John's Journal...

Learn from Top Bass Pros Kevin VanDam and Rick Clunn

Day 1: What Being Readily Adaptable Means to Pro Basser Kevin VanDam

Editor’s Note: 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.

Click for Larger ViewWhen weather conditions, water conditions or fishing pressure changes, the most-flexible angler will alter the way he fishes to match those changing conditions. For instance, do you show your versatility by leaving a spot quickly and going to another site if:
you're catching good keeper bass, but the wind picks-up on the lake while you're fishing down a bank;
cloud cover causes a bright, sunny day to become overcast; or,
you've caught enough fish to put you in the top 10 on the first day of the tournament, and then the temperature drops 20 degrees?

VanDam, like a chameleon that alters its color to fit its environment, switches his fishing style as soon as the fishing environment changes. VanDam believes that this ability to switch his style of fishing quickly helps him catch fish more consistently. "Before I’ve had to compete in floods, extremely-cold weather and on windy days when the conditions would change each day of the tournament," VanDam comments. "Here's a typical example. In one tournament on the first day, the air temperature was 80 degrees. On the second day of the tournament, the air temperature was 40 degrees. Sometimes we’ll have 5 days with wind speeds from 30 to 60 miles an hour and that that can be bed or good."

Click for Larger ViewVanDam's secret to adaptability comes from his wealth of experience of fishing and learning from his mistakes. Although most of us, when we make a fishing mistake, try and forget that mistake as quickly as possible and keep on fishing, VanDam doesn't. "I’ve several bass-fishing titles due to my past losses," VanDam emphasizes. "I’ve learned from my mistakes and from the tournaments I've lost. Those failures have built the experience I need to win." VanDam had one of his worse losses on Oklahoma's Lake Eufaula one year. Just before the tournament, the lake level rose 7 feet in 2 days, resulting in muddy water. The bass were on a post-spawn bite. "I chose the wrong section of the lake to fish at that time of the year," VanDam recalls. "I should have been fishing closer to the dam where the bass were coming-off the beds. But instead I fished the lower end of the lake, wrongly believing that I still could catch a few spawning bass. I was wrong and finished the tournament in 70th place. I left there and went straight to Tennessee where I found the exact same conditions. I knew that if I went to the upper end of the lake with its cooler water that I should find spawning bass. Sure enough, that's where they were. I finished in the top 10 in that tournament and brought home a check for about $20,000. I knew from my loss in Oklahoma that I should be fishing closer to the dam in the cooler water where the fish still would be spawning, instead of going to the lower end of the lake in the warmer water where the fish had already spawned-out.”

Why to Follow Your Instincts:

Click for Larger ViewMore and more of today's top anglers have learned to listen to their intuitive senses. They make changes in their fishing styles based on voices inside of them rather than their conscious thought patterns. Four-time Bassmaster Classic winner Rick Clunn of Ava, Missouri, became one of the first professional fishermen in the nation to experiment with and study the effects of the mind on a tournament angler's fishing success. Clunn's consistent winning record and his 29 Classic appearances proved that his philosophy of listening to that inner voice within him helped him fish better. Kevin VanDam, like many of the other consistent pros, learned from Clunn's pioneering research about the mind.

"I've learned that when I get a gut feeling that I need to change my style of fishing immediately," VanDam says. "Responding to intuitive ideas quickly is the one thing I do that many anglers don't do. For example, a contestant may go to a spot where he's caught a good number of keeper bass in practice and notices the water is changing color and getting somewhat dirty. Although he knows that dirty water will change the fishing conditions, he'll remain in that spot, believing he can catch one or two more keepers there. Under those same conditions, as soon as I see the water change, I'll either switch baits or look for another place to fish. When I hear that inaudible voice say, 'You need to be doing something different,' I'll react instantly."

Click for Larger ViewHowever, VanDam realizes that his inner voice may tell him wrong at times. Learning to trust his instincts doesn't guarantee that he'll have success and find fish each time he reacts quickly to those instincts. "But the big advantage of following my instincts is that I'm moving around a lot," VanDam says. "I know that sooner or later I'll get to the right area. I realize the more times I fail, the closer I am to success. And each time I make a lure or a location change, I'm one step closer to finding where the bass are and how to catch them. In several tournaments last year, I didn't unlock the secret of where the bass were and how I could catch them until the last day. But I'd learned where they were and how to catch them, because I'd fished most of the places where they weren't with lures they wouldn't bite."

How to Bass Fish Like a ProHow to Catch the Most and Biggest Bass In Any LakeTo learn more about how to fish for bass, click the titles for the new ebooks by John E. Phillips, “How to Bass Fish Like a Pro” and “Catch the Most and Biggest Bass in Any Lake,” or go to, and type in the names of the books to buy them. Too, you can download a Kindle app for free and buy the book from Amazon to read it on your iPad, Smartphone or computer.

Tomorrow: Kevin VanDam’s Three Keys to Consistent Bass Fishing

Check back each day this week for more about "Learn from Top Bass Pros Kevin VanDam and Rick Clunn"

Day 1: What Being Readily Adaptable Means to Pro Basser Kevin VanDam
Day 2: Kevin VanDam’s Three Keys to Consistent Bass Fishing
Day 3: Know When to Continue to Fish for Bass and When to Leave to Catch Bass Elsewhere with Kevin VanDam
Day 4: Kevin VanDam Explains Other Ways to Evaluate Where You’re Bass Fishing
Day 5: Cranking Tactics for Bass with Rick Clunn

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Entry 681, Day 1