Kansas City Star: VanDam makes big comeback

Note to those of you who counted Kevin VanDam out of the Bassmaster Classic after the first round: big mistake.

 VanDam, the legendary bass fisherman from Kalamazoo, Mich., was in 19th place going into Saturday's second round, and even he said, "I dug myself a deep hole."

 But it didn't take him long to get out of it. Fishing at Lay Lake in Alabama, he caught five bass weighing 19 pounds, 14 ounces Saturday, lifting his two-day total to 32 pounds, 15 ounces.

 Now, going into today's final round, he is on top of the field of 50, hoping to take his third Classic title.

 "When I heard the weather forecast for (Saturday), I knew it was going to be my kind of day," VanDam said during a Web cast. "With the cloud cover and the wind, I thought the fish would bite better for me.

 "I just stayed on the move and covered a lot of water — the way I like to fish. That's my style of fishing and it paid off today. All you can ask for in the Bassmaster Classic is to have a shot going into the final day. And I do."

 Plenty of other fishermen can say the same thing, though.

 Going into the final day, seven other fishermen are within five pounds of the lead. Skeet Reese of Auburn, Calif., is VanDam's closest competition, in second place with 32 pounds, 6 ounces. Terry Scroggins of Palatka, Fla., is third with 30 pounds, 15 ounces.

 Boyd Duckett of Demopolis, Ala., the first-round leader, fell to fourth place Saturday, but still has 30 pounds, 13 ounces and is within striking distance.

 "I really want to win it in Alabama and break that home-state curse," Duckett said, referring to the fact that a Classic has never been won by a home-state fisherman. "I slipped a little bit today (Saturday), but don't count me out.

 "I still can catch them."

 VanDam didn't reveal specifics on how he was fishing, not wanting to tip his hand to his fellow competitors. But it was no secret to others.

 He was fishing in the style that has made him famous on the pro fishing circuit — with a spinnerbait, running and gunning.

 With stormy weather predicted today, VanDam is planning on another good day.

 "They're talking about some big storms," he said. "Bass like that kind of weather. That's when you can have some of those big bags (of fish)."

 For the three Missouri fishermen in the championship tournament, Saturday was a day to forget. Each failed to make the cut.

 Rick Clunn of Ava finished 38th with 19 pounds, 1 ounce; Mark Tucker of St. Louis was 41st with 17 pounds, 10 ounces; and Denny Brauer of Camdenton was 47th with 13 pounds, 13 ounces.

 "I thought I had a chance to do well in this tournament, but it didn't work out," Brauer said. "Sometimes, you make the right decisions and you're a hero. But when you make the wrong decisions, you're a zero. And that's what happened to me."

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