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New guard at Bassmaster Elites from Angel92's blog

The guard has changed in Bassmaster.

The young are in charge, and the old stars are fading.

It seems strange to call people like Kevin VanDam and Mike Iaconelli old. They're young in terms of age, but they are grizzled veterans<a href="">Robert Golden Womens Jersey</a>  in the downward arcs of their career trajectories.

Iaconelli, who won the Bassmaster Classic 14 years ago, made the top five of the Bassmaster Classic at Lake Conroe. Had he won, he said he would have announced his retirement from the weigh-in stage. He almost did anyway, but he said he "chickened out."

I wondered if he were joking when he said that at the Classic's final news conference, but he said it privately to a senior Bassmaster writer, as well.

In 2005, when I became outdoors editor of this newspaper, the first tournament I covered was a Bassmaster Elite 50 tournament at Lake Dardanelle. The E50s predated the Elite Series, which is considered the sport's modern era. At that time, Iaconelli was the most exciting and most controversial angler in the history of the sport. He's from Philadelphia, a fast-talking, hyper-emotional, temperamental, often profane breakdancer, skateboarder and graffiti artist with tattoos on much of his body.

During that tournament I wrote that depending on one's age, Iaconelli was either the best or worst thing to ever happen to professional fishing. "He is neither," I wrote. "He is merely the latest big thing."

He hasn't been for awhile, but he has aged gracefully and is now one of the sport's elder statesmen. He is still the most compelling interview and the most generous and accommodating to fans and media, but he's ready to move on to the next phase of his life.

VanDam, not so much. He missed the Classic two <a href="">Lynn Swann Womens Jersey</a> years ago, which seemed unthinkable. He no longer instills the fear and awe that he did in 2013-14 when he won his third and fourth Classics back to back, and it eats at him.

During the final weigh-in Sunday at Houston's Minute Maid Park, VanDam sounded fragile and vulnerable as he talked about how much he still wants to win, and how important the competition is to him.

"It sounds like he's trying to convince himself," I said to another media member.

Another thing. People call him by his name again, VanDam. He's not "KVD" anymore.

VanDam won four Classics and seven Angler-of-The-Year titles because he is an exceptional fisherman, but what set him apart from everyone else was his intensity and single-minded will to win.

If your intensity slips just a little in any vocation, you're in the pack and not in front of it. A lot of hungry young wolves are ready to take your place. VanDam -- KVD -- is still the one to beat because he is the greatest angler of our time, but there's a lot more greatness behind him than in front of him.

Jordan Lee, 25, won the Classic on Sunday. One event doesn't define a trend or a movement, but Lee has already competed in three Classics. He has finished fifth and first.

In 41 tournaments, he's finished 14 times in the top 10, 20 times in the top 20 and 26 times in the top 30. He's finished in the money 33 times. That <a href=""></a> is the definition of consistency.

In just four years on the Elite Series Tour, James Elam, 31, of Tulsa, has been in two Classics. He finished fourth at Lake Conroe.

It's also noteworthy that Lee and Elam came up through the Bassmaster College Series.

The college series will be an increasingly prominent pipeline for young anglers to reach the professional ranks because it provides the structure and discipline that's necessary for success in the pros. It also provides equipment that many college students can't afford on their own.

Bradley Roy, 26, finished seventh at Lake Conroe in his first Classic. Roy graduated from high school a semester early in 2009 so he could fish a Bassmaster Southern Open tournament in early 2010. He qualified for the Elite Series and was the 2010 Elite Series Rookie of the Year. He's also one of most social media savvy anglers in the sport.

Sports fans don't take well to change. I cried when Bob Lilly, Chuck Howley and Lee Roy Jordan retired from the Dallas Cowboys. Find them <a href=""></a> on YouTube if you don't know they are. They broke my pre-teen, blue star loving heart.

New stars replaced them that were as much or more fun to watch.

A new generation has taken over the Bassmaster Elite Series. Embrace them. Enjoy them. Someday, one of them -- maybe Jordan Lee -- will accomplish as much or more than KVD.

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By Angel92
Added Apr 1 '17


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