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

What I Learned

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, at the end of every tournament, we know that you review what you've done, what you’ve done poorly, and what you’ve learned from the experience. What do you think you’ve learned in this tournament that you can take with you to the final tournament of the year and the race for the Angler-of-the-Year title?
VanDam: I’ve learned that I have to continue to be persistent and rely more on my instincts.  When I’m catching fish, changing to a better pattern for bigger bass is hard. On that first day ofcompetition, I was catching fish in shallow water, but I wasn’t catching the quality of fish I needed to win the tournament. I stayed with that shallow-water bite too long. I should have left those fish and gone to the current breaks where I could catch bigger bass.  I knew I should have stuck to my original game plan and fished where I knew the bigger fish would be, instead of catching the little fish. Of course, after the fact, figuring out what I should have done differently was easy.  Click to enlarge

Question: Kevin, years ago, Rick Clunn talked about fishing intuitively and listening to that small voice inside that told him what to do, even if it defied reason and knowledge. Clunn believed and proved that by listening to his instincts he could find and take more fish. Is that what you’re trying to do more now?
VanDam: Yes, that’s pretty much what I’ve always done. When I start getting that gut feeling that tells me I need to be doing something else, I’ve tried to learn to react to that instinct quicker than I have in the past. When you’re fishing a tournament like the one we’ve just completed, where you have certain holes you have to fish, I’ve learned the quicker you react to that gut feeling, the more and the bigger fish you’ll find and catch. I believe if I’d left those shallow-water fish I was catching on the first day as soon as I realized I needed to be fishing those bridge pilings for bigger fish, I might have caught that one more big bass I needed to win the tournament. But this battle is one all fishermen struggle to fight. We’ve convinced ourselves that if we’re catching a lot of fish, sooner or later, we’ll catch a big bass, instead of realizing that if the pattern we’re using is producing little fish, we need to change pattern and water to catch bigger fish. This adjustment is hard for all of us to make. 

Question: Kevin, most of us have a really-difficult time changing patterns and water. How do you discipline yourself to do that?
VanDam: I don’t fish like other people do. 

Question: In what way, Kevin?Click to enlarge
VanDam: My style is completely different from most fishermen. For instance, in this tournament, Dean Rojas was leading this tournament by fishing grass with a frog. He had perfect conditions for fishing with a frog, and it paid off for him on the first day of the tournament. The second day of the tournament, the conditions were completely different, the frog pattern didn’t work, and he didn’t have a good day. But I try not to get stuck on any one pattern or lure. I want to fish the conditions I find on the lake and in the water every day I compete. Yesterday is history. I have to fish in the moment and decide on the lures and the technique I’m going to fish for the conditions I face at that moment.  I also have to fish with the tactics and the lures in which I have confidence. I’m a run-and-gun power fisherman. Based on the conditions we had, another fisherman might have done well on a jig or a shaky-head worm, if that’s the tactic in which they were confident. I fish with a combination of the fishing-in-the-moment philosophy and fishing the baits I have the most confidence in, like my power baits, whenever I can. 

Question: Kevin, do you ever second guess yourself?
VanDam: Sure, I do. Everyone does at times, but I don’t have a problem with it. I’ve made plenty of mistakes in the past, and I’ll continue to make mistakes. I’m not perfect.  Fishing is not a science. You can’t always do the right thing. We don’t know what the bass are thinking, and we don’t know what they’ll react to until we start presenting them with different lures. Bass fishing is much like throwing darts at a dart board. You know that if you throw enough darts over an extended period, you’ll eventually hit the bull’s eye. Therefore, the more darts you throw, the greater your odds are of hitting the bull’s eye.  Click to enlarge

Question: Kevin, do you believe that one of your strengths is the ability to forgive yourself quickly for the mistakes you make and not dwell on them?
VanDam: Yes, I’ve learned that you can’t dwell on the past, because there’s nothing you can do to change it. If you lose a fish or miss a strike, nothing will bring that bass back, so forget about it. You have to decide that if you got one fish to bite, surely you can get another one to bite. So, you’re immediately looking for that last bite.

Question: Kevin, what will it take for you to move one place and win the Angler-of-the-Year title this year on the B.A.S.S. circuit?
VanDam: Skeet Reese has more than a 100-point lead for the Angler-of-the-Year title. It’s his title to lose. If he has a good tournament on our next competition at Lake Toho in Florida, there’s no way I can take the title away from him. However, if he stumbles in this next tournament, and I have a really good tournament, I may be in a place to take over the lead. Lake Toho in September is tough, and anything can happen down there. For me to take over Angler of the Year, I’ll almost have to win that tournament. I’m a long shot for Angler of the Year, but it’s definitely doable.

Question: Going into the tournament at Lake Toho, how do you think you’ll fish it, Kevin?
VanDam: I’ll have to wait until I reach the lake to know for sure how I’ll fish it. I know the lake has a lot of grass in it and I’ve got to catch some really-big fish to win that tournament. When the weather’s hot like it will be, and the bass are sluggish like they will be, flipping through the matted hydrilla to catch a big string will probably be the best tactic.
Question: If Skeet Reese stubbed his toe, and you win the title of Angler of the Year, what will that title mean to your career?
VanDam: My main goal every year is to win Angler of the Year, and I certainly want to do it. But I have to remember, Skeet Reese wants that title as bad as I do, and Skeet’s a great fisherman. 

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 5