John's Journal...

Tournament Fishing with Kevin VanDam

From Goat to Hero – Day 1

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, on the first day of the tournament, where and how were you fishing, and how did you jump into the lead?
VanDam: As soon as we left the launch site, I went straight to my best hole. When I got there, another competitor was sitting on that site. I was really bummed-out because I knew there was a big school of bass on that spot. I saw that angler catch a couple of bass. I went to my second best spot and didn’t get any bites. I was feeling low. I just kept running my route. Then when I reached my third spot, I finally got a bite and caught a big 7- or 8-pound bass. I knew he definitely could put me in the lead if I could catch a few more like him. Just as I lifted that big bass, he came off my lure. I was having a lousy tournament. However, on the next four casts, I was catching bass that weighed from 2- to 4-pounds each. Then, I started feeling a little bit better. I caught the first four fish on a jig. When the bass quit hitting the jig, I tied on that big Strike King Series 6 crankbait. I consecutively caught 2Click to enlarge0 bass fishing this Strike King Series 6 chartreuse with a blue back color lure.

Question: Why did you decide to change over to the crankbait?
VanDam: The first few casts I made to this spot were with a crankbait. I hung the crankbait up on a brush pile. Instead of going up to the brush pile and retrieving the crankbait, I broke the bait off. Then I picked up the jig and cast it out to the spot where I’d hung the crankbait on the brush. That’s when the big bass that I’d lost bit the bait. Then I threw right back to that same brush pile and caught four more bass with the jig. However, after I caught those four bass, I made several more casts but didn’t get a bite. I knew that when you caught bass that fast there usually were more holding in that same spot. I tied on another Series 6 crankbait like the one I’d hung earlier and cast it back to the brush pile and caught over 20 bass on that ledge.

Question: Kevin, let’s go back and look at the beginning of the day. How do you recover mentally when all night long you’ve been dreaming about this large group of bass you’ve already located, but when you get to that spot there’s another competitor fishing there?
VanDam: I was very disappointed. I knew that spot was holding a large school of bass. However, that’s tournament fishing. You can’t fence in a spot and keep other competitors out of it. When you Click to enlargefind someone else on your spot, you have to depend on your other places to produce the bass. In every tournament, I have plenty of backup plans. I know you can never count on one site to win a tournament because too many variables can cause that place not to produce. Therefore, when I practice, I find as many places to fish that are holding bass as I can.

Question: Kevin, after you were disappointed because another competitor was on your best spot, you went to your second-best spot, didn’t get a bite, went to your third-best spot, hooked and brought a 7- to 8-pound bass within grabbing range, and it got off your lure. How did you recover mentally from all this disappointment?
VanDam: I’ve learned over the years that when I lose a big bass, there’s nothing I can do to bring it back – he’s gone. The best thing you can do is remember what you’ve done to get that big bass to bite and repeat that same cast to that same spot and work your lure the same way in hopes of getting another bass to bite. I’ve learned many years ago that you can’t allow losing a bass to get you frustrated or cause you to lose your composure or abandon your game plan. You can’t let losing a bass ruin your day of fishing because the fish is gone. You have to regroup mentally and use that loss to hopefully catch another fish.

Question: Once you switched to the crankbait, you caught more than 20 bass consecutively. How big wereClick to enlarge those bass?
VanDam: The fish weighed 2-1/2- to 4-pounds each. I’d put together a good stringer on the first morning of the tournament. I had about 15 to 16 pounds total for five bass. I was feeling a lot better than I had been feeling earlier in the morning.

Question: Did you hit any more hot spots that first day after you had a good limit of fish?
VanDam: Yes, I did. I kept hitting more spots and looking for bigger fish. Later in the day, I fished another one of my spots and caught a 5-pound bass, which gave me an 18-pound-plus stringer for the first day. Since I was able to cull a couple of 2- and 3-pound fish, I felt like I had a good stringer for the first day. At the end of the day, I was in first place with 18 pounds plus. There were a lot of others who had 16- and 17-pound stringers, and others who had 13- and 14-pound stringers. I was kind of surprised that 18-pounds plus was leading after the first day. Don’t get me wrong, I always enjoy leading in a tournament. I also realize that I’m fishing against the best anglers in the world. I didn’t feel that lead was very secure. I knew the fishing would be tough every day of the tournament. Kentucky Lake gets as much fishing pressure as any lake in the nation.

Tomorrow: From Goat to Hero – Day 2

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 3