John's Journal...

Kevin VanDam Wins $200,000 and the 2009 Angler-of-the-Year Title

A Hill Too High to Climb

Click to enlargeEditor’s Note: On September 18, 2009, Strike King Pro Kevin VanDam of Kalamazoo, Michigan, not only won his second consecutive Angler-of-the-Year title with BASS, he also observed, ”This title was the hardest I ever won for sure. This year was the first that BASS had a post-season tournament to determine the winner of Angler of the Year. The tournament consisted of two events, back to back, and VanDam had to come from behind against what seemed almost-insurmountable odds to pull off the win. Going into this tournament, VanDam was one point ahead of the 2009 Bassmaster Classic Champion, Skeet Reese, for the 2009 Angler-of-the-Year title. VanDam also had to compete against 10 more of the best bass fishermen in the world from the 2009 Click to enlargeseason. This week VanDam will tell us what happened, and how he won.

Question: Kevin, what did you learn the first day of competition that you thought would help you the second day on Lake Jordan?
VanDam: I learned I was fishing the right baits, I was fishing the correct locations, I had the bass on to win the first day, and I was fishing places that held more bass than I thought they did when I’d found them in practice. So, I decided to concentrate my fishing efforts on the locations with the most bass and the places where I’d caught the biggest bass, assuming that those areas would replenish themselves. I was right. I caught 14 pounds of bass on the second day, but unfortunately for me, many of the other competitors also caught numbers of fish. So, I only moved up one place from seventh to sixth on the second and last day of competition at Lake Jordan. The standings were very tight. For instance, Gerald Swindle was in fifth place ahead of me by 1 ounce. Click to enlarge

Question: Kevin, why was your second day of the Lake Jordan tournament better than your first day?
VanDam: I was just able to keep the bass hooked on the second day, although I hadn’t been able to keep them hooked on the first day. I didn’t fish any different places or lures.

Question: What was your go-to bait on the second day of competition?
VanDam: Strike King’s Series 6XD in the Sexy Shad color caught the most bass. The spotted bass at Lake Jordan were holding on main lake points. I had to look for schools of shad on my depth finder. Then I’d start fishing those schools of shad. I caught numbers of suspended bass too, on the second day. I would fish the Series 5 crankbait to catch those suspended bass, and then I’d fish the Series 6 XD to try to catch the bass holding on the bottom in 18 to 20 feet of water. Although I caught mostly spotted bass on day two of the Lake Jordan tournament, I did catch two largemouths each day of the Jordan competition. My best sClick to enlargepotted bass weighed 4 pounds, which was a really-good spotted bass.

Question: Kevin, what did your sixth-place finish do to your chances of winning Angler of the Year and the $200,000 prize money?
VanDam: I dropped to second place in the Angler-of-the-Year race behind Skeet Reese. When I calculated what I’d have to do to still have a chance to win Angler of the Year, I realized I’d have to win the second tournament on the Alabama River, and Skeet Reese couldn’t place any higher than fourth place in that tournament. That seemed like a mountain almost too high to climb. But every contestant thinks he can win a tournament, or he shouldn’t enter. So, I wasn’t concerned about my chances of winning the second tournament. However, I didn’t really believe that Skeet would finish in less than fourth place because he was a great fisherman. He’d won the 2009 Bassmaster Classic, and he was ahead of me in the points for Angler of the Year – all of which proved what a great fisherman he was. Then there were 10-more great fishermen – any one of which could have a super day and beat Skeet and I both.  I decided that I’d do what I had to do to win the tournament and try to put the pressure on Skeet to either win or lose Angler of the Year.

Tomorrow: How and Where I Found the Bass at the Alabama River That Helped Me Win

Check back each day this week for more about "Kevin VanDam Wins $200,000 and the 2009 Angler-of-the-Year Title"

Day 1: Kevin VanDam Couldn’t Keep the Bass Hooked on Day One at Lake Jordan
Day 2: A Hill Too High to Climb
Day 3: How and Where I Found the Bass at the Alabama River That Helped Me Win
Day 4: Fishing Shallow and Using Caffeine to Win at the Alabama River
Day 5: VanDam Found the Mountain Wasn’t Too High to Climb, If He Didn’t Quit


Entry 528, Day 2