Broaden your experiences

About the author

Kevin VanDam

Kevin VanDam

In the world of professional bass fishing, Kevin VanDam is at the pinnacle and arguably the best in the world.

There’s a lot to be learned about bass fishing when fishing for other species of fish.

I know. Here in Michigan, we are blessed with just about every freshwater species of fish.

I’m within 45 minutes of walleyes, pike, trout, salmon, muskie, perch, bluegills and crappies, just to name a few.

As a young boy, I fished for whatever was accessible to me. I spent a lot of time fishing for carp in the Kalamazoo River and dogfish in my grandfather’s lake. I didn’t care what I caught – I just loved to catch fish.

In April, it was the trout opener in our streams and walleye and pike season on lakes, the steelhead and coho fishery on Lake Michigan, followed by bass season in late May. Summertime was spent fishing for a little bit of everything; the trout and salmon run up rivers preoccupied my time in the fall. In winter, it was ice fishing for panfish; in early spring, it was the steelhead spawning season on some rivers.

So, for me, it hasn’t always been about bass; those other experiences have helped me become a better pro angler. I’ve learned how different species utilize the aquatic world, and this helped me learn and catch more bass as an adult.

For example, time on our clear trout streams enabled me to learn how objects in the water affect current and how predator fish use that current to their advantage. I know how moving water changes directions around rocks, trees, shallow ridges and deep holes. In clear water, you can see things that you can’t see in many of the rivers and reservoirs on tour.

Want another example? Most people believe that slack water holds fish on the downstream side of current breaks. That’s true, yet, from fishing clear trout streams, I discovered there is a slack area in front of an object that creates that eddy. When trout are feeding, they may position in front of an object in a small slack area where the water pushes away from the object. They will dart out, grab food, then return quickly to their ambush area in front of the object. When they’re resting, they will position in the larger slack area behind the object.

Those experiences help me visualize casting targets in stained water where those clues aren’t as visible.

Another thing I’ve learned is how difficult it is to get your bait to swing into the strike zone in current. The moving water carries the bait in a different path each time, so multiple casts often are required.

And bluegills? We often catch them suspended with tiny tube jigs and even drop shot rigs to fill a bucket full of slabs. By utilizing our modern-day electronics, we can find those schools of suspended ‘gills and fish directly on them.

Through years of experience, I’ve discovered bass will hang around those bluegill schools and use them as forage just as they do shad on southern reservoirs.

Yet, when I’m fishing a reservoir and I start marking crappies and bluegills suspended on structure that I’m graphing, that tells me to fish that area because, in all likelihood, bass are nearby.

Regardless of where you live or what you fish for, just remember each outing is an opportunity to learn something about fish habits that could help you piece together the bass puzzle on another day.

It has worked for me!

Remember, it’s all about the attitude!

Kevin VanDam's column appears weekly on Bassmaster.com. You can also find him on Facebook and Twitter.

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