John's Journal...

Victory from Defeat with Kevin VanDam on Lake Dardanelle

The First Day of Competition

Click to enlargeEditor’s Note: If we learn how tournament fishermen achieve success consistently, we’ll be able to take those lessons and use them to reach success in our family and work lives every day. At the 2009 BASS Elite Series tournament held on Lake Dardanelle in Russellville, Arkansas, March 26-29, Kevin VanDam of Kalamazoo, Michigan, demonstrated how to deal with adversity, what to do when you’re in the middle of a crisis, and how never giving up can lead to victory. We’ll learn how VanDam has become one of the most-successful bass fishermen, as well as an accomplished businessman and family man. We all experience struggles, but how we deal with them  dramatically impacts our success.

Question: Kevin, what happened the first day of the Lake Dardanelle tournament?
VanDam: When I was waiting to leave the weigh-in area, I noticed the water level had risen about 1 foot, which gave me a lot of confidence. Rising water tends to make bass feel Click to enlargemore comfortable and bite better than falling water. So, with the shallow-water pattern I’d developed in practice, I was expecting a really-good day of fishing.

Question: So, what was your first day like?
VanDam: I busted the bass on the first day of the tournament. First thing in the morning, I caught several bass on the Strike King KVD swim jig and missed a few bass, however I could tell the bass really wanted that bait. But the bass weren’t taking the bait the way I wanted, so I changed to the Caffeine Shad, a soft-plastic jerkbait.  The bass ate it up. I caught almost every bass I weighed-in on the Caffeine Shad.

Question: How did you make the decision to put down the swim jig, even though the bass were biting it, and change to the Caffeine Shad.Click to enlarge
VanDam: The water in the area where I was fishing was pretty clear, and I knew the Caffeine Shad imitated a bluegill very well. I could see a number of bluegills in the water, and the bass were chasing them around their beds. I felt the Caffeine Shad in the watermelon color would be a good bait to use, since the bass were already chasing and trying to eat these fish. The Caffeine Shad, part of the Perfect Plastic line from Strike King, is a relatively new bait. It has a new action and coffee and salt in it. So, even though it’s a soft-plastic jerkbait, it’s different from other soft-plastic jerkbaits on the market. With the Caffeine Shad, I could get the bass excited, and I made sure the bass could catch and eat this bait.

Question: What pound-test line did you use with the Caffeine Shad?Click to enlarge
VanDam: I fished 20-pound-test fluorocarbon line and twitched the bait fast four or five times. Since the Caffeine Shad had a really-high salt content in it, when I’d kill the bait, it would fall and kind of quiver as it fell like a dying baitfish. Those spawning bass just couldn’t stand that action. Those bass ate-up that bait like it was free popcorn at a circus.

Question: How big were the bass you caught?
VanDam: They were 2-1/2- to 4-pounds each, and I finished the day with five fish weighing a total of 15-1/2-pounds. I was either in 10th or 11th place after the first day of competition.

Question: Did you feel that pattern would hold-up throughout the entire tournament?
VanDam: I felt confident that as long as the weather stayed warm and stable, I’d be able to catch bass in that area with the Caffeine Shad. I could tell there were a number of new bass moving into that region, so I was really confident in that pattern.

Question: So, did you stay with that section the entire day?
VanDam: No, I didn’t. I left the area kind of early because I couldn’t seem to catch any bigger bass than the ones already in my live well. When I left, I tried to fish other spots for the rest of the day to see if those places were holding bass.

Tomorrow: The Second Day of Competition

Check back each day this week for more about "Victory from Defeat with Kevin VanDam on Lake Dardanelle"

Day 1: What I Learned in Practice
Day 2: The First Day of Competition
Day 3: The Second Day of Competition
Day 4: Final Day of Competition – When All Hell Breaks Loose
Day 5: Start Thinking about Tomorrow and Solving Problems In the Middle of the Disaster


Entry 504, Day 2