John's Journal...

Tournament Fishing with Kevin VanDamClick to enlarge

From Goat to Hero – Last Day

Editor’s Note: Kevin VanDam of Kalamazoo, Michigan, currently ranks number 29 on the B.A.S.S. trail, and led in the last B.A.S.S. Elite Tournament held on Kentucky Lake in Benton, Kentucky, for two out of the four days of the tournament. This week we’ll learn how VanDam found, caught and lost fish, and what elements caused him to drop from first to third place. We’ll also learn how to find and catch bass in the summer by following VanDam through the tournament and learning why he made the decisions he made. This week, you’ll be able to get inside the head of Kevin VanDam and learn what makes him tick.

Question: What happened on the last day of the tournament?
VanDam: The fishing conditions had changed. The weather was very windy. I was fishing about 50-miles away from the launch site, and the waves were very rough. During that 50-mile ride, I was getting beat to pieces. Mentally, when I got to the area I’d planned to fish, I didn’t want to fish. I was already beat up. Click to enlargeRemember that I was fishing out on the middle of the lake where I was feeling all the effects of the wind. When I pulled up to one of my best spots, the wind was blowing so hard that waves were bouncing over the front of the boat. I couldn’t hold the boat on the spot I wanted to fish, even with my trolling motor running. I didn’t catch any bass. Next, I went to my second best spot. Even though it was a bit calmer, I only caught two keeper bass. At that point I decided to go to a backup plan. I realized that the open lake was just too rough to fish. I decided to go to a spot where I thought I could catch a limit of bass. I had some other bass I’d found on some shallow ledges that I knew I could fish even if the weather was windy. When I reached those shallow spots, I started fishing the new Strike King Red Eye Rattler, a lipless crankbait. These bass were 4 to 6 feet on top of the ledge, and they had some grass on them. I made a long cast and drifted with the wind. Using this tactic, I was able to catch a limit of bass in 30 minutes. I had about 10 pounds of bass in the live well. So, I knew I wasn’t going to completely blow the tournament. When I started fClick to enlargeeeling good, in blew a major storm with wind that blew really hard. After the storm, the weather calmed down. I immediately ran back to my primary area that I really wanted to fish on the main lake. I caught several big bass there, which allowed me to cull my bag up to 15 pounds. When the wind picked up, I knew I had to leave that spot to reach the weigh-in station to prevent being late. I felt like if I’d had a little more time on that place, I might have caught one more big fish that could have won the tournament for me.

Question: Running that 50 miles to fish really robbed you of that big fish you needed to win the tournament, didn’t it?
VanDam: Yes, it did. However, by running 50 miles from the launch site, I got away from the other competitors and had an area to fish with very little competition, except for the local tournament that was being held by local tournament fishermen.

Click to enlargeQuestion: How much did you win for those four days of fishing?
VanDam: I think it was around $26,000.

Question: Kevin, why do you think you lost the tournament?
VanDam: I felt like I’d done everything right to win. I’d located bass holding on ledges 50-miles away from the launch site, so I could get away from the other competitors. I’d found places out of the wind where I could catch bass if the wind became a problem. I’d figured out the pattern and the lure the bass wanted to eat. I felt like I had this tournament nailed down. What I didn’t count on was the local bass tournament launching out of the place I was fishing on the last day of the tournament. That’s probably the reason I didn’t win. Third place isn’t bad. Fishing that well, I added points to my standings in the Angler of the Year race. I boosted my chances for qualifying for the Bassmasters Classic. I came home with $26,000. I didn’t win the tournament, but I didn’t do badly. I had a pretty good week.

Question: Kevin, is cranking deep ledges with a big crankbait like you did in this tournament a good summer tactic?
VanDam: I believe it’s the best summer tactic. Most fishermen don’t want to work hard to fish a big deep-diving crankbait on those deep ledges during those hot summer months. I believe that bigger baits catch bigger bass. While most anglers are fishing soft-plastics on the bottom, I’d rather be fishing those big crankbaits to give the bass something new. Professional tournament fishermen will throw big crankbaits all day long during those summer months, and many of the average fishermen won’t. That’s the reason I believe the lure is so effective. I don’t believe you can beat the Strike King Series 6. That’s why I fished it in this tournament.

Check back each day this week for more about " Tournament Fishing with Kevin VanDam"

Day 1: How It All Began
Day 2:Critical Factors to Success - GPS and Wind
Day 3: From Goat to Hero – Day 1
Day 4: From Goat to Hero – Day 2
Day 5: From Goat to Hero – Last Day


Entry 358, Day 5