John's Journal...

Kevin VanDam Takes 3rd Place at the Bassmaster Legends Tournament on Lake Dardanelle

The Third Day of the Competition

Click to enlargeEditor’s Note: In the last Bassmaster Legends tournament at Lake Dardanelle in Russellville, Arkansas in late August 2007, Kevin VanDam took third place. Only one pound and a few ounces from first place, he won $29,500. Before this tournament, VanDam’s career winnings totaled $2,509,458.30, averaging $12,738.37 per tournament. He’s No. 2 in the race for the 2007 Angler-of-the-Year title, and right now, VanDam is as hot as a firecracker with his fishing. VanDam’s strengths are that he rapidly can adapt to changing water and weather conditions, and he’s not afraid to fish any bait.

Question: Kevin, what happened on the third day of the tournament?
VanDam: When we got up that morning, there were thunderstorms and a lot of rain moving through the area. The weather had been 100 degrees for the last few weeks, and this day was the first real break in the weather. A big front was coming through with a lot of clouds and rain.  So, I thought the bass would be more aggressive in the creek and that  I’d be able to catch them on spinner baits and buzzbaits. On the first day I started fishing the holes, I learned that this creek had a lot of shallow grass, bridge pilings and rocks in it. Dean Rojas was leading the tournament with almost 17 pounds, fishing a rubber frog. When I started fishing that morning, I discovered that the bass were really aggressive. I caught a couple of bass on a frog and a couple flipping the grass with a Strike King tube. I finished the day with 12-1/2-pounds. I made the top-6 cut and was in fourth place.  Click to enlarge

Question: Two days before you started fishing the holes, you were catching as many as 100 fish a day and really smoking the bass. How did you feel only having 12 pounds when you started fishing the holes?
VanDam: The thing that really threw me off the first day we fished the holes was the weather. I knew I could catch a lot of bass on a crankbait.  Although the holes were in the back of a creek, the main river was moving with a lot of flow. I knew there would be some current around the bridge pilings, so I planned to do a lot of crankbait fishing that day. But when those bass started biting shallow at the beginning of the morning, I spent too much time in shallow water, which really hurt me. Having to fish a lot of patterns and catch bass in various ways on the first day in the holes was difficult. I knew that on the last day of the tournament, I’d need a really-big day to have a chance to win. I had a 4-1/2-pound deficit going into that final day. I also knew that there were plenty of quality fish in that creek. If I could get a 5- or a 6-pound bite, that fish could go a long way to helping me win the tournament. 

Question: What hole did you start in on the last day?Click to enlarge
VanDam: I started in the No. 1 hole, which had the intake for the power plant and a couple of creeks with bridges on them, which were all good crankbait locations. On the first cast of the last day, I hooked and lost a good-sized fish. On the second cast, I caught two keepers on one lure. They weren’t very big, but they were both keeper fish. 

Question: What bait did you use to catch those two fish?
VanDam: I fished Series 5 in the Sexy Shad color. I caught another one off the same spot with the same bait a few minutes later. After I left the first hole, I had three keepers in the boat, and even though they weren’t very big, I felt good about only having to catch two more bass to make a limit. When I moved into the second hole, I immediately caught a 4-1/2-pounder off one of the bridges on the same Series 5 crankbait. Then, I caught one more, giving me my limit. As I moves further back into this creek, I didn’t find much crankbait-type of water. I caughClick to enlarget several more fish flipping. I caught a lot of fish that day.  At the end of the final day, B.A.S.S. lets you have “happy hour,” where you can fish any one of the holes you want to fish. I went to the holes where I was catching bass on crankbaits and started catching bass pretty good. I caught a 3-1/2-pounder during happy hour. On the very-next cast, I caught another double on the same bait. One of the fish weighed about 3 pounds and the other weighed about 2-1/4-pounds. I ended up catching a lot of bass on the last day.

I now have more faith in the Series 5 Sexy Shad color than any other crankbait I’ve ever fished. I’ve already won two tournaments with it and finished third in this tournament where all the fish I weighed in were caught on the Series 5 Sexy Shad crankbait, except one. I caught the other fish on a Denny Brauer Pro-Model jig. 

Question: Has the Series 5 in the Sexy Shad color become your magic bait?
VanDam: The Strike King Series 5 has always been one of my favorite lures. But I have a lot of confidence in the Sexy Shad pattern. It’s like the KVD blue-shad-colored spinner bait. It’s my favorite, too. It’s a really-good color any place there’s shad. It’s my high-confidence spinner bait. 

Question: What did you think before you started the tournament?
VanDam: I thought I’d need one big fish and a limit every day to win. I finished the tournament about 1-1/2-pounds out of first place. If I could have caught one more 4 pounder, I would have had enough weight to win. I did everything I could to catch that bass, but I just couldn’t find and catch it. However, I did catch the biggest stringer of the final day – 16 pounds. None of the other competitors caught a weight even close to that.  I only had 12-1/2-pounds the first day of the tournament, and if I could’ve caught one or two big fish that first day, I could have won.

Tomorrow: What I Learned

Check back each day this week for more about "Kevin VanDam Takes 3rd Place at the Bassmaster Legends Tournament on Lake Dardanelle"

Day 1: What I Learned in Practice
Day 2: Lures that Catch Everything that Swims
Day 3: The Second Day of Competition
Day 4: The Third Day of the Competition
Day 5: What I Learned



Entry 420, Day 4