John's Journal...

Tournament Fishing with Kevin VanDam

How It All Began

Click to enlargeEditor’s Note: Kevin VanDam of Kalamazoo, Michigan, currently ranks number 29 on the B.A.S.S. trail, and led in the last B.A.S.S. Elite Tournament held on Kentucky Lake in Benton, Kentucky, for two out of the four days of the tournament. This week we’ll learn how VanDam found, caught and lost fish, and what elements caused him to drop from first to third place. We’ll also learn how to find and catch bass in the summer by following VanDam through the tournament and learning why he made the decisions he made. This week, you’ll be able to get inside the head of Kevin VanDam and learn what makes him tick.

Question: Kevin, what was happening on Kentucky Lake, and how did you find your fish and catch them?
VanDam: When I got to the lake, I found that the fish were holding on their usual summertime pattern on the Tennessee River – primarily on the main river ledges and points. I was catching most of my bass with a Strike King Series 6 crankbait. Most of the fish I was catching were in 13- to 15-foot-deep water.

Click to enlargeQuestion: Most anglers don’t fish those deep-diving crankbaits on deep ledges. They usually fish soft-plastic lures. What were you doing?
VanDam: I knew that the bass were deep. I felt like I needed to get my crankbait down a little deeper than it normally runs. I spooled up 12-pound fluorocarbon line because it would sink and had a very-small diameter. The fluorocarbon line allowed the bait to go an extra foot or two deeper than it would on monofilament line.

Question: Were you putting your rod tip in the water?
VanDam: No, I was not kneeling and reeling like Mississippi’s Paul Elias. I was holding my rod tip low to the water. Since this fluorocarbon line was so small, it would make any bait run deeper.

Question: What color Strike King Series 6 crankbait were you using?
VanDam: I was using the chartreuse with the blue back crankbait, pretty much a Click to enlargestandard summertime color for crankbaits anywhere on the Tennessee River. The water had a green tint to it, and the bait looked very much like a shad. I’d say that this would be one of the most-popular crankbait colors on most of these big-water lakes like the Tennessee River.

Question: How were the fish positioned, and how were you working the bait?
VanDam: There wasn’t much current coming through the dam because we hadn’t had much rain, but there was enough wind to create a current. If there was current from the wind, the bass would be holding on the top edge of the ledge. I cast the crankbait out and reeled it until it was hitting the top edge of the ledge. I think the critical key in my lure presentation was that I was reeling the bait fast. I thought that reeling the bait fast in the summertime would trigger the inactive bass to bite. I was using a 5:1 baitcasting reel, but I was cranking fast and hard to get that reaction bite.

Question: What kind of structure are you fishing on those ledges?
VanDam: There are all types of structure on those river ledges, including shell beds, occasional stumps and brush, and some ledges with rocks on them. That Series 6 crankbait skips along the bottom and crashes into structure, even when I just hit the bottom. The bait will deflect off the bottom and run erratically. I’ve found that if you reel that crankbait slowly, you don’t get as many bites as you do when you reel it fast.

Question: Kevin, how did you find the bass you caught?
VanDam: During practice, I spent plenty of time studying a lake map, idling around, studying the ledges and tClick to enlargehe fish holding on them. I was looking for irregularities on the ledges. Just finding a straight ledge wasn’t enough to hold fish. I was searching for little turns and points on those underwater ledges, and even for depth change on top of the ledge. Shallow or high spots on top of a ledge also would provide an ambush point for bass.

Question: What were you doing other than reeling fast to get the bass to bite?
VanDam: When the Strike King Series 6 crankbait crashed into some type of structure, I stopped the bait as though it were stunned and started reeling it fast again. If there were a school of fish holding within sight of my crankbait, I could often trigger one of the bass in that school to bite. If I could catch one or two bass on that crankbait, I’d use the Strike King Pro-Model jig and catch more fish out of the school. With the jig, I could slow down my fishing and finesse the other fish into biting.

Question: What size and color jig were you using?
VanDam: I was fishing a 1/2-ounce Strike King Pro-Model jig in the chameleon craw color with a green pumpkin Denny Brauer Chunk as a trailer.

Tomorrow: Critical Factors to Success – GPS and Wind

Check back each day this week for more about " Tournament Fishing with Kevin VanDam"

Day 1: How It All Began
Day 2:Critical Factors to Success - GPS and Wind
Day 3: From Goat to Hero – Day 1
Day 4: From Goat to Hero – Day 2
Day 5: From Goat to Hero – Last Day


Entry 358, Day 1