BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- One day after hundreds of spectators watched Kevin VanDam win the 2010 Bassmaster Classic fishing in Beeswax Creek, the boat ramp there remained busy with anglers looking to capture some of his magic.
From jon boats to glittering bass rigs, the parking lot was crowded with trucks and trailers and the sound of running outboards filled the large creek. Anglers young and old packed the area where VanDam caught all his fish, making cast after cast with a lipless crankbait just like the KVD did.
Junior Hughes and Jimmy Oaks have been fishing Lay Lake for more than 50 years, starting before the lake was backed up. They rarely fish anything but the south end of the lake, but watching the final day of the Classic on ESPN2 Sunday night inspired them to come up to Beeswax in search of warmer water.
"We like the other end of the lake, but the water down around Paint Creek is much colder than this," Hughes said. "Pre-spawn is usually pretty good for spotted bass when they are chasing shad, but with all the shad dying, they don't have to chase nothing."
They said last year they had days of 100-fish catches fishing the lower end of the lake for spotted bass in deeper water, but the odd winter had shut the bite down in 2010. Beeswax Creek, however, was 54 degrees and the catches from Classic pros made it the go-to place for recreation anglers Monday.
Hughes and Oaks live only 12 miles from the lake and fish Lay every day since they retired. They spent the morning throwing a chrome Red Eye Shad, the identical bait VanDam used in the Classic, but their only catch was a drum.
They had some bites, but despite overcast weather, the bass didn't seem to be active. Oaks shared some sound philosophical advice about the move they made.
"You can't catch fish on another man's game," Oaks said. "You can see them catch 'em, but if that's not your game, you can't duplicate their success."
Roger Swain lives 60 miles north of Birmingham and was fishing Lay Lake for only the third time in his life. He chose to come to Beeswax after watching the show on ESPN.
"I wanted to come out to the lake and watch (as a spectator), but I figured it would be too crowded, so I didn't fool with it," Swain said. "Kevin was up here this morning at the ramp doing his photo shoot when I got here though."
A lipless crankbait was Swain's lure of choice and he was able to catch two nice bass in the 2.5- to 3-pound range. Reminiscent of the Classic contenders, Swain put them in his livewell to see what his best five would weigh at the end of the day.
"I was hoping to get into a good one like Kevin had," Swain said. "I guess that's why he gets paid the big bucks."
Along with most of the other boats, Swain didn't spend much time back in the area VanDam caught his fish, choosing instead to try the clearer, thicker grass beds in the middle of Beeswax Creek where anglers like Jeff Kriet and Todd Faircloth concentrated their efforts. Overnight rain had muddied up the area behind the bridge, dissuading many anglers from staying there long.
One father-son team persevered in the chocolate-colored water, and it paid off. Randy and Blaine Maharrey from Birmingham, Ala., chose to come to Lay Lake over Guntersville and went into the back of Beeswax first thing in the morning and returned again early in the afternoon.
The fish that were there for VanDam on Sunday hadn't left Monday despite the influx of stained water.
"The fish were biting first thing this morning — we caught four fish that weighed close to 12 pounds," Blaine said. "We went out and hit Ike's hole and Todd's hole and then came back here. The mud moved in today, but the fish are still here."
Knowing that VanDam "wore them out" on a lipless crankbait, the Maharreys changed it up Monday, giving the fish a different look. The shad-imitating soft-plastic jerkbait they used put six nice bass in the boat before noon.
"There is a nice creek channel that comes right through here and the fish move along it," Blaine said. "This morning a few other boats saw us catching those fish and tried to come back in here, but we managed to guard the best spot."
For three days of Classic competition, the back end of Beeswax Creek went on hold, claimed as "Kevin VanDam's spot." The lesson the Maharreys taught the rest of the anglers Monday was one they learned from KVD: win the free-for-all race to the best spot and hang on to reap the rewards.