A Look Back at Kevin VanDam's Super Elite Season
Editor’s Note: On September 16, 2007, Kevin VanDam of Kalamazoo, Michigan, finished 19th in the final Bassmasters Elite Tournament on Lake Toho in Florida, winning $10,800. He won $15,000 for the inaugural Berkley Heavyweight Award on the Elite Series, given to the angler who catches the heaviest load of bass for the first two days during the entire Elite Series season, when all 100-plus competitors fish together. Among those top competitors, VanDam’s total weight for 22 days of fishing was 381 pounds and 7 ounces, besting the 366 pounds, 5 ounces posted by runner-up, Skeet Reese of California. VanDam also finished in second place in the Angler-of-the-Year race, adding $40,000 to his winnings, giving him a total of $65,800 for the weekend. VanDam has won more than $2.5 million in prize money during his B.A.S.S. career, which is more than any other angler in the history of B.A.S.S. Also, VanDam is ranked number-one in the world of bass fishing as of September 20, 2007 by www.BassFan.com. The reason VanDam is so successful is because he’s on the water every day. In every tournament he fishes, and every year he competes, he learns more about the sport of bass fishing. This week, we asked VanDam to reflect on the 2007 season, and tell us what he’s learned, what tackle aided his success, and how he fished the various lakes.
Question: Kevin, what did you do this year to put more and bigger bass in the boat than all the other competitors on the Elite Circuit?
VanDam: I fish to win in every tournament. I don’t fish for second place, and I don’t fish for points. We also went to a lot of good fisheries, where you could catch quality bass in every tournament. I was fortunate that I was able to start every tournament really strong, even though I may have not finished every tournament high-up on the leader board. I also believe that studying the lakes we would fish before the tournament and trying to decide where the fish were at that time of year, what lures they should bite, and what type of structure they were holding on also played a major role in my ability to find bass. I maximized my fishing time every day at practice. The first two days at competition are really dependant on your preparation before the tournament, including your ability to find and catch bass during practice and having your tackle ready to catch the fish once it bites. It’s important to find where the bass are and what lures they’ll take. Preparation before the tournament and having a productive practice time were two-major keys to my success at winning the Heavyweight Award this year.
Question: Kevin, how critical were your lures to your success, and what lures seemed to be the most important to your success this season?
VanDam: The Strike King lures I used this year were a huge reason I had so much success on the Elite Series this season. Tackle preparation is critical to my success, especially lure preparation. Your fishing lures are your direct connection to the fish. For this reason, you have to make sure you have the right bait in the most-productive color, with the correct hooks in the best place.
Question: What lure contributed the most to your success this year?
VanDam: The Strike King crankbaits in the Sexy Shad color really paid-off for me in 2007. I also had a really-good tournament at Lake Amistad with the King Shad. I caught plenty of bass on spinner baits this year too, especially at Lake Guntersville and Lake Amistad. However, when you consider that I had two wins with crankbaits in the Sexy Shad color, I’d have to say that the crankbait played the heaviest role in my success this year.
Question: As you look back over the year, in ranking the lures, as far as importance to your success this season, how would the lures line-up after the Sexy Shad crankbait?
VanDam: I’d have to say the King Shad would be number-two, because it delivered a top-five finish at Lake Amistad. I used it a lot in several other tournaments, and it produced bass for me.
Question: Which color and size King Shad seemed to produce the biggest bass for you?
VanDam: There’s only one size King Shad, and I fish many different colors. However, the Tennessee Shad and the bluegill color will probably be the two colors I use the most.
Question: Which spinner bait was most important to you?
VanDam: I use the Strike King Kevin VanDam Signature Series from Bass Pro Shop the most in the blue-shad color.
To learn more about Strike King, go to www.strikeking.com
Tomorrow: Where the Sexy Shad Originated, and Why Crankbaits Were So Important