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Kevin VanDam Does It Again and Wins Angler of the Year for 2008

Know What Works for You and Be Ready to Change

Click to enlargeEditor’s Note: There’s no more-coveted prize in all of tournament bass fishing than winning BASS Angler of the Year. “This is probably the most difficult of all the goals an angler can achieve,” says Kevin VanDam of Kalamazoo, Michigan, after winning his fourth Angler of the Year title in 2008, while fishing the Elite Series with 200 of the best bass fishermen in the world, the Angler of the Year must score the most points based on his finish in 11 tournaments. This year VanDam won two tournaments and finished in the money in all but one tournament, amassing right at $500,000 in tournament winnings for the year. The Angler-of-the-Year check for $250,000 put his total tournament winnings on the BASS circuit to date at over $3 million, making VanDam the first bass fisherman to ever break the $3-million mark in tournament winnings.

Question: Kevin, most fishermen agree that attitude is a major key to success in bass fishing. What were you doing mentally this year that allowed you to win Angler of the Year on the BASS circuit?
VanDam: I think first of all, you have to believe in your own ability to find and Click to enlargecatch bass. You need an extreme amount of confidence tempered with the reality that things are not always going to go your way, and you’re not always going to be in control of your own destiny. I feel confident that if I don’t make any mental mistakes and I don’t make any physical mistakes, I can do well in any tournament.

I try to stay tuned-in to what I know and believe. I may be rooming next to another competitor who tells me he’s wearing out the bass on a drop-shot rig, a frog or a shaky-head worm, but I don’t let what I hear from other fishermen change the way I decide to fish that lake the next day. I’ve got enough experience from fishing so many years that I know I need to fish what works for me during the different times of year.

For example, this past year, we had a tournament on the Kissimmee chain of lakes in Florida. We were fishing during the time of the year when most of the bass in the lake were spawning, and most of the competitors thought that sight fishing for bedding bClick to enlargeass would be the winning tactic. And for some, that technique paid off. But instead of fishing the obvious pattern, I decided to look for bass and fished my style of fishing in an area of the lake that I knew had bass big enough to produce a win. I found and caught bass in the middle of the lake fishing deep grass with a Strike King Red Eye Shad, and I won the tournament. Not many people believed that fishing the middle of the lake in deep water was a pattern that would work. But I won the tournament. So what I tried to do this year was find bass in the type of water I like to fish in, using the style of fishing that I’m convinced works.

Question: What gave you the confidence to go against traditional wisdom on that lake?
VanDam: I feel like I know my own strengths and weaknesses better than anyone else, and I believe that if I try to fish to those strengths and not fish patterns I’m not as confident in, I consistently can perform better.

Question: Kevin, other fishermen have said that you pick up on subtle environmental and water changes more quickly than mClick to enlargeost fishermen do, and that you’ll leave a pattern that’s been extremely productive when you see those changes faster than most fishermen will. How do you see what other fishermen aren’t seeing, have the courage to leave a pattern or a lure that’s been extremely productive for you and fish a completely-new pattern based on the changes in the environment?
VanDam: When I was a young fellow growing up in the outdoors, I used to watch the weather, the wind and the water and try to notice any changes that took place and how that affected fish and wildlife. Even when I was hunting, I was watching how wind and  temperature changes and other environmental shifts would affect game. So I’ve trained myself to look for changing conditions and not be so focused on casting and retrieving and watching my line that I don’t see those little variances in fishing conditions that often cause the bass to move or change the way they’re feeding. I’ve also learned to listen to that little voice inside of me that pops up ever now and then and says, “Kevin, the weather’s just changed from sunny to cloudy. You need to change lures and change how you fish them.” I’ve learned to trust that instinct that makes me aware of my fishing environment and to adjust my fishing tactics and lures to compensate for that change.

Question: Kevin, are you saying you have a sixth sense that alerts you to those changes?
VanDam: Call it whatever you want to, but I’ve learned over the years that it’s reliable and I need to listen whenever it speaks to me.

To learn more about Strike King’s top-quality lures, go to

Tomorrow: New Ways to Rig the Red Eye Shad and Shadalicious

Check back each day this week for more about "Kevin VanDam Does It Again and Wins Angler of the Year for 2008"

Day 1: Stay Confident, Trust Your Instincts and Fish Strike King Crankbaits  
Day 2: Know What Works for You and Be Ready to Change
Day 3: New Ways to Rig the Red Eye Shad and Shadalicious
Day 4: Strike King Pros Work Together to Build Better Lures
Day 5: There’s No Such Thing as Slumps


Entry 470, Day 2