Kevin VanDam's 11th B.A.S.S. Tournament Victory
Pre-Practice at Lake Guntersville
Note: On the last weekend in April, 2007, even with
one day cancelled due to bad weather at the B.A.S.S.
Elite Series Tournament at Lake Guntersville in north
Alabama, Kevin VanDam of Kalamazoo, Michigan, pulled
off a win, earning $100,000. This year’s win was
VanDam’s 11th B.A.S.S. Tournament victory and
his 67th, top-10 career finish. This week, we’ll
look at how VanDam found and caught the bass, lost the
fish and relocated them to win the tournament. You’ll
see the strategy that’s required to win a big-league
bass tournament, and how to apply techniques to win
like a pro.
Question: Kevin, what did you learn about the bass
at Lake Guntersville during pre-practice?
VanDam: I’ve learned from fishing the lake in
the past that at this time of year the shad are spawning
on the main lake. The bass key-in on those shad early
in the morning, so wherever you can find shad, you’ll
locate bass. I also know that when the sun comes up,
the shad will move to deeper water. In this pre-practice,
I concentrated on the main river ledges, the drop-offs,
the humps and the grassy points. I needed about 15 minutes
to figure out that the bass were feeding on the shad
in the grass and that I could catch
them on a Strike King spinner bait. Because I’d
fished this lake in the past, I already knew plenty
of areas that homed bass. During those three days of
practice, I fished a lot of sites and caught numbers
of high-quality fish. I spent a lot of time running
water and searching for spots I thought other anglers
might have missed. So many excellent anglers that I
knew fished the tournament trail now and focus on the
more-obvious places. I had to key-in on less-obvious
areas for success. Once I located a place that was holding
bass, I’d find the one spot within that region
where most of the fish were concentrated. I hoped to
find a school of bass that no one else would find.
Question: What spinner bait were you using?
VanDam: I used the 1/2- and the 3/4-ounce Kevin VanDam
Signature Series, produced by Strike King and sold at
Bass Pro Shops. I fished with double willowleaf blades
on both spinner baits in the blue shad color. I slow-rolled
these spinner baits and ticked the grass with them.
When fishing grass, I used the 1-1/2-ounce spinner bait.
When fishing in deep grass in 10 to 12 feet of water,
I used the 3/4-ounce spinner bait.
Question: You mentioned that you used a crankbait.
Which one did you use, and why?
VanDam: I caught 90% of my bass on a shad-colored Strike
King Series 5 crankbait- a color I call the Sexy Shad.
There are several-different colors of this shad in the
Tour Grade series crankbaits that Strike King makes.
I fished this crankbait in the outside edge of the grass.
I’d crank the bait down to the grass, let it hit
the grass and then rip it out. Later in the day, when
the bass weren’t as aggressive, and the spinner
bait began to wind-down, I used the crankbait. As the
sun climbed higher in the sky, I found I could trigger
the bass to strike much better using the crankbait than
with the spinner bait. I used a medium retrieve and
let the crankbait hit the grass before jerking it free.
When the fish moved to the outer edge of the grass,
I used a faster retrieve, hit the grass, jerked it free
and then gave it a twitching motion.
Question: Kevin, you said you were looking for the
types of places most anglers wouldn’t fish. What
did you mean?
VanDam: Often, when you’re fishing the edges of
a weedbed, you’ll find small subtle points or
cutbacks in the grass and ditches. These points won’t
be the kind you can see on a map, but rather little
irregular places in the grass. When you can identify
a small spot like this, I’ll use my GPS to mark
that place as a waypoint and then return later to fish
it. During practice, I searched for a lot of those sweet
that other fishermen probably wouldn’t locate.
Question: Kevin, how many of those sweet spots do you
think you found during practice at Guntersville?
VanDam: I found 25-or 30-different sites I marked with
my GPS to fish during the tournament, but I had to fish
so slow to catch the bass that I only fished approximately
half of those locations during the tournament.
Question: What did you learn about the quality of fish
you could catch during your practice days?
VanDam: Because the shad were spawning, I could catch
bass almost anywhere in the lake. But I found that the
biggest bass were holding on the main river channel.
The key to finding big bass was to look for them on
the grass beds on the main river ledge. I decided to
target those big fish on the main river ledges, instead
of just trying to catch bass anywhere in the lake. The
first day of the tournament was cancelled because tornadoes
were reported in the area. Instead of having four days
to fish, I knew I’d only have three days. There
was a premium on catching quality stringers of bass
Question: What was the biggest bass you caught during
VanDam: I caught a 9-pound bass during practice, and
I also caught numbers of bass weighing between 3- and
6-pounds each. I knew those were the kinds of fish I
needed to win the tournament.
Tomorrow: Day One of the B.A.S.S.