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Victory from Defeat with Kevin VanDam on Lake Dardanelle

Final Day of Competition – When All Hell Breaks Loose

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 were the weather conditions on the last day of competition?
VanDam: The water temperature had dropped 15 degrees, and the water level had dropped 1 foot.

Click to enlargeQuestion: So, what did that do to the bass you were trying to catch?
VanDam: The conditions smoked my bass. They didn’t like that cold weather or the fact that the water dropped. I caught one keeper in my area that morning and one short bass. I stayed in that spot for awhile thinking the bass might still bite. But I really knew when I first saw the water temperature and the water level that fishing in this section was probably over.

Question: Kevin, historically, you have been at your best when the conditions were at their worst. Why?
VanDam: I try to have a plan for bad conditions. That plan doesn’t always work, but I try to look into the future and decide how I’ll react if bad conditions prevent me from fishing where and how I want to fish. I don’t want to be at a tournament and get stunned and stuck.

Question: What was your plan for a drop in water level of about 1 foot and a 15-degree drop in temperature?
VanDam: Remember, I had a secondary pattern on deep, isolated wood. The air temperature was 32 degrees, and the water was dirty, but I knew the sun would be shining at some time that day. When the water’s cold, the bass often will come to shallow wateClick to enlarger to get some heat from the sun. When I didn’t catch bass in the area where I’d been fishing before, I decided to leave that place and go to those isolated stumps and logs at about 10:00 a.m. On the way to my back-up area, I blew my engine. So, I called for a back-up boat.

Question: Okay, Kevin, you were in the worst situation a tournament fisherman can experience. You had one bass in the live well, the place you’d been fishing wasn’t holding bass any longer, and on the way to your back-up area, you blew your big engine.You were dead in the water, and you had to call for another boat to return to the boat ramp. Your situation was totally desperate. What did you do?
VanDam: I sat down, thought about what was happening and decided I couldn’t worry about the things I couldn’t control, like the weather and the water conditions and my blown engine. But I could keep a positive attitude and try to figure out a way to reach the water I wanted to fish and continue to fish while I was getting there. So, I put down my trolling motor, turned it up high and ran 1/2-mile to reach the place I wanted to fish, while I waited for the back-up boat to reach me. I was just getting to the water I wanted to fish when I saw the back-up boat coming. So, I flipped to the first stump I wanted to fish and caught two short bass. I kept fishing that water, and before the boat reached me, there were two more isolated stumps I wanted to fish. Off the first stump, I caught a 5 pounder, and then I flipped to the second stump and caught a bass that weighed almost 5 pounds, just as the back-upClick to enlarge boat was approaching. Catching those two bass that quick in the middle of this disaster really gave me a boost of confidence. I swapped boats, continued to run that stump pattern, caught my limit and was able to upgrade my limit. I finished the day catching almost 20 pounds of bass. I was only a little bit short of winning the tournament. Mark Menendez had a good day and caught the bass to win, and I was proud for him.

Question: Wait a minute, how do you explain catching 20 pounds of bass when the water level had fallen, the temperature had dropped 15 degrees, you had one little bass in the live well, and you blew an engine in the middle of the day?
VanDam: In the middle of this disaster, I realized that because the water level had dropped, and the water was muddy, I could see and fish the stumps I wanted to fish better. And, because the temperature was cold, the bass had moved to the stumps for warmth. That’s why I made the change.

Question: How do you keep your head together when everything around you is falling apart?
VanDam: From my experience in bass fishing, I’ve learned there are two types of problems – problems you can fix, and problems you can’t fix. When there are variables in fishing tournaments or in life that you can’t control, don’t worry about them. There was nothing I could do about the engine, the weather or the water, but I could run my trolling motor and keep fishing until help arrived.

Question: Did you think you had enough bass to win the tournament?
VanDam: I knew the weather conditions were bad and that many of the other competitors were struggling. So, I knew I had a chance to win. But Mark had been fishing solid all week, and I didn’t want to wish bad luck on anybody. So, even though I didn’t win, I moved from third to second place and took home a check worth more than $20,000.

Tomorrow: Start Thinking about Tomorrow and Solving Problems In the Middle of the Disaster

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 4