Learn How Michigan’s Kevin VanDam Won the Bassmaster Angler-of-the-Year Title Again
Day 1: Bassmaster’s 2011 Angler-of-the-Year Title Is Won by Kevin VanDam at the Wheeler Lake Tournament
Editor’s Note: Kevin Van Dam won his 7th Bassmaster Angler-of-the-Year title and his 4th consecutive AOY title on Saturday, June 18, 2011, at the Wheeler Lake tournament. We wanted to know how he did it.
Question: Kevin, the last tournament of the 2011 season was this past weekend on Wheeler Lake in Decatur, Alabama. You finished 2nd in the tournament and won the Bassmaster Angler-of-the-Year title. How did you catch your bass?
VanDam: For most of the tournament, I was fishing offshore river ledges. I caught my fish on a variety of Strike King crankbaits, primarily the 5XD, the Series 5, the 6XD and the Series 6. I chose my baits by the depth zones where the ledges were. One of the advantages I had with fishing Strike King lures was that the company made crankbaits that allowed me to fish from one foot of water down to 20-feet deep. So, I matched the crankbait to the depth of each ledge that I fished. I caught most of my fish on the Series 5, however.
Question: Kevin, what color crankbait were you using?
VanDam: I was fishing the sexy-shad color in various crankbaits. The sexy-shad color was perfect for all the Tennessee River lakes. During the tournament, I walked-down the dock and looked at the other competitors’ rods lying-out on the decks of their boats. I didn’t see a single competitor who didn’t have a sexy-shad color crankbait on one of the main rods he was fishing.
Question: Kevin, you said you also used the Series 6XD crankbait. When were you fishing it?
VanDam: I had one deep spot I was fishing, and last Saturday I caught more of my fish on the 6XD on that one place than I did on the Series 5. That Saturday catch put me over the top for the Angler-of-the-Year title. The ledge was 22-feet deep, so I needed that deep-diving 6XD to get down to it. The other advantage that the 6XD gave me was that I could cast it a long way, and it would get-down deep quickly.
Question: Kevin, I heard you caught the biggest fish you’d ever caught in fresh water this week on the 6XD. Tell us about it.
VanDam: The first morning of practice for this tournament I was fishing down a main river ledge. I hit something that stopped the bait. I thought I was hung on a stump, but then my line started to move. I said, “Wow, I know this is something big!” I needed 10 – 15 minutes to get the fish up to where I could see it, and I couldn’t believe it was a giant blue catfish. When I saw how big the fish was, I knew I had to get a picture of me with the fish. There was no wind blowing that day, and Mark Menendez was only about 100-yards from me. I yelled and asked him to come see me and bring his camera. Mark helped me land the fish, and when I got that big cat in the boat, Mark made my picture.
Question: How big was the catfish, Kevin?
VanDam: I’d caught a 65-pound cat one time and weighed it, and this catfish was at least 15- to 20-pounds bigger than that 65-pound cat. I know this catfish must have weighed at least 80 or 90 pounds. I catch a lot of catfish with Strike King crankbaits, but I’ve never caught a catfish that big on a crankbait.
Question: Kevin, this week, we’d like for you to pick the four-critical times in the 2011 Bassmaster season that enabled you to win your 4th consecutive Angler-of-the-Year title. Every day we’ll talk about what made that tournament and that catch one of the most-important events and lures to your success this season.
VanDam: Let’s do it.