John's Journal...

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

Fishing Shallow and Using Caffeine to Win at the Alabama River

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 season. This week VanDam will tell us what happened, and how he won.

Question: Kevin, what was your game plan when you left the launch for the first day of competition on the Alabama River?Click to enlarge
VanDam: I knew I wanted to go to the regions where I’d caught bigger bass during practice. I had set-up a milk run on a 50-mile stretch of the Alabama River. I knew I had a lot of running time between the spots on the river that I’d planned to fish. I also realized that trying to cover that much water quickly would eat up much of my time that I had to spend on each of those places that I wanted to fish. But as I left the launch, the first thing I noticed was how rain had fallen overnight. The river had come up a lot overnight. I also realized that the water was muddier than I’d expected it to be. When I arrived at my first two sites where I wanted to fish, I didn’t catch any bass. When I finally reached a spot where I started catching bass, I decided that I needed to fish even more shallow than I had planned to fish. But the bass wouldn’t hit the spinner bait. I did Click to enlargecatch one good bass on my Sexy Shad spinner bait, and then I caught a few smaller fish on it. However, when I made the lure change, I chose a Strike King Series 1XS, which is an extra-shallow-running crankbait, in the Sexy Shad color. I also started fishing with a Caffeine Shad. Some of the points where I was fishing had scattered water willow grass on them. I threw the Caffeine Shad around those clumps of grass and twitched the bait. The bass would just hammer that bait. I started having a really-good day with those two lures  - the Series 1XS and the Caffeine Shad. Although I caught a bunch of really-nice bass on these two lures, I never caught a really-big one. I finished this first day of the Alabama River tournament with 14 pounds and 3 ounces of bass with a total of five bass. That weight was enough to give me the lead for the first day of the Alabama River tournament.

Question: How shallow were those bass holding, Kevin?
VanDam: I caught some of those bass in 1 foot or less of water. The water was so shallow itClick to enlarge wouldn’t float a boat. I think the main reason the bass were in that extremely-shallow water was because the river was on the rise, the water was very dirty, the shad moved into the shallow water to feed, and the bass followed the shad.

Question: Did this section of the Alabama River have a lot of rain on the first day of the tournament?
VanDam: Yes, we had some rain on the first and the second days of the tournament.

Question: What was the biggest bass you caught on the first day of the competition at the Alabama River?
VanDam: I caught one bass that weighed almost 3 pounds, however, I also caught a number of 2-1/2-pounders.

Question: What weight did Skeet Reese have at the end of this first day of the Alabama River tournament?
VanDam: Skeet had close to 10 pounds and was tied for third, and Kelly Jordan was in second place. I was in the lead by almost 4 pounds. I felt pretty confident then that I could win the tournament, and I felt like I was really putting the pressure on Skeet to hold onto fourth place in the tournament.

Tomorrow: VanDam Found the Mountain Wasn’t Too High To Climb, If He Didn’t Quit  

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 4