Smallmouth country

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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.

With our last two tournaments of the 2013 Bassmaster Elite Series season being up north on smallmouth waters, it's important that we change gears and adapt to the fish we're chasing now.

After a bunch of largemouth tournaments, it's fun and challenging to have to switch to smallmouth bass for a while. I grew up fishing for smallmouth and absolutely love them (of course, I love largemouth, too!). The differences between the two species keep things interesting.

One of the big differences between the largemouth we've been chasing on big reservoirs and rivers and the smallmouth we're after now is that the smallmouth are going to be holding and feeding around subtler structure and cover. Instead of big grass beds, stump fields or river ledges, we're going to find them in sparse cover and on small structure breaks. They're also going to be moving around a lot more than largemouth.

That can make them tougher to locate and tougher to stay with over the course of multiple days. The good news is that smallmouth tend to be more aggressive than their green cousins. If you can get a bait near them, they'll often show themselves. You might get a strike or see one or more following your bait or even see them moving near the surface. It's important to be watching all the time. You never know when some good fish will reveal themselves.

Because smallmouth are so aggressive, I like to fish fast and cover a lot of water when trying to locate them. That's pretty easy when you're using reaction baits and fishing horizontally, but it works even when you're fishing deeper and more vertically because you can use heavy weights to get your baits down quickly and fish them faster than you might think.

Another key to catching smallmouth up here is going to be figuring out what they're eating from one day to the next. The menu is pretty big up here — shiners, perch, alewives, crawfish, gobies, you name it — and what they're eating goes a long way to determining the bottom-type they're holding on.

We sometimes say "Find the food, find the bass," but it's not always that easy — especially when there's a lot of food to choose from. Instead, it's "Find the right food, determine where that food is living and on what bottom type, and then find the bass."

By the time you read this, we'll be in the middle of the St. Lawrence River tournament. I'm excited about these last couple of events and really want to do well. As you know, Edwin Evers is having a great season and is leading the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year race by a good margin, but it's not over yet, and I haven't given up.

I'm going to have to really catch 'em and catch big ones, too, if I'm going to make up any ground on Edwin. I know I have to execute really well every day from here on out. One bad day in these last two events can put you way behind.

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