Tournament Fishing with Kevin VanDam
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. Remember
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 feeling
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,
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.
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
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.