Kevin VanDam on when to supersize your bait

Kevin VanDam
Kevin VanDam

Spinnerbaits are available in a wide variety of sizes, shapes and colors. When it comes to weight, the vast majority of bass anglers opt for spinnerbaits in the 1/4- to 1/2-ounce range. Anything over a 1/2 ounce, and there seems to be a tendency to shy away from the weighty offerings.

According to Kevin VanDam, that's a mistake. When fishing for deep-water bass in warm weather, the Michigan pro often supersizes his spinnerbait in order to probe the depths for suspended giants.

"There are a handful of scenarios in which I like to use a big spinnerbait in deep water," explains VanDam. "In summertime, it's one of my favorite baits for fishing offshore ledges and structure."

It all comes down to precision. VanDam explains that the spinnerbait is one of the few lures in the tacklebox that allows you to closely control the depth of the presentation. "With a crankbait, you can't keep it at a specific depth like you can with a spinnerbait. The spinnerbait blades provide lift, and that allows you to control the depth of the bait," he says.

When fishing deep with a big blade, VanDam favors a Strike King Bottom Dweller ranging in weights from 3/4 ounce to 1 3/8 ounce. When he is targeting depths ranging from 7 to 12 feet, the 3/4-ounce Bottom Dweller gets the nod. If he is fishing water from 10 to 15 feet deep, he'll bump up to a 1-ounce model, and when he wants to probe depths of up to 30 feet, the 1 3/8-ounce version gets the call.

While the weight of the spinnerbait head provides the majority of depth control, the blades on the spinnerbait also play an important part in keeping the offering in the strike zone. "The Bottom Dweller comes rigged with tandem willow leaf Razor Blades, which are thinner and provide less lift, so the bait can stay deeper during the retrieve," explains VanDam.

"The key is to get the spinnerbait down to the strike zone, stay in the area and control the depth," he says.

The two-time Classic champion admits that when he is fishing deep offshore structure, the big blade isn't typically his go-to offering. "It's usually not the first lure that I'm going to throw when I pull up on a prime spot," he says. "I may fish a hump or ledge and catch a few bass on a crankbait or football jig first, but I won't leave that spot without throwing a big spinnerbait out there. What I've learned about fishing big spinnerbaits in warm water is that you catch big fish."

During his retrieve, VanDam likes to vary the speed and movement of his spinnerbait in order to imitate a wounded shad. "I usually start with a straight retrieve because it increases my strike-to-land ratio," he explains. "If I can't get bit doing that, I like to use a jigging or yo-yo retrieve because there's something about those blades and the pulsating skirt that triggers strikes."

One of his favorite deep-water retrieves with a heavy spinnerbait is to rip the offering off the bottom as if he is setting the hook. "It makes the bait jump off the bottom and creates a reaction strike," he says.

VanDam gives credit to a heavy spinnerbait for the single greatest day of bass fishing that he has ever experienced. Fishing on Mexico's Lake El Salto with fellow Elite Series pro Shaw Grigsby in October, the two were having trouble getting the bigger bass to bite.

"We started ripping heavy spinnerbaits through deep timber and just started crushing the bass. My best five bass that day weighed a total of 50 pounds, and I bet we caught close to 200 bass over the course of the day," he remembers.

"The heavy spinnerbait is a bait that I throw when I know there are fish in the area," he says. "It's just a matter of experimenting and figuring out if they'll eat it on any given day."