John's Journal...

A Look Back at Kevin VanDam's Super Elite Season

Where the Sexy Shad Originated, and Why Crankbaits Were so Important

Click to enlargeEditor’s Note: On September 16, 2007, Kevin VanDam of Kalamazoo, Michigan, finished 19th in the final Bassmasters Elite Tournament on Lake Toho in Florida, winning $10,800. He won $15,000 for the inaugural Berkley Heavyweight Award on the Elite Series, given to the angler who catches the heaviest load of bass for the first two days during the entire Elite Series season, when all 100-plus competitors fish together. Among those top competitors, VanDam’s total weight for 22 days of fishing was 381 pounds and 7 ounces, besting the 366 pounds, 5 ounces posted by runner-up, Skeet Reese of California. VanDam also finished in second place in the Angler-of-the-Year race, adding $40,000 to his winnings, giving him a total of $65,800 for the weekend. VanDam has won more than $2.5 million in prize money during his B.A.S.S. career, which is more than any other angler in the history of B.A.S.S. Also, VanDam is ranked number-one in Click to enlargethe world of bass fishing as of September 20, 2007 by The reason VanDam is so successful is because he’s on the water every day. In every tournament he fishes, and every year he competes, he learns more about the sport of bass fishing. This week, we asked VanDam to reflect on the 2007 season, and tell us what he’s learned, what tackle aided his success, and how he fished the various lakes.

Question: Kevin, how did you come up with the Sexy Shad-colored crankbait, which was so important for your wins this year?
VanDam: The Sexy Shad color has been a work in progress for the last couple of years. I work on new colors with Phil Marks, one of the lure designers at Strike King. I tell Phil the kind of colors I think will work, and he paints up the crankbaits and sends them to me. I try them and see what I think about the colors. We keep making changes until we make it the way I think the color is the most effective. In the Sexy Shad, I was looking for a shad-colored bait that would match the color of the shad, but still be highly visible in off-colored water. We developed the color pattern for the Sexy Shad, so that the bait would be visible in dirty water but still look natural in clear water. The bait has a yellow line down the side of it like a shad does. Then we put a metallic finish over the top to give it an extra flash for clear-water conditions. Sexy Shad is a really-good shad color. I’d like to offer several other versions of it, like one for really-clear water and others for different water conditions. You can expect those colors to be produced by Strike King in the future.

Question: The Sexy Shad is basically a gray back with a pearl side and belly crankbait. Click to enlargeBut that yellow stripe down the side makes it somewhat unique. How did you decide to put the yellow stripe down the side?
VanDam: Shad actually have that yellow stripe, but it’s more dominant in certain shad species than others. In the last couple of years, we primarily fished through the spawn and the post-spawn. When I fished through those large schools of shad, I accidentally caught some of them. I looked at them very carefully and saw that yellow stripe. It made sense to match that yellow stripe as close as possible and put it on a crankbait, so that’s what we did.

Question: Do you believe that the yellow stripe is as important as or more important than the other colors on the Sexy Shad?
VanDam: The color of the back of the Sexy Shad is the first thing you need to consider. It has an iridescent, teal-turquoise gray back that has a shine to it, which really looks natural in the water. When you add the yellow line and the eye, the Sexy Shad gives you the total package of a shad-imitating bait. The scale pattern coming down from the back also makes Click to enlargethe bait look natural. I have a lot of confidence in this bait because it looks like a shad.

Question: Kevin, did you learn anything new about fishing a crankbait this year, and more specifically, about fishing the Sexy Shad?
VanDam: I learned at Grand Lake and at Guntersville that a fast retrieve, even when the crankbait is bouncing along the bottom, seems to trigger more bites from inactive bass than a slower retrieve, especially when I ripped the Sexy Shad through the grass. Many people cast the crankbait out, reel it out to the bottom and then start fishing it slow. I’ve learned that I want the crankbait to get down to the bottom and then run it pretty fast and bounce it off the bottom, especially in warm-water conditions. Learning to fish the crankbait faster than most people fish it has helped me a lot this year.

To learn more about Strike King, go to

Tomorrow: What I Learned About the King Shad this Year


Check back each day this week for more about "A Look Back at Kevin VanDam's Super Elite Season""

Day 1: Kevin VanDam – Baits to Put Bass in the Boat
Day 2: Where the Sexy Shad Originated, and Why Crankbaits Were So Important
Day 3: What I Learned About the King Shad this Year
Day 4: Shake and Twist the Spinner Bait
Day 5: A Bigger Finesse



Entry 423, Day 2