In the spirit of Bassmaster.com's and BassGold.com's combined commitment to pattern info, here's a look at Kevin VanDam's 11th-place pattern at the recent Bassmaster Classic on the Red River.
Covering 11th-place patterns probably won't be a regular thing here on Bassmaster.com (though it may be on BassGold.com), but a couple things make this performance interesting.
One is that KVD was the only angler in the Top 25 to weigh more every day. The other reason is that he's Kevin VanDam. So let's take a look.
KVD: Well, when you set the bar low to begin with, it's not hard to step it up each day (laughs). Really, the goal is to improve each day, but the first day wasn't the day I would've liked.
I had to adjust every day. I fished different areas, different spots within the same areas each day, and I had to adjust because the conditions changed each day. The high winds were muddying a lot of the water [before and into Day One], then the water levels were fluctuating a lot – and the temps too.
I fished both Pool Four and Pool Five every day. The first morning I fished in Pool Five then locked down to Pool Four. Day Two I went to Pool Four then locked back to Pool Five – just because the water conditions changed.
The first place I went on the first day, the water was real muddy from the wind. The day before the tournament we had 40 mph winds, and that wrecked one of my primary areas. So I adjusted, went to a different location and finally got onto them. But that was a lock, then getting back to the backwaters. By the time I did all that, I really ran out of time – but the last 45 minutes they were really biting.
The next morning I think I've got 'em figured out, so I go [to his Pool Four spot] the next morning, and they dropped the water 6 inches and the fish are gone. So I had to readjust.
It took me a while, but I finally figured out what the fish were doing and did the best I could.
Day Three I thought I had something foolproof. I caught a 4-pounder right away, then had no bites. I could tell the water level was too low. The water was real clear and I could see the bottom – the day before it was at least 8 inches deeper with good color to it. Plus the dirtier water made the fish hold tighter to targets.
So it was a challenge. Every day you have to relocate the fish, and you don't have a ton of time to make it happen. I always started in the hole every day, and had to build from that.
I was pretty much throwing at whatever was the predominant cover in that area. Some places it was stumps and laydowns, some places it was hyacinths, some places it was lily pad stems.Some areas it was just milfoil – shallow milfoil.
Seemed like you had to find that on a spawning flat with deeper water somewhere close [due to the] water level fluctuating
My best bait for the week when fishing targets was a Strike King Rodent (black neon/red flake), flipped with a 3/16-ounce Strike King tungsten weight in open areas and a 1/2-ounce tungsten weight if I had to punch through. But I picked up whatever lure was most efficient for what was in front of me.
I was trying to target areas that didn't have the clearest water. People were really stacked up in areas that had cleaner water so I tried to stay away from that. I was trying to fish dirty water in those backwaters because it helped put the fish on those targets a little better.
Some guys milked a little area, but I was covering a lot of water until I got bit. Then I slowed down: The fish were definitely grouped up.
The biggest thing that surprised me every day was how the water levels fluctuated. It wasn't the same hour to hour or day to day.
Those fish also are super strong. I was really impressed with how hard they pulled, so I put the big stick out there – a 7' 6" heavy-action rod.