John's Journal...

Rule-Breaking Ways to Catch Bass

Day 1: “Kevin VanDam Tells 5 Unique Ways to Catch Bass”

Editor’s Note: If bass always did what we expected them to do, we'd catch them every time we went bass fishing. Some of nation's best bass-fishing pros break the rules of bass fishing regularly to catch more bass. Let's look at some rule-breaking techniques that will bring more bass to your boat this year. One of the most-dominant anglers on the bass-fishing circuit, Kevin VanDam of Kalamazoo, Michigan has won several Bassmasters Classics, besides Bassmaster Angler of the Year titles.

Fish Odd-Colored Spinner Baits:

Click for Larger View"I once tried an unusual tactic, while fishing a tournament in Michigan," VanDam recalls. "My partner and I fished with bright-colored spinner baits to try to draw smallmouth bass up in that clear water. The fish had experienced heavy pressure from a lot of other anglers. So, my fishing buddy and I used a variety of fishing techniques to try to get a bite. Nothing seemed to work. However, I happened to have a bubblegum-colored spinner bait with me with bubblegum blades and a bubblegum skirt. I thought, 'Well, this bait looks wild and different. Nothing else has worked. I'll try it.' I started throwing that pink spinner bait and began catching tons of bass. I didn't win the tournament, but I took second place. That bubblegum-colored bait saved the day. Sometimes throwing an odd-colored lure can make a difference."

Change the Weight of Your Lure:

Click for Larger ViewWhile fishing a tournament in the St. John's River in Florida some years ago, VanDam caught bass with jerkbaits and Slug-Gos. “An amateur fisherman was in the back of my boat, and he didn't know much about the Slug-Go or the little lead nails used to weigh-down the bait to enable it to sink," VanDam mentions. "I'd taken my limit of bass on the jerkbaits, so I started throwing the Slug-Go. I watched a couple of good-sized bass come up and look at the bait, but they wouldn't take it. The amateur saw the fish pass-by my bait and decided to add some extra weight to his bait. He shoved four or five of those lead nails into one Slug-Go. Consequently, his bait sunk like a rock as he jerked and twitched it. Oddly enough, this angler immediately caught three or four bass. I couldn't believe it. Apparently, my Slug-Go moved too slowly, and the fish got a good look at the bait. His overloaded bait may have hurt the action of the bait, but it moved so fast and sunk so quickly, that he actually caught a bigger stringer of bass that day than I did."

Dead-Stick Bass:

Click for Larger ViewKevin VanDam once fished with some of Strike King's 3X green-pumpkin lizards. In practice, VanDam located some bass moving-up around shallow stumps and preparing to spawn. "I thought, 'Well, I just got these lizards before the tournament. Maybe I'll try one of them,'" VanDam says. "I didn't know anything about the lures, which were brand-new at that time, but I did get some bites on them. The bass seemed to hold on to these soft baits. I rarely go into a competition and fish with something that I've never used previously. I generally fish the baits I feel comfortable with and that I've used many times. The first day of that particular tournament, I caught a 15-pound stringer early in the morning. But as the fishing became flat, I decided to return to the shallow stumps where I'd caught some bass in practice on those green-pumpkin lizards. I made a long cast and worked the lizard up to the stump. My partner asked me something, and I got distracted. So, my lizard just sat in the same spot for about 20 seconds. When I went to pick the bait back up, a bass had taken the bait. I set my hook and reeled in a 5-pound bass."

According to VanDam, the 3X lizards flatten-out to the bottom when you pull them. But when you stop the movement on a Texas rig, the sinker holds the nose of the bait down, while the tail floats back-up and hangs right in front of the fish. "The bass I wanted to catch were guarding their beds around these stumps, and they just couldn't ignore the bait," VanDam reports. "I fished with those new at that time lizards for the entire tournament. I cast them out by the stumps and let the baits sit for 30 to 60 seconds. Then the bass would hit. I finished second in that tournament." VanDam has used that bass-fishing strategy called dead-sticking over the years with other baits. He's caught numbers of fish with soft-plastic jerkbaits, but he's never taken as many as that day while fishing with those lizards. VanDam comments that, "The lizard has action even when it's sitting still. It doesn't just lie there like a regular plastic bait does."

Fish with Colorful Hard Baits:

VanDam once used a strange method to catch bass in a tournament at Lake Ouachita in the early spring. "The weather had become very cold, and we caught bass with Diamond Shads and lipless crankbaits," VanDam remembers. "In that real-cold water, the crankbaits created tight movements that the fish really wanted. I didn't bring enough red Diamond Shads with me, and I sure didn't have any red crankbaits that had a tight action. But, I did have a can of red spray worm dye with me. I figured that the clear-coat finish on the baits I had with me would dye like plastic worms did. I just sprayed the baits red. I fished the whole tournament with those colored hard baits and came very close to winning. I finished second in that tournament – totally on the crankbaits I'd painted red. Occasionally, my partner would laugh at me and say, 'I've never seen such an ugly bait.' And I'd answer, 'Yeah, but the bass like it.'"

Use Weights to Change the Action of the Bait:

Click for Larger VeiwWhile at a show in California to do a seminar, Kevin VanDam went to a bass-boat dealership where a guy had a sticky substance for sale that you could put on baits to weigh them down. VanDam found all kinds of uses for the sticky stuff in tournaments. Although VanDam made fun of the sticky substance when he first saw it, he found many applications for it. "For instance, if I have a jerkbait that floats too much, or I want to slow the rise of a crankbait and make it suspend a bit, I'll stick a little piece of the sticky substance on the bait. The weight totally changes the action of the bait."

How to Bass Fish Like a ProTo learn even-more bass-catching strategies, order John E. Phillips’ new eBook, “How to Bass Fish Like a Pro,” click here. Or, you can go to and type-in the name of the book to find it. You also can download a Kindle app for free to allow you to read the book on your iPad, SmartPhone and computer.

Tomorrow: Learn some of Mark Rose’s Tactics for Catching Bass

Check back each day this week for more about "Rule-Breaking Ways to Catch Bass "

Day 1: “Kevin VanDam Tells 5 Unique Ways to Catch Bass”
Day 2: Learn some of Mark Rose’s Tactics for Catching Bass
Day 3: The Brauer Family – Denny and Chad – Sometimes Fish Kids’ Baits for Bass
Day 4: George Cochran and Randy Dearman Catch Bass
Day 5: Top Fishermen Shaw Grigsby, Larry Nixon, Mike Wurm and Rick Clunn on Unusual Bass Tactics

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Entry 664, Day 1