John's Journal...

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

VanDam Found the Mountain Wasn’t Too High to Climb, If He Didn’t Quit

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 were you thinking on the morning of the last day of competition when you were waiting for the start of day two of the Alabama River tournament?
VanDam: I was thinking that I needed to make sure that I went out and stayed in the lead. That way I’d have the maximum number of points I needed to have a chance to win Angler of the Year. I was hoping some of the competitors other than Skeet would have a good day. Skeet was tied for third place at the beginning of this last day of the Alabama River tournament, so he was barely hanging on to his lead for the AngleClick to enlarger-of-the-Year title.

Question: How did you do on the last tournament day?
VanDam: I went out and caught a big stringer of bass during the first hour of the tournament. I knew I had enough to stay in the lead. That afternoon the rain fell as hard as I’d seen it in a long time.

Question: What were the bass holding on, and on what were you catching them?
VanDam: I was fishing in somewhat-deeper water, and I caught most of my bass on this second day of the Alabama River tournament on a Series 5 crankbait in the Sexy Shad color. I also caught two bass I weighed-in on a 3/8-ounce jighead with a 3-1/2-inch Shadalicious in the Sexy Shad color. All the fish I weighed in that day were spotted bass.

Question: How big was your biggest spotted bass on this last day of the Alabama River tournament?
VanDam: It was a 4-pounder.

Question: What was the weight of your bass at the end of the last day of the Alabama River tournament?
VanDam: I had 16 pounds and some odd ounces of bass, and I caught all of them in the first hour of the tournament day. I learned that when the current was running on the Alabama River that those spotted bass really went on a feeding frenzy. These spots liked to set-up on points where they could ambush shad. Click to enlarge

Question: How much spectator pressure did you have on this last day, Kevin?
VanDam: I had about 20-30 boats of spectators. However, those spectators really didn’t affect my fishing, because they stayed well away from me while I was fishing. They really weren’t an issue for me.

Question: O.k., Kevin, you get back to the boat ramp, you get your bag of fish, and you walk to the weigh-in stand. What were you thinking?
VanDam: I knew the race for Angler of the Year would be close. I could see that some of the other contestants had 10-11 pounds of bass for this last day. I thought that Skeet would barely skooch into fourth place, and then I’d be one place out of Angler-of-the-Year race. I weighed in before Skeet, so I knew I’d won the Alabama River tournament.  But I really didn’t know how the Angler-of-the-Year race would end, until Skeet weighed-in. He weighed-in 10 pounds of bass, and I’d already figured he’d have to have 11-1/2-pounds to win. When I saw he had only 10 pounds, a flood of emotions hit me when I knew I’d won the Angler-of-the-Year title. Skeet placed in sixth place in the Alabama River tournament.

Question: What did winning your second Angler-of-the-Year title consecutively mean to you?Click to enlarge
VanDam: To be able to perform at that level of bass fishing for 2 years, back to back, was really a big deal for me. Winning Angler of the Year one time was hard enough, but winning it for 2-consecutive years was great. The level of competition in bass fishing gets tougher every year, and I’m really excited about this win. And what made my win every more special was that Skeet came up and congratulated me after I’d won. Then that night at dinner, Skeet came over and congratulated me again. I’d been in the same place before that Skeet was in, and I knew how he felt. No one likes to lose, especially the Angler-of-the-Year title. I really think a lot of Skeet Reese and know he’s one of the best bass fishermen in the country.  

Question: If you had to pull out the baits from your tackle box that caused you to win Angler of the Year for 2009, what would they be?
VanDam: I’d have to say: the Kevin VanDam spinner bait in the 3/8-ounce with the double willow-leaf blades and Sexy Shad color; the Series 5 crankbait in the Sexy Shad color; the Series 1 XS, also in the Sexy Shad color; the Caffeine Shad; and the Series 6 XD. 

Question: Over the 4 days of fishing Lake Jordan and the Alabama River, what were the total number of bass you caught for these tournaments?
VanDam: I probably caught 75 bass. I’m looking forward to coming back to Alabama in February, 2010, to participate in the Bassmaster Classic.

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 5