John's Journal...

Kevin VanDam's 11th B.A.S.S. Tournament Victory

The Final Day

Click to enlargeEditor’s Note: On the last weekend in April, 2007, even with one day cancelled due to bad weather at the B.A.S.S. Elite Series Tournament at Lake Guntersville in Alabama, Kevin VanDam of Kalamazoo, Michigan, pulled off a win, earning $100,000. This year’s win was VanDam’s 11th B.A.S.S. Tournament victory and his 67th, top-10 career finish. This week, we’ll look at how VanDam found and caught the bass, lost the fish and relocated them to win the tournament. You’ll see the strategy that’s required to win a big-league bass tournament, and how to apply techniques to win like a pro.

Question: What were your thoughts on the final day of the tournament? Did you think you had a chance to win?
VanDam: The forecast called for high, bright skies with no wind, which weren’t good conditions for spinner bait fishing. I knew the shad were spawning and that I should be able to catch bass early in the day before the sun was very high in the sky. I first went to the Click to enlargesame area where I’d caught bass on the second day. When I arrived at the second spot I’d gone to the day before, I caught a couple of fish. I barely hooked a couple of good-sized bass. These bass didn’t take the bait very well, so I didn’t catch them. I said to myself, “Kevin, this isn’t good. The sun’s getting high and you’re about to lose your opportunity to entice an aggressive bite on your spinner bait.” Although the bass were biting, I left that area and went to my back-up crankbait spot. Regardless of how good the fisherman is and how good the bass are biting, if the bass won’t take the baits deep enough into their mouths for the angler to get a good hook set, it’s time to change water and find another more-aggressive school. This often is a tough call to make, but I knew I had to move, if I wanted to win. When I arrived at the crankbait site, I caught one 5-pound bass on the first cast, two 3 pounders on my second and third casts, and a 15-inch keeper-sized bass. With one fish left to catch to meet my limit, I decided to leave that spot and return to the place where I’d missed so many bass in the morning. I also decided to fish a little deeper and slower. Click to enlarge

I placed a 1/2-ounce Strike King spinner bait on my line instead of a 3/4-ounce spinner bait, and I caught bass immediately. When I put the first keeper-sized bass in my box, I knew I’d caught my limit. I decided to slow-down my fishing and work the water methodically. Once I slowed down, I landed another 5 pounder and a 4 pounder. I was able to cull two fish of my limit. At 9:30 am, I knew I had more than 20 pounds of bass. Because I had a quality stringer of bass early, I was confident that I could fish methodically with a crankbait for the rest of the day.

The Strike King Series 5 crankbait worked very-well for me. The bass weren’t biting very-aggressively, but once I lowered the Series 5 into the grass and ripped it out of the grass, the bass smoked it. I caught a 7 pounder and another 5 pounder. By 10:30 am, I had 25.5 pounds of bass in my live well, and I knew that weight would be hard to beat. I caught a lot of bass on the final day, alternating between the Strike King spinner Click to enlargebait and the Series 5 crankbait. I let both baits fall down to the grass and swim through the grass. Then I’d rip them free when they got hung in the grass. When I ripped the baits free, the bass attacked.

Question: Kevin, how far from first place were you at the beginning of the last day?
VanDam: I was less than 2 pounds behind the leader, and I knew I’d be hard to beat with 25 pounds in my boat.

Question: What were your thoughts as you moved through the weigh-in line?
VanDam: I was in fourth place at the beginning of the last day, and I had a pretty good idea that I was in a good position to win.

Question: How much money did you win at this tournament, Kevin?
VanDam: I won $100,000.

Tomorrow: More with Kevin VanDam

Check back each day this week for more about "Kevin VanDam's 11th B.A.S.S. Tournament Victory"

Day 1: Pre-Practice at Lake Guntersville
Day 2: Day One of the B.A.S.S. Elite Tournament
Day 3: Day Two of the B.A.S.S. Elite Tournament
Day 4: The Final Day
Day 5: More with Kevin VanDam



Entry 405, Day 4