Kevin VanDam Wins $200,000 and the 2009 Angler-of-the-Year Title
Kevin VanDam Couldn’t Keep the Bass Hooked on Day One at Lake Jordan
Editor’s Note: On September 18, 2009, Strike King Pro Kevin VanDam of Kalamazoo, Michigan, not only won his second consecutive Angler-of-the-Year title with BASS, he also observed, ”This title was the hardest I ever won for sure.” This year was the first thatBASS had a post-season tournament to determine the winner ofAngler of the Year. The tournament consisted of two events, back to back, and VanDam had to come from behind against what seemed almost-insurmountable odds to pull off the win. Going into this tournament, VanDam was one point ahead of the 2009 Bassmaster Classic Champion, Skeet Reese, for the 2009 Angler-of-the-Year title. VanDam also had to compete against 10 more of the best bass fishermen in the world from the 2009 season. This week VanDam will tell us what happened, and how he won.
Question: Kevin, the first of these two tournaments was on Lake Jordan in central Alabama. What did you think you’d have to do to win day one, and how did you fish on day one on Lake Jordan?
VanDam: This lake has both spotted and largemouth bass in it. In practice before the first competition day, I covered a lot of water, and I was catching some good-sized spotted bass by fishing points. I felt good going into that first day of competition. However, the first day of the tournament, I had one of those days that no tournament fisherman ever wanted to have – especially in a 2-day tournament. Coming back from a bad day in a tournament that only lasted for 2 days was almost impossible. I lost a big bass on a crankbait the firstthing the first morning. I had several other nice bass come off before I could get them to the boat. But I didn’t give up – I just kept battling back. I finished the day with five bass that weighed a little more than 10 pounds. I was in seventh place out of 12 competitors.
Question: With what baits were you catching the bass on that first day of competition, Kevin?
VanDam: I threw the kitchen sink at those bass that first day. I caught bass on drop-shot rigs, the Spit-N-King, etc. But my best bait I caught the most fish on was the new Strike King Series 6XD. I caught bass right on the top of the water with a Spit-N-King and then also at 26-feet deep with a Series 6XD. I tried to fish all the water in-between those two depths too. A lot of the bass I caught were suspended. And, I caught bass on lots of different lures and techniques. I felt like I had a good pattern going, but I basically had to cover the water column from the surface to 26-feet deep to find bass at each of my stops. I even fished jerkbaits and swimbaits. The spotted bass were fickle, and those were the ones for which I was fishing.
Question: Kevin, you said you lost a couple of big bass on crankbaits. How did you lose them?
VanDam: Spotted bass have small mouths, and they’re hard to keep hooked, as much as they jump, and as wild as they are. I didn’t do anything wrong. I just had bad luck, and the bass won. I lost several 4-pounders, both largemouths and spotted bass, that first day. Those size of bass were hard to come by.
Question: Kevin, being in seventh place going into the last day of the Lake Jordan tournament, what were you thinking about after that first day of competition?
Tomorrow: A Hill Too High to Climb
VanDam: I went into that competition with a one-point lead for the Angler-of-the-Year title. I felt like I’d worked really hard to get into position to win Angler of the Year, and I didn’t want it to slip away from me. I knew the areas I was fishing were holding lots of bass. I figured that if I’d boated the fish I’d lost, I probably could be in the lead. I just hoped I’d be more fortunate the next day than I had been the first day.