Kevin VanDam Takes 3rd Place at the Bassmaster Legends Tournament on Lake Dardanelle
What I Learned in Practice
Editor’s Note: In the last Bassmaster Legends tournament at Lake Dardanelle in Russellville, Arkansas in late August 2007, Kevin VanDam took third place. Only one pound and a few ounces from first place, he won $29,500. Before this tournament, VanDam’s career winnings totaled $2,509,458.30, averaging $12,738.37 per tournament. He’s No. 2 in the race for the 2007 Angler-of-the-Year title, and right now, VanDam is as hot as a firecracker with his fishing. VanDam’s strengths are that he rapidly can adapt to changing water and weather conditions, and he’s not afraid to fish any bait.
Question: Kevin, how did you prepare for this tournament?
VanDam: I didn’t really. Originally, the tournament was supposed to be held on the Arkansas River. However, because of all the rains the area had before the tournament, B.A.S.S. moved it to Lake Dardanelle. With that in mind, I knew there’d be a lot of current, and the water would probably be high when I arrived. As soon I got to the lake, I saw that the water wasn’t really high, but there was a strong current. Because we were fishing a river system in the summertime in hot weather, I wanted to look for bass relating to that current. I knew there were plenty of wing dams and jetties at the head of that pool, so I thought that’s where I had to fish. Also numbers of productive of good creeks were in Lake Dardanelle, but I preferred to fish the current. Then I can run-and-gun as well as power fish those areas, especially around eddy holes, points and current breaks.
Question: What did you learn in practice, and what did you do in practice that helped you set up for this $29,500 payday?
VanDam: I started fishing shallow grass like I’d fished in other tournaments. I was on the lower end of the water, and I couldn’t get very-many bites using that tactic. I fished a lot of lily-pad fields and grass, but I didn’t much activity. So, I headed upriver to fish in the current. When I reached the current at the head of the river, I immediately started catching fish. Most of the fish were small, but I gained a lot of confidence about fishing in that spot.
Fish that relate to current lend themselves to power-bait fishing, which is my strength. So, during practice, I threw a spinner bait and just about every size jerkbait Strike King made. I cast the Red Eye Shad and the Series 1, the Series 3, the Series 5 and the Series 6 crankbaits. I fished water that was dirt shallow to 10-feet deep. During practice, I found a lot of places that looked good, and I was able to catch some small bass from those places. Although I knew I’d have to work hard, I pretty-much decided to bet on catching bass on the upper end of the lake.
Question: In practice, what kind of regions were you looking for to fish?
VanDam: I always check out every single possibility. I look for any area, structure or cover that may produce bass, and I’ll fish as many different types of places with as many lures as I can. I want to see everything the lake has to offer. Many times you go to a tournament, and based on the time of year, the weather and the available cover, you think you know where the bass should be holding. However, you still have to check those sites out and be certain that I’ve guessed right.
Question: How many places will you check during a practice?
VanDam: I’ll usually check at least 30 or more spots.
Question: How many types of baits will you use?
VanDam: I keep a lot of rods on my deck, and I’ll probably fish 12- to 15-different lures each day.
Question: The day before this tournament started, how did you decide exactly how you’d fish?
VanDam: One of the disadvantages of fishing a river system, especially a river system with dams that are either used for flood control and/or power generation, is that the people in charge of those dams can change the flow and the water level overnight. They also can slow down the flow and speed it up. The speed of the flow and the height of the water can cause bass holding on jetties and current breaks to change positions and locations each day, which is exactly what happened at Lake Dardanelle. The water-generation schedule was changed almost every hour of every day and resulted in an almost 2-foot change in the depth of the water. So, I had to relocate my bass every day, although the bass hung in the same general area. At first, the water was pouring over different jetties, then the water dropped, and no water came over the jetties. Each day, I’d have to look at the jetties, see where the current was coming through them and then search for bass in relationship to the change in flow.
Question: How did you decide to fish the night before the first day of the tournament?
VanDam: I decided to go back up the river where I’d practiced and caught little fish. I had confidence in those areas, so I decided to determine the water level when I arrived there every day and adjust to the water level and the current.
Question: Did you have any competitors fishing the same waters you were fishing?
VanDam: Oh, yes, there were plenty of other boats up there. Many competitors had figured out the same thing I’d learned.
Tomorrow: Lures that Catch Everything that Swims