John's Journal...

Kevin VanDam's 11th B.A.S.S. Tournament Victory

Pre-Practice at Lake Guntersville

Click to enlargeEditor’s 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 Click to enlargecatch 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?Click to enlarge
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 areaClick to enlarges 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 each day.

Question: What was the biggest bass you caught during practice?
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. Elite Tournament

Check back each day this week for more about "Kevin VanDam's 11th B.A.S.S. Tournament Victory"

Day 1: Pre-Practice at Lake Guntersville
Day 2: Day One of the B.A.S.S. Elite Tournament
Day 3: Day Two of the B.A.S.S. Elite Tournament
Day 4: The Final Day
Day 5: More with Kevin VanDam



Entry 405, Day 1