John Vandivier

Portrait by Robert Howson

There wasn’t a day go by that John Vandivier wasn’t thinking about fishing. Not necessarily thinking about catching the ‘big one’, but how he could make the sport better- how he could find a new technique to improve things for all anglers. He wasn’t simply a fisherman, he was an innovator and lover of the outdoors.

During his lifetime Vandivier was one of the top anglers in North America, winning numerous fishing tournaments. He acted as a mentor to fishing legend Bob Izumi and they went on to work over 50 shows together. He won several tournaments like the Southwestern Ontario Bass Classic (with Izumi) in 1990, the Sandusky Spring Open on Lake Erie, and the Fall Bass Challenge on Lake Couchiching on three occasions. He was first to introduce the now popular “Sluggo” baits to Ontario and the new technique of “drop-shotting” to Canada.

His most important innovation may be his development and introduction of the centre pin reel used on float fishing rods. This was important because a centre pin reel allowed you to feed the line off the face of the reel when casting. The low friction meant the line could feed off the reel as the bait traveled downstream.

Vandivier grew up in the Bronx, New York before moving to Guelph in 1968. His father purchased a fishing camp in upstate New York and it was there the young Vandivier was introduced to fly fisherman Herman Christian who is a legendary angler in the Catskill Mountains. Christian must have sensed something in the young Vandivier because he spent hours teaching him how to make and tie flies, which cemented his love for fishing.

“I’ve had the opportunity to meet and fish with a lot of great anglers but I’ve only met a handful of true innovators,” said Izumi. “I’m talking about the kinds of people who take fishing to the next level; the ones who are driven to discover new ways to catch fish and who don’t stop until they’ve perfected it. My long-time friend, John Vandivier is one of those types of anglers.”

Inducted into the Guelph Sports Hall of Fame – Veteran athlete category – on May 17, 2017