John's Journal...

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

Strike King Pros Work Together to Build Better Lures

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: I know that you get a lot of new prototype lures to try and test on the Elite circuit when you’re fishing in competition. How important are these new lures to your ability to catch fish, and how important have they been to you winning Angler of the Year?
VanDam: One of the reasons I like working with Strike King Lure Company is how involved Strike King’s pro staff is with the research-and-development division of their company. When the pro staff comes up with the toClick to enlargeols we need, a different lure design or a problem that we discover while we’re competing, Strike King works with the pros to solve that problem, develop the lure that answers that need or create the color pattern specifically designed to fit a particular fishing situation.

For instance, the new 3/4-ounce version of the Red Eye Shad that was just introduced on July 4 of this year was a lure that I used on the Elite circuit this year and caught some of the key fish that helped me win tournaments.  I knew how good the Red Eye Shad was at catching bass, but I felt like I needed a bigger, heavier Red Eye Shad to fish in deeper water. I told the Strike King R&D department that we need a smaller Red Eye Shad to fish in more-shallow water and a bigger Red Eye Shad to fish in bigger water. They built those baits and got them out to their pros to test during the tournament season.

I also suggested a new formulation for soft-plastic lures. I wanted to take proven fish-catching colors and shapes and improve them a little bit, not only in the quality of the material that Strike King was using, but in the action that the appendages had. So they developed a softer plastic that would make tClick to enlargehe appendages wiggle more, and they added salt to make the material a little stiffer.

Now I don’t want to give the impression that I’m the only one of the Strike King Pros who has input on new lure development. What I really enjoy about being out on the tour is I can go over to Mark Davis, Denny Brauer, Greg Hackney or any of the Strike King pros and say, “Hey, what do you think about this idea for a lure?” and they do the same thing with me. Collectively, we present our ideas to Strike King and ask for changes and improvements. So all the Strike King pros bounce ideas off of each other to come up with our recommendations to the company for new lures or lure improvements. We all brainstorm together to try and make the very-best possible bait not only for us to fish with but for the fishing public. We all want the best lures we can put in our tackle boxes.

Question: So the Strike King pros function as a team when they’re on the BASS circuit, even though they’re competing against each other?
VanDam: Yes, we all use each other as sounding boards to help develop better lures for us to fish withClick to enlargeand for the average fisherman to fish with.

Question: So Kevin, you were fishing with the 3/4-ounce Red Eye Shad and won a tournament with it before Strike King brought it to the marketplace in July, is that correct?
VanDam: Yes, I had them at last year’s Bassmaster Classic, I used it at the first tournament of the year in Florida, and I caught some of the fish I weighed in on it. I also caught fish on it on Kentucky Lake in Gilbertsville, Kentucky, and on Wheeler Lake in Decatur, Alabama, during those tournaments. In many tournaments, it wasn’t the primary bait I caught fish on, but it seemed to always add one or two bass to the catch I weighed in at the end of the day.

Question: Kevin, what make the KVD line of soft plastics different from other soft-plastic lures?
VanDam: The plastic that these lures are made from is super soft, and then we firm up the plastic a little bit by adding salt to it. This new material with the salt in it produces appendages that have much more action than you get from soft plastics. For example, the Ocho is an eight-sided soft-plastic stick worm. By having eight sides, the worm has more wiggle and shimmy compared to other stick worms that are just round. We also added coffee flavoring to these new soft-plastic lures because we’ve learned that the coffee flavoring causes bass to bite the lure better and hold onto it longer.

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

Tomorrow: There’s No Such Thing as Slumps

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 4