John's Journal...

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

New Ways to Rig the Red Eye Shad and Shadalicious

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, what did you learn this year?
VanDam: I learned all over again what a great bait the Red Eye Shad is. It helped me win a tournament. But I think I learned even more in some of the tournaments that I didn’tClick to enlargedo so well in, because I learned different about lures and techniques that really helped me to compete better. For instance, this year I learned a lot about swim baits. I really concentrated on learning how to fish Strike King’s Shadalicious, Strike King’s new soft-bodied swim bait. This bait came out in 2008, and I had fished it a little bit. But this season I really learned how to fish it. I learned more about what made the Shadalicious work on various days and under different weather and water conditions than I ever knew. I’d always been a hit-or-miss fisherman using swim baits. I not only learned about the Shadalicious and how to fish it better, but also about the hard-bodied swim baits like the King Shad. I experimented with different ways to rig and retrieve them to make them more effective.

Question: How have you learned to rig these baits to make them more effective?
VanDam: At Lake Murray near Columbia, South Carolina, I was fishing the Shadalicious with a weighted offset hook. However, I had a lot of bass come up and bite the bait – but not get the hook. So I added a stinger treble hook to the back of the main hook. And that stinger hook really made a big difference, and I started catching bass and not missing bass. I was able to pulClick to enlargel off a top-10 finish in that tournament. If I hadn’t made that adaptation to that particular lure, I know I wouldn’t have had that good a finish in that tournament.

In the past, I’ve just cast a swim bait like the Shadalicious out and reeled it in, but this year I’ve learned to use a lot of different types of retrieve with these soft-bodied swim baits. I’ve learned to jerk ‘em, twitch ‘em and burn ‘em (reel them as fast as I can). I’ve learned that I can fish swim baits the same way I fish a spinner bait, a jerkbait or a crankbait and use the same type of retrieves that I use with those other lures to make a swim bait like the Shadalicious much-more effective and to get bass to react to it much better. I’ve learned to change the speed of the bait and the action of the lure during the retrieve. By doing so, I can make bass bite this bait better.

Question: Kevin, you said you put a stinger hook in the Shadalicious. How much leader did you have between your primary hook and the stinger hook?Click to enlarge
VanDam: I used a small piece of braided line and tied it around the shank of the hook I was using in the Shadalicious. Then about 1/4-inch behind the main hook, I tied on a treble hook. Because I was fishing in open water, there was no grass or wood one which the treble hook could hang. When you’re in open water, you can get away with putting a stinger hook in a bait like a Shadalicious. This way, I can catch a lot of short-striking bass.

Question: Did you have the treble hook swinging free, or did you put one of the treble hooks into the body of the Shadalicious?
VanDam: I put one of the hooks of the treble hook into the belly of the Shadalicious. And it didn’t inhibit the swimming action of the Shadalicious at all.

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

Tomorrow: Strike King Pros Work Together to Build Better Lures

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 3