John's Journal...

A Look Back at Kevin VanDam's Super Elite Season

A Bigger Finesse

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 the 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 Click to enlargebass 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, is there one other bait that was a kind of sleeper bait that you used a lot in the 2007 season?
VanDam: Well, it’s not really a sleeper bait, but I did gain a lot more respect for the Strike King finesse worm this year, especially in the 7-inch size. I used the 4- and the 7-inch finesse worms on the shaky-head jigs. But this year, I started using both of them on my drop-shot rig. The 4-inch finesse worm is more the standard drop-shot size. But I used the 7-inch finesse worm successfully in Buffalo, New York, to catch smallmouth, and on Lake Champlain in New York. One of the advantages of the 7-inch finesse worm on the drop shot is it catches bigger bass. The Strike King finesse worm is soft has much-more action than other finesse worms do. I caught numbers of bass on the 4- and the 7-inch worm.

Question: Most people don’t consider a 7-inch worm a shaky-head worm. When and why are you using it?
VanDam: Anytime you want to catch large numbers of bass, and you can tell the bass are holding on the bottom, the shaky-head worm is very effective. I like the 7-inch finesse worm because it has a larger profile. I’ve caught an 11-pound largemouth on that 7-inch shaky-head worm, so I’ve got a lot of confidence in it. This year, we went a lot of places that homed numbers Click to enlargeof really-big bass. When we fished Clear Lake in California, I caught plenty of big bass fishing the finesse worm around docks. On this type of lake, a 3 pounder wouldn’t help you very much. You really needed to catch 5 pounders. That 7-inch finesse worm helped me get more big-bass bites than the smaller finesse worm did.

Question: What colors seemed to be the best for you?
VanDam: My go-to color, without a doubt, is green pumpkin. I also like the finesse with red in it. Many times, I’ll use watermelon red or green-pumpkin red.

Question: Kevin, over all, the Sexy Shad crankbait has been your signature lure this year. How early did you start catching bass on it?
VanDam: When the Elite Series went to the California Delta, I started catching bass on the Sexy Shad. But the color wasn’t really released to the public until after the Lake Guntersville tournament.

Question: Since then, Strike King has come out with the sexy shad color in a wide variety of baits, haven’t they?
VanDam: Yes, they have. The Sexy Shad will be a major color for Strike King this year in a variety of baits. I just left the tournament in Lake Toho in Florida, and I caught a lot of my bass on the Red Eye Shad in the Sexy Shad color. Sexy Shad is a great shad pattern. You’ll see the Sexy Shad color in everyone’s tackle box this fall.

Click to enlargeQuestion: Kevin, just about every year, you come up with a new bait or a new color. How important is it to you to help develop those new colors and new lures ever year?
VanDam: I’m constantly working to find the right tools for each situation to catch bass. This may be improvements to existing baits, a change to the decision to the bait or a different color or hook combination. Having those new lures to fish with every year gives me an edge. Making new lures that solve problems the Strike King Pros encounter on the professional circuit is what keeps Strike King ahead of the game on bait designs and colors. Strike King’s on the leading edge of bass fishing, and the company has a tremendous pro staff who continuously feeds them new information and better ways to catch fish. That’s exciting for me.

Question: Can you give us a hint of what may be released this spring from Strike King?
VanDam: I’ve got a lot of new colors that I’ve been working on for crankbaits, spinner baits and some of our other lures. Also, I’m working on a line of plastic lures that will introduce some new styles that I think will change the way we fish.

Question: Kevin, looking back over the season, how do you feel about it?
VanDam: I had a pretty-good season. But I’m disappointed that I didn’t win Angler of the Year. My goal every year is to win Angler of the Year. I was in contention this year until the last tournament. But, Skeet Reese had over a 100-point advantage going into the last tournament, and he finished the tournament ahead of me. But it was a close race for Angler of the Year until the final tournament.

Question: What are you going to do next year to improve your fishing?
VanDam: I don’t really know. I won two tournaments this year and came out second in the Angler-of-the-Year race, but I fished every tournament to win. I would have liked to win three, four or five of those Elite Series tournaments. Next year, I’ll probably fish the same way I did this year. I’ll go out on the circuit and take chances to win. If I do that, the Angler-of-the-Year title will take care of itself.

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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 5