a train wreck, but I kept grinding, and it paid off."
JVD's effort edged out Idaho's Brandon Palaniuk, who led the event going into the final day but ended the tournament in second with 76-12.
VanDam saved his best performance for the last round, boating a limit of five smallmouth that weighed 23-4 and edging ahead of Idaho's Brandon Palaniuk, the tournament leader going into the final round, by 2-6.
Aaron Martens finished in third with 73-3, Dean Rojas wrapped up with fourth with 66-14 and Ott DeFoe was fifth with 61-5.
Gonzales' Greg Hackney was the highest-placing Louisiana angler, ending in 25th with 39-11.
Click here for final results.
VanDam fished a Strike King Dream Shot plastic worm in KVD Magic (green and silver with blue flake) on a drop shot rig above a 3/8-ounce sinker for the bulk of his catch.
Although he struggled early, falling behind Palaniuk and others, he came on strong in the last couple of hours to claim the championship.
Along with the Elite Series win and a $100,000 payday, VanDam earned a berth in the 2013 Bassmaster Classic on Grand Lake out of Tulsa, Okla. It will be his first appearance in the championship that his Uncle Kevin has dominated with 22 consecutive appearances and four wins since 2001.
"Words just don't describe what this means to me," VanDam said. "I've been dreaming of this moment for a long time."
The win is VanDam's second as a B.A.S.S. pro and first at the Elite level. He becomes the second-youngest Elite champion in history at 23 years and 10 months of age.
Elite Series angler Casey Ashley was six months younger when he won on Smith Mountain Lake in 2007.
On the Bassmaster Angler of the Year front, the race is close going into the season finale at the Oneida Lake Challenge, Aug. 23-26.
Brent Chapman of Kansas leads the AOY race with 566 points. Ott DeFoe of Tennessee is second with 553, and Todd Faircloth of Texas is third with 546. It promises to be the tightest AOY race in years and could come down to the final day of competition at Oneida.
Hackney is in 12th place in the AOY race, and if he can move up four spots in the final regular-season event at the end of July he will qualify for the post-season events.
Click here for full AOY standings.