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VanDam catches a 15-pounder

July 25, 2018 12:00:00 AM EDT

 Kevin VanDam was the very last angler back to the boat ramp at the end of a brutally tough, rainy, high water, practice day on Tuesday at the Huk Bassmaster Elite at Upper Chesapeake Bay presented by Mossy Oak Fishing.

 Fact is, with hints of a beard and wind blown hair, he even looked a bit like an old man of the sea here where the famed smallmouth waters of the Susquehanna River meet the Chesapeake Bay in America’s Mid Atlantic region.

 But in typical VanDam fashion, his passion for fishing was still high, and the news he brought back to the dock was positive. Even on one of the more challenging days of his highly decorated career – VanDam still caught ‘em.

 By his estimation, he set the hook 60 or 80 times, a bunch of them weighed 6 to 12 pounds. They bit swimbaits, Sexy Dawgs, and even topwater frogs.

 His biggest fish of the day was a 15 pounder.

 There’s only one problem … VanDam was talking about striped bass, not largemouth or smallmouth.


 “When I saw them (striped bass) schooling, as tough as the bass fishing had been all day, I couldn’t stand not to take advantage of an opportunity to set the hook,” says the career long Quantum pro.

 “Shaw Grigsby and I sat on that massive school of stripers and absolutely wore ‘em out, to the point they pretty much wrecked all three hooks on my Sexy Dawg (topwater lure),” he grinned.

 Striped bass (Morone saxatilis) serve as the State Fish of Maryland, and travel between coastal saltwater to spawn in freshwater rivers like those that decorate the shorelines of this week’s Elite Series event at Havre de Grace, MD, barely northeast of Baltimore.

 As for the bass fishing, it’s tougher than Cal “The Iron Man” Ripken Jr.’s record of 2,632 consecutive major league games played, despite nagging injuries that are an apparent part of 21 seasons as a major leaguer.

 Nearly 12-inches of rain have fallen since the Elite Series pros started practice in the region where Oriole and Raven fans call home. South winds off the Atlantic are pushing against the muddy waters flowing hard from the north to debacle most all major creeks where largemouth bass reside.

 “Bites are far and few between here. It’s super tough,” says VanDam, who waded through floodwaters to back his Tundra down the ramp Tuesday.

 Bites are ‘far and few between’ unless you’re talking about striped bass, or as local anglers call them “rocks” or  “rockfish” – both nicknames that seem highly fitting for a fishery as tough as the high and muddy Upper Chesapeake this week.


  Alan McGuckin

Posted By Lisa Adams


The greatest professional bass angler of all time got his start while casting topwater lures at summertime bass as a young teenager while walking the shoreline of School Section Lake where his grandparents lived in Central Michigan.

 Not much has changed in 40 years for Kevin VanDam. When asked recently to choose just two lures all anglers should consider having in their summer arsenal – he chose a topwater walking bait and a deep diving crankbait. 

 “Topwater was my thing back in those days, from Jitterbugs to buzzbaits, and now it’s a 4.5” KVD Sexy Dawg topwater that I’ve always got tied-on in summer,” says the 7-time Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year. “The thing is, no matter how hot it gets, there’s always a few bass shallow that are willing to hit a topwater at sunrise or sunset in the summertime.”

 One tip that might surprise a lot of anglers regarding VanDam’s topwater tactics is his insistence on always using 40-pound braided line. He says braid helps the Sexy Dawg ‘walk’ a little better on the surface, and even more importantly, leads to far firmer hooksets at the end of a long cast, as opposed to monofilament.

 VanDam spools his braided line to a fairly speedy 7.3:1 gear ratio Quantum Smoke S3 reel. The compact reel features a larger spool to hold more line that leads to longer smoother casts. He uses a 7’ 4” TourKVD rod with a soft and forgiving enough tip to make sure bass get a good grip and stay hooked when they smash his surface lure.

 As the day heats up, and topwater action is likely to fade, VanDam ties on a deep diving crankbait that has earned him hundreds-of-thousands of dollars – a Strike King 6XD that will dive to depths of 20-feet on 12 pound line.

 This lure allows the career long Quantum pro to dig depths on main lake points and deep aquatic vegetation where fat bass are likely to live in mid summer -- and to do so at a fairly efficient pace compared to a heavy jig or large plastic worm.

 In lakes where the water is pretty clear he likes the color “Blue Gizzard Shad” when cranking a 6XD – and if it’s dingier, he leans mostly on the color he made famous – “Sexy Shad.”

 Either way he ties them to a long 7’ 10” TourKVD rod that allows him to launch the lure as far as possible, which in turn maximizes its diving depth on the retrieve. And much like it’s tough to tow a large bass boat with a sports car, when deep cranking, he reaches for the Toyota Tundra of baitcasters – the large spooled 5.3:1 Quantum Smoke HD.

 VanDam no longer spends a lot of time walking the shores of School Section Lake casting Jitterbugs, but he absolutely loves sharing time on the water in the heat of summer away from the Elite Series by meandering various Michigan waterways in the family’s Regency pontoon. Of course, the pontoon is rigged to be fishing friendly for he and sons Jackson and Nicholas  – and there’s typically a topwater tied-on within arms reach, even when he’s just chillin to beat summer’s heat. 


  Alan McGuckin

Posted By Lisa Adams

Tuesday morning marked the start of the second very long hot practice day on Lake Travis for the Toyota Bassmaster Texas Fest benefiting Texas Parks and Wildlife.

 Two of pro fishing’s most likeable, accomplished, and even-keeled veteran anglers, Mike McClelland and Kevin VanDam, launched next to one another in the humid predawn air, and say this gorgeous reservoir in the Texas Hill Country is very new to them, but also one they’re liking a lot, and feeling right at home on.

 “Yesterday was the first time I’ve ever fished here, and I like it a lot. It reminds me a lot of Table Rock in terms of the rocky terrain and all the rocky shoreline transitions,” says VanDam.

 “Yep, Kevin’s exactly right. It reminds me a ton of Table Rock too, as well as places like Bull Shoals and other Ozark reservoirs,” agrees McClelland. “Before I saw this place I envisioned it looking like Choke Canyon, maybe with vegetation like a lot of the great Texas fisheries we’ve been to, but it’s really more like Table Rock, or even a miniature Amistad.”

 “Fans can expect to see us use just about every lure imaginable this week – from soft plastics of every shape and kind, to crankbaits, spinnerbaits, swimbaits -- you name it – this event is one in which you’ll see ‘em all used,” says McClelland. 

 While both pros were their typically gracious selves, both were also jittery to start casting, knowing the early morning shad spawn was taking place as the sun began to rise over Travis’ clean waters that are currently about 78-degrees on the surface.

 “It’s that time of year, shad are spawning all over the southern half of the country right now, including here. So it’s time to get out there. I only practiced 13 hours yesterday,” winked VanDam, as he idled out for another long day of doing a job he’s loved for 28 remarkable seasons as a pro. 


  Alan McGuckin

Posted By Lisa Adams

KVD's 25th Win at Grand

April 29, 2018 12:00:00 AM EDT



Kevin's gear for the win: TKVD705MB >    SHD200PPT >



  Alan McGuckin

Posted By Lisa Adams

Kevin VanDam likes Coleslaw Spinnerbaits

April 22, 2018 1:00:00 PM EDT

  As a Michigan native, Kevin VanDam grew up throwing a lot of spinnerbaits featuring painted blades for smallmouth. Some of the willowleaf blades were painted chartreuse, others were painted white, and when burned at a high retrieve speeds, smallies often crushed them in the typically clearer waters of the Great Lakes region.

 But it was a trip south to Table Rock Lake, MO, for a media gathering in the late 1990s, where VanDam first discovered painted white blades paired with a unique skirt color named for a side dish he always thought was reserved only for fried fish.

 “Stacey King is my buddy and a legendary pro, and he was the first one to show me this blade and skirt color they call “Coleslaw” that’s fairly popular with serious anglers around the Ozark reservoirs like Table Rock and Bull Shoals,” reflects the 7-time Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year Champion.

 Sure enough, while the skirt is primarily white like creamy mayonnaise covered cabbage, it has just a few strands of orange to look like the carrots that make the popular side dish complete. And while you’ll not find any chartreuse in a great dish of your momma’s slaw, there’s even a very slight hint of that too.


 “It looks like skirt color you might use in dirty water. But to me it always performs best in really clear, or barely stained, water on a cloudy or rainy day with about a 15 mph wind blowing,” says VanDam.

 “Those painted white blades and that peculiar skirt color, make an awesome silhouette, and while a plain white skirt under painted white blades might get the job done - “Coleslaw” sounds way better – and it dang sure taste better too - even to the bass,” he adds with a grin.

 Kevin’s Coleslaw Equipment: VanDam uses at least a ½ ounce, and often times a heavy ¾ ounce, Strike King spinnerbait to create a larger profile like a big gizzard shad. He always ties it to a 20-pound fluorocarbon line on a large spooled Quantum Smoke HD reel for optimum casting distance. He favors at least a 6.6:1 gear ratio on the reel SHD200SPT, and uses a Quantum 7’ 4” heavy action TourKVD rod TKVDC747XFB to handle the heavier lure.

 Kevin’s Favorite Meal Consisting of Coleslaw:  “Oh hands down, it has to be deep fried yellow perch anywhere around the Great Lakes. That’s a staple dinner where I’m from, especially on Friday nights. And if you’re feeling just a little adventurous, you can even put your slaw on top of the fried perch on a fish sandwich and eat it that way – it doesn’t get any better than that,” smiles VanDam. 


  Alan McGuckin

Posted By Lisa Adams

Kevin VanDam’s Three Favorite Lures for Fall

October 2, 2017 12:00:00 AM EDT

Kevin VanDam loves football, archery season for whitetail deer, and thoughts of bass binging on baitfish. And those are just three good reasons the 7-time Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year calls autumn his favorite time of year.

 “Oh yea, there’s no doubt life is good this time of year,” says VanDam. And football is a large part of October’s goodness for he and his treasured family. 

 “Of course I love my home state Detroit Lions, but I maintain a friendship with Willie Young, an avid angler and pass rush specialist for the Chicago Bears, who used to play for Detroit,” he says.

 “Plus, my twin sons Jackson and Nicholas are in college at Grand Valley State University. Their football team owns the highest winning percentage in college football history, and we were recently on campus for Family Weekend when the Lakers won 49 to 0,” says the ever-competitive VanDam.

 But fall is certainly not only about football for the VanDams. They have long had a healthy appetite for whitetail deer hunting, and October 1st kicks off the start of Michigan’s archery season that they treasure in much the same way bass covet baitfish during the calendar’s fourth quarter.

 “Fall is all about the bait, and in a lot of reservoirs that’s going to involve bass keying on shad in major creek arms of the reservoir,” says VanDam. “That pattern is talked about constantly, and it’s true, but not every quality bass follows bait to the back of a creek -- there’s still plenty of good fish eating bait on flat, shallow, points along the main lake too.”

 No surprise then, all three lures pro bass fishing’s greatest angler chose as his favorites for fall are shad imitators.

 His starting line-up includes a squarebill crankbait, a topwater walking bait, and a jerkbait. And just as importantly as what lures he specified … is knowing where and when to use them … and what equipment he matches them to.

 Squarebill crankbait – He chooses his namesake KVD 1.5 from Strike King and says, “It’s just such an efficient bait because the bass are moving shallow, and they’ll bite it in just about any color of water,” says VanDam.

 “The dream scenario for a squarebill at this time of year is a rocky creek channel swing in the back of a major tributary, with shad active near the surface of the water,” he adds.

 While some pros speed up to faster gear ratio reels in autumn, VanDam remains faithful to the same 5.3:1 ratio from Quantum that he cranked up Bassmaster Classic and Angler of the Year titles with during his illustrious career.

 “With the larger spool and line capacity on the new Smoke HD reel, I’m still picking up plenty of line to maintain a good speed,” explains VanDam, who pairs it with a forgiving 7’ 0” TourKVD cranking rod.

 Topwater Walking Lure – If ever there was a prime time for topwater lures – it’s now, and VanDam says lures like Strike King’s Sexy Dawg have magnetic qualities.

“A topwater like the 4.5” Sexy Dawg has incredible drawing power. You can attract bass from far away to come bite it in clear to stained water, as long as there’s not too much wave action on the surface,” says VanDam.

 VanDam uses a higher speed 7.3:1 reel for this lure, and prefers 50-pound braided line. “Braid is so much easier to get the lure to walk, plus you get better hook-ups when they bite,” he explains.

 Jerkbait – Kevin VanDam and jerkbaits go together like October and falling leaves, and he says that few lures search-out bass on shallow, flat, main lake, secondary points like this one.

 “Again, not every bass in the lake swims to the back of a creek in search of shad at this time of year,” emphasizes the 4-time Bassmaster Classic Champion. “There are plenty of quality fish to be caught on the shallower flat points on the main lake too. And by keeping your boat in about 10-feet of water, and casting up there to four or five feet of water on those types of points, can be an awesome way to catch ‘em at this time of the year,” emphasizes the 4-time Bassmaster Classic Champion.

 VanDam emphasizes the need for a quality reel capable of making long smooth casts for jerkbaits, and currently relies on Quantum’s new Smoke S3 in a 6.1:1 spooled with 12-pound fluorocarbon.

 From first downs to falling leaves, autumn is indeed an awesome time of the year to catch bass chomping on baitfish, especially with three lures chosen by Kevin VanDam arrowed squarely into your bass fishing knowledge base.


  Alan McGuckin


Posted By Lisa Adams

VanDam’s 18 pounds of disappointment

September 15, 2017 12:00:00 AM EDT

Be honest, if a genie in a bottle offered you an 18-pound limit of bass every time you went fishing, you’d jump on it like a 5-pound smallmouth on a soft shell crawdad.

 So would I.

 But for the greatest bass angler of all time, bringing an 18-pound limit of smallmouth to the scales on Day 1 of the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year Championship on Lake Mille Lacs felt like Christmas without presents. Or, maybe a good old fashioned kick in the fishin’ shorts.

 “Yea, absolutely I’d call it disappointing,” said Kevin VanDam in the predawn light just before heading out in search of a bigger sack of bronze bombers on Day 2.

 “I actually caught more bass than I expected to yesterday, but so many of my bites yesterday were 2 or 2 ½ pound fish. I just never got a real big bite,” he explained.

 Ironically, even though 29 of the 50 competitors caught at least a 20-pound limit on Day 1, nearly all of them still insist that Mille Lacs is fishing stingy.

 “You look at that leaderboard, and you’re thinking we just went out there and blasted ‘em yesterday – but trust me, that ain’t the deal. It’s a grind. Even a lot of the guys who caught ‘em really good yesterday only got seven or eight bites all day long,” explains the career long Quantum pro.

 “In my opinion, the population structure here is different than most northern smallmouth fisheries we compete on,” says VanDam. “Instead of tons of three and four pounders like you might see at a place like St. Clair or the St. Lawrence River, it seems like there are fewer fish here, but there’s some really old fish here that grow to be giants – there’s just not tons of them.”

 But today is a brand new day. And boy is it different. Instead of calm winds and bright sunny skies, clouds are heavy grey and the winds are blowing steady out of the North-Northeast at 10 mph.

 “You watch the leaderboard today,” warns VanDam. “This weather change is gonna shake things up big time. All that finesse fishing guys were doing yesterday, is going to be tougher to do today.”

 Faster moving lures like jerkbaits, crankbaits and spinnerbaits will be much bigger players. And if VanDam had a genie in a bottle – that’s exactly what he’d wish for.

 So keep an eye on the leaderboard. And don’t be shocked if the 7-time Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year makes a jump toward the top like a 5-pound smallie. 


  Alan McGuckin


Posted By Lisa Adams

KVD wins St. Lawrence on Speed Freak Spinning

July 23, 2017 12:00:00 AM EDT





  Alan McGuckin


Posted By Lisa Adams

KVD wins his 24th B.A.S.S. tourney

July 23, 2017 12:00:00 AM EDT





  Alan McGuckin


Posted By Lisa Adams

 Much of the talk coming into the Bassmaster Elite on the St. Lawrence River centered on unusually high water on the massive seaway that connects the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean.

 However, Kevin VanDam says lofty water levels will only increase catches of largemouth from the 71-degree waters that create an aquatic buffet for up to 13 species of whales a couple hundred miles upriver from the Elite Series venue in Waddington, New York.

 “Smallmouth definitely dominated and got the victory the last two times we competed here, but the high water we’re facing this week has sent far more largemouth shallow than what we’ve seen in the past,” says VanDam. “So largemouth will definitely play a bigger role in what guys will bring to the scales this year.”

 Hence on the final day of practice, anglers must decide whether to focus on flippin’ and froggin’ for largemouth in the shallows, or draggin’ and droppin’ vertically for deeper water smallmouth on the main river.



As evidenced by the iconic soft plastic tube VanDam had tied to a Quantum Smoke spinning reel for dragging over deep water smallmouth, and in the other hand, a much contrasting swim jig for largemouth in the weedy shallows -- rest assured, the 7-time Bassmaster Toyota Angler of the Year will prepare for both. 



  Alan McGuckin


Posted By Lisa Adams

Florida pro Bobby Lane returned to the boat ramp with a fat lip after a long first day of practice for the GoPro Bassmaster Elite at Dardanelle presented by EconoLodge.

 “Do not go out there without a Buff for your face and plenty of inspect repellent. I’m telling ya’ – you’d better cover yourself!” exclaimed Lane.

 Lane’s swollen lower lip was the result of two different bites from hungry female buffalo gnats that gnawed on him while he tried to find clean and productive backwater on a mostly muddy, chocolate milk-looking, main river channel at Dardanelle.

 Later in the evening, right at 8:00 p.m., Kevin VanDam was the next-to-last guy to load his boat at a popular ramp after a 14-hour practice day. And he too was quick to warn about buffalo gnats as he pulled his Tundra to the top of the boat ramp.

 “Oh dude, they’re brutal.  They fly into your ears, your nose, and behind your sunglasses,” says VanDam of the very tiny insects with cutter mouth parts prevalent in early summer around rivers and streams like the Arkansas.

 Speaking of the river, conditions aren’t near as bad as many feared they might be a week ago, when considerations were being made by B.A.S.S. for a postponement, or a move to a less flooded location, but VanDam says clean water is certainly at a premium.

 “I’d say 50 to 75% of the main river channel is blown out and fairly unfishable, so it’s squeezing everybody into the backwaters that are pretty clean and healthy looking for the most part,” says VanDam.

 “There are guys trying to catch ‘em out a little deeper, and of course plenty are fishing shallow, but either way it’s a grind,” says Lane.

 The 15 Quantum rods and reels VanDam had visible in his boat at sunset on the first day of practice proved the search for Dardanelle’s keeper-sized bass is indeed a drudgery involving a wide variety of lures.

 “I actually put a couple rods away already,” grinned the Michigan pro, as he reached for his can of Repel and took one last swat at the gnats before jumping in his Tundra, and calling it a day. 

  Alan McGuckin


Posted By Lisa Adams








A lotta things change in three decades, so Kevin VanDam is putting in long practice days on Ross Barnett in preparation for this week’s Bassmaster Elite presented by Academy Sports + Outdoors, because the only time he fished the shallow reservoir previously was 32 years ago, at the age of 17.


 “Back then, I was fishing team tournaments and B.A.S.S. Nation Series tournaments around home in Michigan, and my team partner Don Stevens and I qualified for an end-of-the-year tournament down here at Ross Barnett,” explains VanDam. “To be honest, I don’t even remember what trail it was.”

 He may not remember what trail it was, but the southerly winds warming the air at Madison Landing boat ramp following a long day of practice seemed to spin sweet memories of 1985 at a rate equal to the revolutions the giant willow leaf blade was making beneath the swivel of the spinnerbait he was holding.

 “Don and I called this spinnerbait blade combination “Pots & Pans” because those big blades clank on each other underwater and make a ton of noise like somebody banging pots and pans together,” remembers VanDam with a smile.

 And in what would become a very telling tournament 32 years ago - the noisemaker worked.

 “I caught a 7-pounder from a beaver hut on a big-bladed spinnerbait just like this in that tournament, and that big fish is the one that landed us a Top 10 finish,” grins VanDam.

 “Other than that, I really couldn’t remember much about this place before practice started Monday,” he admits.

 “I mean heck, Don and I came down here from Michigan in an 18-foot boat with a 150 horsepower engine, and nobody had GPS mapping back then, so it was pretty intimidating to try and navigate and figure out where to fish among the massive lily pad fields and underwater stumps.”

 Don Stevens has since retired, and spends his days shooting trap and skeet. VanDam has figured things out just fine – to the tune of $6 Million dollars in prize money, with hopes of adding to the sum this week where good memories chime like the big blades of a spinnerbait configuration that helped launch his amazing career. 


 Alan McGuckin


Posted By Lisa Adams
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