Habitat makes a difference!

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Kevin VanDam

Kevin VanDam

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

I’ve spent this week at the Texas Toyota Bass Classic on Lake Conroe, Texas, where some of the top anglers in the country have come together for a common cause.

Sure, it’s a tournament, but it raises a lot of money for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department for important conservation and youth projects.

The three-day tournament attracts the top anglers from 2011 Bassmaster Elite Series, FLW and PAA tournament circuits on a body of water stressed by a major drought.

It’s fun getting to hang with old friends that I don’t see often, as well as anglers from other tournament circuits that I’ve not competed against. They’re all good, which should make for some great competition.

The lake isn’t huge to begin with, but it is 7 feet down because of the lack of rain. That’s eliminated a lot of the shallow water cover, so the lake will fish even smaller.

Conroe’s docks – great places to catch bass here – have been taken out of play. It’s been stunning to look at places where I used to fish and see what’s there.

I’m seeing rockpiles, brushpiles and tires scattered around these docks which is why they always held fish.

By the same token, I’m seeing dry points where I’ve caught bass and compared them to identical points that weren’t productive. You can look at both points and see the one that produced best in past years has scattered stumps, a few rocks and brush on top. The one that looked identical before the water dropped is totally barren of cover – exemplifying the importance of habitat to good structure.

If I fished these lakes all the time, I’d be idling around with a video camera capturing images to help me remember what’s on the bottom for when the water comes up. That’s something I recommend on any lake that has been drawn down.

You can tell the locals are aware of the importance of habitat, too. They’ve been piling up rocks and brush around their docks while the water is low in places where cover didn’t exist before.

This tournament is unique in another aspect. It has a slot limit, and we’re only allowed to carry one fish to the weigh-in and it must be 21 inches or bigger. We have non-fishing judges in our boats that measure and weigh the fish we catch, but we aren’t allowed to make another cast until the previous fish has been recorded. It will be different, but fun.

Regardless of the conditions, these guys will find the sweet spots and fish, because nearly all are using side-imaging sonar. That has enabled all of us to idle around and see structure in a short period of time during practice, so I suspect we will be fishing the same spots.

It just means I’m gonna have to put my head down, be thorough and grind it out if I want to win. And you can bet that I do!

Remember, it’s all about the attitude! 

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