It doesn't seem to make much difference to Kevin VanDam. Lake or river, hot or cold, shallow or deep, plentiful bass or scarce bites, he always seems to find a way to get the job done — his way.
It wasn't any different last week as he marched to yet another Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year title on the Alabama River. In the process, he left several of the best competitive anglers in history shaking their heads and wondering just who he is and where he came from. Here, in his own words, is how he did it:
(1st place — 26 pounds)
The river looked a lot different this year. One of the first things I noticed was that a lot of the places I fished last year were dry. The water was way down, at least 2 feet. That moved the fish off a ways and concentrated them more than last year.
All my bass came on crankbaits. I matched my baits to the water depth I was cranking. When it was deep, I fished Strike King Pro-model Series 5 and Series 6 lures. When it was a little shallower, I went with our new 1.5 and 2.5 versions. All of them were finished in Sexy Shad.
I used a Quantum Tour KVD 7-foot, 10-inch rod (medium-heavy) for the deeper running crankbaits, and a 7-foot model (medium) for the shallower baits. I mounted Quantum Tour KVD Power Reels (5.4:1 gear ratio) to everything and spooled them with 12-pound-test Bass Pro Shops XPS Signature Series Fluorocarbon Line.
This gave me my basic setup, but the thing that really made a big difference for me was that I swapped out my hooks with my new Mustad KVD Elite Triple Grip Treble hooks. The shank is 2X strong and the wire is 1X strong. They won't break. The point is needle sharp and the shank is extra short, which keeps them from tangling when you upsize the replacements, something I almost always do.
These hooks are the real deal. As incredible as it may sound, in four days of competitive angling I didn't lose one bass that would have made a difference in my final weights. I was able to crank offshore gravel shoals, sandbars and points as well as around creek mouths without any problem whatsoever. It took us over a year to get the design right but it was worth it. They've made a world of difference in my fishing.
The other thing I want to say about this win — something that I hope will help everyone catch more bass and win more tournaments — is that you have to be patient. Go back and look at the on-the-water blogs that are posted on Bassmaster.com.
You'll notice that there were times when I wasn't catching fish and some of the other guys were. Nevertheless, I had faith.
I know my tackle and equipment is the best and that I can rely on it when the time comes. I also knew I was fishing the right spots. All I had to do was wait for the right time. No panic.
Some of that attitude comes from experience, some from an efficient practice. You have to believe in yourself and believe in your abilities. If you do, you'll win your share of competitive events.
Remember, it's all about the attitude.