John's Journal...

Kevin VanDam's $200,000 Strike King Lure

Here Come the Crowds

Click to enlargeEditor’s Note: On June 24, Kevin VanDam of Kalamazoo, Michigan, won his second Bassmaster’s Elite Series event of the year at Oklahoma’s Grand Lake. VanDam finished with a four-day tournament total of 78 pounds, 12 ounces, beating out Jeff Kriet of Ardmore, Oklahoma, by almost 4 pounds. This victory, VanDam’s 12th, adds another $100,000 to his career earnings of nearly $2.5 million, making him the B.A.S.S. all-time money leader. The victory also propelled VanDam to the top of the standings for the title of Bassmaster Angler-of-the-Year. The same lure VanDam used to win the Elite Series tournament on Lake Guntersville produced another win for him at Grand Lake. The new crankbait VanDam designed, Strike King’s Sexy Shad, is a prototype, but should be in dealer’s stores by fall. Because of the publicity this lure already has and will receive, many dealers have a waiting list of fishermen who want to buy the lure as soon as it arrives in stores. This week, we’ll look at how VanDam won another $100,000 tournament.

Question: What flight were you in on the first morning of the tournament?
VanDam: I was the 30th boat to start. I knew before I took off that I’d spend the day cranking points. I was determined to fish at least 30 points every day. I knew that I’d fish some of my better points twice a day at different times, hoping that if I didn’t catch bass the first time I fished a point, the bass might be there the next time. Bass move up and down pClick to enlargeoints all day, and when fishing for bass on points, fishing a point at the same time the bass feed at that spot is crucial. The advantage of having 30-different spots to fish and fishing those 30 points atvarious times of the day is that over a four-day event, then you have several places available to fish, without having to depend on just one honey hole. The secret is to be at the right place when the bass move up and then trick those fish into biting. Over a four-day event, using a milk-run system allows for more consistency, because it provides more points to fish.

Question: Where was your first stop the first morning of the tournament?
VanDam: I went to my first ugly point where I caught the 7-pounder the first day of practice, but I didn’t get a single bite. Since I knew that could happen, I went to my second spot and caught a small limit of keepers. I caught eight or 10 bass consecutively, with a couple of them not being keepers and only weighing about 10 pounds total. I knew I had to catch all the bass I could off that point, because I had about 25-spectator boats following me.

Question: What do spectator boats do to your fishing spot?
VanDam: Many times, spectators follow the pros to learn where the pros are fishing, so that when the pros leave the area, they can fish it. I had to catch all the fish I cClick to enlargeould off one spot because I knew as soon as I didn’t, the spectators would move onto the same location when I left it and catch all the bass. I kept fishing the area and finally triggered some bigger bass to bite. I was able to cull my limit and get it up to about 18 or 19 pounds before the bass shut off. By 8:00 am, I had five fish that weighed a total of 19 pounds. For this lake, that was a really-good catch. I decided to stay away from the better sites I’d pinpointed where I had confidence I’d catch big fish. I knew I’d need those places later in the tournament. If I went to them then and showed the spectators where I was fishing, I wouldn’t be able to catch fish in those areas over the next few days. I went to a few other regions I thought had the potential to produce big bass. I really practiced the rest of the day, looking for more water to fish and more places to catch bass away from my milk run. I caught a couple more big bass and ended the day leading the tournament with about 21 pounds.

Question: Kevin, as a pro, is learning how to deal with the spectators just as important as learning how to catch the bass?
VanDam: Absolutely. At this tournament, the spectators were pretty good. But there’s a few in every crowd that will let you bird-dog fishing spots for them. Then as soon as you leave, they’ll move on it and fish it as hard as they can. Many times, during this tournament, I’d leave a site and come back 30-minutes later and see a spectator sitting on it and fishing it.

Question: What does it do to you mentally, when you’re in a tournament and have a place where you know you can catch more bass, but when you return to that spot, you fiClick to enlargend a local angler fishing it?
VanDam: That situation bothers me mentally. No doubt about it. When I work hard to locate a place to catch bass and this is the way I feed my family and make a living, it’s discouraging when someone follows you, finds the place you’ve been fishing and fishes that location. But this is the nature of the game we play. We fish public waters, and the public has a right to fish where we fish. That’s why when I pull up on a spot, I catch every fish I can off that area.

Question: Kevin, how were you working the Sexy Shad? What rod, reel, line and type of retrieve were you using to make the bass bite?
VanDam: I was fishing a 7-foot Quantum Tour Edition PT cranking rod with a Quantum Energy PT reel with a 5.1:1 gear ratio on 17-pound-test Bass XPS fluorocarbon line. I’d cast the Sexy Shad into about 4 feet of water and really burn the bait as fast as I could back to the boat. I had to move the bait really fast to trigger the bass into biting. If I used a slower retrieve, I couldn’t get a strike. Although the bass were sitting on these points and really not feeding, when they saw the shad run by in a hurry like they were scared, that triggered a reaction strike and made the bass eat the bait. I still would bounce the lure off the bottom, hit it on the rocks, pause for a second and then start burning the bait again. I was definitely using a fast retrieve.

Tomorrow: And the Crowd Went Wild

Check back each day this week for more about "Kevin VanDam's $200,000 Strike King Lure"

Day 1: Look For the Hidden Spot
Day 2: Here Come the Crowds
Day 3: And the Crowd Went Wild
Day 4: When the Sky Cried
Day 5: Winning Day



Entry 411, Day 2