We've got an AOY race!

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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.

It looks like we’ve got us a dandy Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of Year race — one of the best we’ve had in a long time.

My buddy Big Show is sittin’ on top and Alton Jones and I are only 19 points behind him. Edwin Evers and Steve Kennedy are breathing down our necks, and there are only two more events.

Some forecasters were ready to hand the title to the red-hot Jones, but like Yogi Berra once said, “It ain’t over til it’s over.” Alton misfired on Lake Murray and opened the door for a tighter race.

Although I moved closer to the top, I’m kicking myself because I had the opportunities to close the gap even more.

Bass in blueback herring lakes are the most selective and finicky fish that I’ve ever fished. I finally figured out how to catch them the third day, but I’d dug too deep of a hole. Yet, if I had landed a few key fish — including a 6 pounder that I lost on a shaky head at the boat — I would have been fishing the finals on Sunday. In that tournament, a few ounces made a huge difference.

What is most frustrating about that tournament is I pride myself in being able to dial in the right lure, retrieve and color to make any fish bite, but I didn’t keep an open mind.

During practice, I was able to run a lot of points and pick off aggressive fish with a topwater. I thought that was the deal.

Late on the second day of the tournament, I discovered that fishing a Caffeine Shad (soft plastic jerkbait) with a fast, erratic retrieve got more strikes.

I’d cast the lure across points that held good bass and crank it as fast as my Quantum Burner 7.3:1 geared baitcaster would go. I'd spin the handle 6 or 7 times — taking in 34 inches of line each time — then pause for a second and burn it again. The bait would come skipping out of the water (like the herring) and the bass would blow up on it.

That’s how I caught my biggest limit the third day and move from 46th to finish 29th. Unfortunately, the leaders figured that out sooner.

After weigh-ins, I visited with “Super Dave” Davis, a 58-year-old terminally ill angler from North Carolina who requested to spend time with me as part of his wish with the “Granted Wish Foundation.” He’s a fellow angler and huge Bassmaster fan, so we arranged for him to come backstage with me at the weigh-ins. It was my pleasure to give him my jersey from the Murray tournament and the cap I wore at this year’s Bassmaster Classic.

So, in a couple of weeks we head for the Arkansas River at Little Rock, an event that could determine Angler of Year and one that will challenge everyone. It’s going to fish crowded, the river will be flooded, and fishing will be tough. Anyone among the AOY leaders who comes out of that with a top 5 finish will be in pretty good shape going to Wheeler.

I’m planning to be one of them.

Remember: It’s all about the attitude.

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