John's Journal...

Kevin VanDam's $200,000 Strike King Lure

When the Sky Cried

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: Kevin, what happened on day three of the tournament?
VanDam: Day three really was a tough day for me. I went to all the places where I’d caught fish before and all the areas I’d fished, and I did catch a few bass, but nothing like I’d caught the first few days. I had numbers of spectators following me all day. I didn’t hold back. I fished every spot I had and fished it as hard as I could, but I really was struggling. On the previoustwo days, I only had to fish half a day. Then I could relax, practice and not have to be intense or have to chunk and wind as fast as I did in the morning. However, on the third day, I had to stClick to enlargeay focused all day, beat the water to a froth and use every spot I planned to fish during the tournament to catch the 16-pound limit I caught that day.

Question: What happened to turn the bite off for you, Kevin?
VanDam: The big difference was that on day three, a major weather front came through the area. The skies were cloudy, and rain fell for most of the day. The sun never came out that day, and the bass never moved up onto the bank or into the points where I was fishing. Too, many white bass were catching shad, so the schools were scattered. The two days before, the sun pulled the shad out of the deep water and into the shallow water, causing them to hold onto the points. With that overcast sky and rain, the bass didn’t come out of the deep water. Or, if they did, they didn’t stay in shallow long. When the shad didn’t come up to feed, the bass didn’t either. The weather conditions not only affected me, but also the entire field of competitors. All the guys fishing offshore were having trouble like me. Jeff Kriet had been fishing pretty solid and consistently and was in the lead. On the third day, Jeff really had a good day and caught 24 pounds. He took the lead away from me by 7 ounces. If I was going to get the lead back and win the tournament, I’d have to catch a really-good stringer of bass on the last day of competition.

Question: Did the rain cut down on the number of spectators you had following you?
VanDam: Yes, somewhat. I only had about 40 to 50 following me on Saturday, and I’m sure there would have been many more out there, if not for the pouring rain.

Question: Kevin, one of your strengths as a fisherman is being able to adjust to changing conditions. How did you adjust to the changing weather and water conditions in this tournament?
VanDam: On rainy days, the bass generally move shallow and becomClick to enlargee more aggressive. But with the muddy-water color, this idea wasn’t true. The shad moving shallow usually cause the bass to move shallow. Since the shad didn’t move shallow, neither did the bass. I noticed on my depth finder that the shad were staying out in deeper water.Wherever the shad were holding on the depth finder was more than likely about the same depth where the bass would be holding. I knew the shad didn’t move to shallow water, and more than likely, neither did the bass.

To answer your question of how I adjusted, I spent more time fishing my Series 6 crankbait out on the deeper points than I did the other three days of the tournament. That’s how I caught my fish – cranking deeper points further offshore. I had three really-good bass and two smaller fish. I was really only a couple of good bites away from a 21-pound string, but I never got the one or two bites I needed. That’s why I finished the third day with only 16 pounds. The bass weren’t taking the bait well, and I had a couple of bass pull off. I really was struggling.

Question: Why didn’t you pull out of that deep water, move into more-shallow water and start flipping the willows when you had rain, muddy, rising water and overcast skies?
VanDam: If the bass wanted to go shallow, they would have been shallow in practice. From everything I know and learned at this tournament, I knew that the better-quality fish would be caught in deeper water, which was confirmed when I saw the shad staying in deeper water on my depth finder. I knew I had to live or die with tClick to enlargehe Strike King Series 5 and Series 6 crankbaits in the Sexy Shad color in the deeper water, on the ugly points. Remember, the power company was pulling water out of the lake 24/7. With that much current in the lake, the bass had to pull up on that point at some time during the day. The bass might not be holding as shallow as I’d like, but with that much water coming through, they generally were somewhere on those points.

Question: At the end of the third day of the tournament, you were in 2nd place. When you went to bed that night, were you worried about winning the tournament?
VanDam: Not really. I knew I had to go out and catch a big limit of bass the next day, just like I’d done the two of the three days of the tournament. I also watched the Weather Channel, and the forecast said we’d have sun – the same conditions as when I’d caught the fish on the first and the second days. I felt the conditions would be right to have a good day and catch quality fish.

Question: Did you think you’d have to catch the bass early or grind out one fish here and there all day?
VanDam: If I could catch bass and numbers of bass at one of my first stops, I’d be in the running to win the tournament. Every morning, a good rally of fish would bite until about 1:00 pm. After lunch, there seemed to be another feeding period when the bass would bite really well. I knew going into the last day that if I was going to win, I’d have to keep chunking and winding all day to bring out a good limit of bass.

Tomorrow: Winning Day

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 4