(1st place — 30 pounds, 6 ounces)
Men like Kevin VanDam make their own destiny. Chance has no place in their world. They aren't interested in odds, luck or waiting for someone else to put them into the right position. They know what they want and they go get it.
After a less than stellar performance in the first postseason event on Lake Jordan, with his fifth Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year title in serious jeopardy, VanDam knew he had to find the right fish — fish big enough to give him the win. And so, that's what he did.
"I really didn't have any choice. It was win or lose. There was no in between. After a short time on the water in practice I realized that the fish I needed were feeding on shad and were located over relatively shallow sandbars near islands, cuts, washouts and creeks with some current moving across them.
"We had a lot of rain last week which caused the water level to fluctuate, so they kept moving from one bar to the next. But they were always feeding on shad, always over sand and always in the current. I targeted them with a variety of Strike King lures to take advantage of what I'd figured out in practice."
When his fish were shallow — mostly on the first day — he threw a Sexy Shad finished Strike King Pro-Model Series 1 SS (super shallow) crankbait on 17-pound-test Bass Pro Shops XPS Signature Series Fluorocarbon Line. The heavier line forced the bait to run shallower than normal, no more than a foot deep.
When his crankbait bite slowed, he switched to a Strike King Caffeine Shad on the same 17-pound-test line. Most of the time he'd twitch it along. Occasionally, however, he'd burn it for a few feet and then kill it dead still in the water to force reluctant bass to take another look at his offering.
On the second day, when his bigger bass were holding deeper, VanDam tossed a Strike King Pro-Model Series 5 crankbait (Sexy Shad, of course) on 12-pound-test Bass Pro Shops XPS Signature Series Fluorocarbon Line. When that bite slowed he cranked a Shadalicious plastic swimbait on a 3/8-ounce jighead using the same line.
"It was a matter of following the current and keeping track of the depth of the bite. I only caught two or three bass from each spot. Once the school scattered I got out of there and fished another bar. It was important to let the bass settle down and regroup.
"That was the only way I could keep the bite going. I had a lot of spots I'd developed in practice, so moving around wasn't a problem. This tournament was an example of the importance of having enough spots to last the whole tournament. That's critical in competitive fishing."
VanDam threw his Series 1 and Series 5 crankbaits on a 7-foot, 10-inch Quantum KVD Tour PT Cranking Rod (medium-heavy action) and a Quantum KVD Tour Reel (5.4:1 gear ratio.).
He fished his plastics with a 7-foot, 4-inch Quantum KVD Tour PT Cranking Rod (medium action) and a Quantum KVD Tour Burner Reel (7.3:1 gear ratio.).