LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — With two Bassmaster Classic titles and more than $2 million in winnings in BASS events, it's obvious Kevin VanDam doesn't make many mistakes once he gets a fish hooked. But he made one Thursday on the Arkansas River during the CITGO Bassmaster Legends Tournament presented by Goodyear.
"It's one of the first ones I've made in a real long time," said the 38-year-old Kalamazoo, Mich., resident. "It cost me a really good fish. That's how you learn though. I make one of those about every four or five years, do a bonehead thing (landing a fish). Then every time you catch one after that, you won't make it again."
VanDam tried to swing a largemouth bass into the boat. There's nothing unusual about that. But he bounced this one off the trolling motor and back into the river. He estimated the fish weighed 3 1/2 pounds.
"Here (this week) that's huge," said VanDam.
VanDam still finished 13th on opening day with three fish weighing 7 pounds, 2 ounces. But if he'd landed that trolling motor casualty, even conservatively estimated at 3 pounds, it would have vaulted him into sixth place.
VanDam missed plenty of other fish Thursday. But all the others were fish that just didn't take the lure well enough for a solid hookset. Every angler knows you just have to live with those.
"Those are just bad luck," VanDam said. "It's like in a NASCAR race. When you get caught up in somebody else's accident, there's nothing you can do about that."
VanDam remains optimistic that he will make the top-12 cut that occurs after Friday's weigh-in. He said he could have easily of had 16 pounds Thursday with a little luck and one less mistake on his part.
"This river is full of fish, it's just tough right now," he said. "These fish are primarily feeding at night right now. So most of the fish we're getting on now are reactionary type strikes. They bite it out of a reaction when you drop something real fast in front of them. A lot of times they don't get it that good."