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Kevin VanDam Wins Fishing Tournaments by Letting Bass Tell Him What They Want

Day 4: Strike King’s Perfect Plastics Catch Bass with Kevin VanDam

Editor’s Note: In the world of bass fishing, Kevin VanDam of Kalamazoo, Michigan, has set the bass-fishing world ablaze with his winning efforts. He was crowned the 2010 BASS Angler of the Year and the winner of the 2011 Bassmaster Classic, besides finishing in the top-12 cuts in a couple of BASS Elite tournaments, in this spring of 2011. But until he fished the BASS Elite Series Tournament on the St. Johns River in March, 2011, his three primary baits since the summer of 2011 had been the Strike King KVD 1.5 and 2.5 and the Strike King Premier Pro-Model spinner bait. However, at this tournament, VanDam’s best efforts came by fishing the Strike King Perfect Plastic lures. VanDam has learned over the years not to argue with the bass. He feeds the bass the lures they’ll eat, not just the lures he thinks they should eat, which is a critical element to his success.

Click for Larger ViewQuestion: Kevin, in many areas of the country in April, spawning activity is still happening, but in much of the Deep South, the spawn has almost ended. You’ve helped develop a wide range of plastic lures made of a special formulation of plastic called Perfect Plastic. What makes this plastic special?

VanDam: Let’s start by explaining the bass spawn. Not all bass spawn at one time. Bass will often spawn for several months all over the country. We just left the St. Johns River in Florida in late March, where the bass will be spawning for several months. The bass in Florida often will start spawning in November and may spawn through March or even into April. Our next tournament is at Pickwick Lake in northwest Alabama in April, and the bass there will be spawning. When you’re sight-fishing and fishing for spawning bass, you have to remember that each bass on the bed is an individual bass. Not all bass like the same shape or color of lure as the other bass do. You may catch a bass on one shape or color of plastic lure, and a bass on the bed 20-yards away may not hit that same lure. If you catch that bass, you may have to use a shape or a color of plastic that’s different than what you’ve used to catch the first bass. If you understand that basic principle, you easily can understand why Strike King has so-many different shapes and colors of plastic lures for you to use to catch spawning bass. When I’m fishing for spawning bass, all my rods have a variety of shapes and colors of soft-plastic lures, because I don’t know which one of those shapes or colors that bedding bass will eat.

Click for Larger ViewFor instance, in Florida, when the sun rose, and I could see the bass on the bed, the number-one lure I used to catch the bedding bass was the Rodent, which was very compact and had a number of appendages. When you put the Rodent in the bass’s bed, that lure had a lot of action to it. I tried different colors of Rodents, including watermelon red and black, blue craw and other colors that imitated crawfish and bluegill. Most of the bass I caught wanted the Rodent. But there were bass in the same places that didn’t want the Rodent, so I’d use a finesse worm or a coffee tube. Although I caught a large number of the bass I weighed-in on the Rodent, I wouldn’t try to force every bedding bass to eat the Rodent. If the bass didn’t want to eat the Rodent, I’d feed them the finesse worm, the coffee tube or any other shape or color of lure that I thought the bass might eat. By having a wide variety of shapes and colors available, I usually could find one shape and color that particular bass would eat on that day. So, at this time of year, I carry a number of different Strike King plastic lures when I’m fishing for bedding bass in plenty of colors. I’ve learned that different bass not only respond to different shapes, but they’ll also respond to certain colors. Each individual bass on the bed may respond better to one particular shape and color than it will any other lure or color.

In most cases, I’ve found that natural colors, like watermelon, green pumpkin and double header red, are the best colors for bedding bass. Some days the bass prefer a white tube to a watermelon-red-and-black Rodent. Some days they prefer green to red. So, I don’t argue with the bass on what they want to eat. I carry a number of soft-plastic lures in various colors and keep changing lures and colors, until I find the particular lure in the exact color that individual bass wants to eat on that day. For instance, the finesse worm on a shaky head jig, because of the way it stands up in the bed, oftentimes is the best way to catch those bedding bass. I’ve had a lot of success using this lure and tactic. But I’ve learned that to be the most successful, I need everything from a Rage Craw to a Toad to a finesse worm, an Ocho, a Space Monkey, a jig or a Rodent. Click for Larger ViewWhen I’m bed fishing, I’ll have eight to 10 rods rigged with different lures, and I’ll try every lure until I find the one that bothers the bass enough to elicit a bite.

Question: Now that we know why we need so-many different soft plastics in so-many colors, tell me what makes Strike King’s Perfect Plastic better than the plastic used by other companies.

VanDam: The Perfect Plastic lures are exceptionally soft, yet durable. The softer a lure is, the more it enhances the action that’s built into the lure. However, you don’t want a lure that’s so soft that every time you get a bite, the lure gets torn-up. That was the compromise Strike King had to work out – how to develop a plastic that was soft enough to get the maximum action out of the appendages on the lure but tough enough that it wouldn’t tear-up every time a bass struck it. We also needed a lure that would allow the hook to pass through it quickly and easily, so you could get a fast and solid hook set. Because the plastic is so soft, you’ll notice that many of the Strike King Perfect Plastic lures have thin arms or tails. Click for Larger ViewThese lures have those thin plastic appendages, so that those arms, tails and legs can move more freely and have greater action. For instance, because the Rodent’s made of really-thin plastic, when it’s just sitting still in the water, it still has a lot of movement.

Also, we put a lot of salt and coffee scent in this plastic. When the bass bites-down on the lure, it holds onto the lure longer, giving the angler more time to get a good, solid hook set. I’m really glad we had an opportunity to discuss the Perfect Plastic, because unless you know what makes the plastic we use so important, you won’t be able to understand why these lures do and catch bass the way they do. The people at Strike King didn’t just pick-up a bottle of plastic and a mold and pour a shape they thought fishermen would buy. They also wanted to know how and why the plastic lures they created moved and acted once they were added to water. They wanted to make sure that once these lures attracted the bass, the lures would have the components – salt and coffee scent – to make the bass keep the lure in its mouth long enough to get a quality hook set.

Tomorrow: The Rodent for Bass with Kevin VanDam

Check back each day this week for more about "Kevin VanDam Wins Fishing Tournaments by Letting Bass Tell Him What They Want "

Day 1: What Lure to Fish When You Can’t See the Bass Going to the Bed with Kevin VanDam
Day 2: Kevin VanDam Quit His Run-and-Gun Bass Fishing Tactics to Fish the Ocho Slow and Steady
Day 3: Kevin VanDam Explains the Importance of Sunglasses When He’s Sight-Fishing
Day 4: Strike King’s Perfect Plastics Catch Bass with Kevin VanDam
Day 5: The Rodent for Bass with Kevin VanDam

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Entry 606, Day 4