By John Johnson
BassFan Senior Editor

The greatest angler in competitive bass fishing history will now try his hand at coaching. USAngling, the non-profit organization that supports U.S. teams in international competition, on Thursday tabbed Kevin VanDam as head coach of the USA Bass squad.

The appointment comes on the heels of Wednesday's announcement that Bass Pro Shops, one of VanDam's top sponsors throughout his 30-plus-year career, has joined USAngling's portfolio of backers.

USAngling's ultimate goal is to achieve Olympic recognition for fishing. The USA Bass team competes annually in Pan American and World Championship events and the groundwork is being laid for a Youth Bass Fishing World Championship in 2026.

“Kevin is an incredible competitor, a tremendous ambassador for bass fishing and a proud American”, said USAngling President Tony Forte in the press release announcing VanDam's appointment. “We are thrilled to have his support and expertise in this important task. Everyone stay tuned because this is a game-changer in the Olympic recognition quest.”

VanDam won 29 tour-level events, eight Angler of the Year titles and four Bassmaster Classics during a career that concluded last year. He was inducted into the Bass Fishing Hall of Fame in 2018 and is also a member of the IGFA Hall of Fame, the Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame and the Legends of the Outdoors Hall of Fame.

"Having the opportunity to represent the United States in bass fishing as a coach is very humbling and a huge honor," said VanDam in the press release. "Olympic recognition has far-reaching implications for athletes and industry stakeholders. The Youth World Bass Fishing Championship is also an exciting development in global bass fishing. The next generation of bass fishermen will be competing in the Olympics when we meet our goals for USA Bass.”

VanDam's long list of accolades are primarily of an individual nature, but he's competed under every type of format, including team events in which communication between teammates was a critical part of the program.

"I have quite a bit of experience with team strategy and understanding weather and stuff like that," he said in a phone interview Thursday evening. "I know a little bit about getting people to work together and understanding different anglers' strengths and weaknesses and what you have to do to get everybody on there game and able to win.

"I'd love to compete, too, just because I love the competition, but I'm hoping I can be beneficial in this role."

In October 2023, a U.S. squad led by Scott Martin, Jacob Wheeler and Dustin Connell captured the gold medal at the 17th Black Bass World Championship in Portugal. A month prior to that, U.S. duos swept the Top 3 positions in the Pan American Championships at Lake Hamilton in Arkansas. Home-state anglers Larry Nixon and Joey Cifuentes led the way in that event, with reigning Classic champion Justin Hamner teaming with Hilary Martin (Scott's daughter) to take the No. 2 slot.

The roster of the USA Bass team of upcoming competitions has not been announced.

"There's still a lot of things that are up in the air and quite a few questions to be answered," VanDam said.

For complete details and information on USAngling and its tournaments and teams, click here.