Power Fishing with Kevin VanDam (Lesson 6:)

Successful power fishing

Kevin VanDam
Kevin VanDam

About the author

Kevin VanDam as told to Louie Stout

Kevin VanDam as told to Louie Stout

Kevin VanDam is a 7-time Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year and 4-time Bassmaster Classic champion.

Successful power fishing isn't a simple matter of rapid firing your favorite lure down a bank or along an offshore point.

It requires some preliminary research to ensure your lure presentations match the lake, water conditions and seasonal patterns. Otherwise, you're wasting time.

Water temperature, clarity, forage, structure and cover are key factors to note when dialing in the proper presentation and matching it to the seasonal pattern.

Water temperature can dictate how aggressive the fish might be and what they'll hit. If the water is 45 degrees, for example, I'm not likely to have a topwater tied on.

Water clarity will determine how bass relate to cover. The dirtier the water, the closer fish relate to the cover. It also can dictate how deep the bass are holding, since, as a general rule, the clearer the water the deeper they will go.

Clarity also helps me determine lure color and speed.

If the water is clear enough for the bass to see my lures, I'll opt for natural colors and work them faster. By utilizing natural colors, speed and erratic action, the lures appear more realistic. That's especially important on clear lakes that get a lot of bass fishing pressure.

The weather can be a wild card, too. Wind moves plankton and bait around, a positive influence that can move fish shallower, unless it muddies up shallow flats. Also, bass tend to be more active during low pressure systems, so the strike zone is a little larger than during high pressure weather when the fish are less active.

Also, it's vital to choose lures that fish the cover as efficiently as possible.

If the lake has a lot of 20-foot deep hydrilla grassbeds, shallow crankbaits aren't worthy. If the lake is shallow and has a lot of flooded bushes, then weedless flipping lures may be the preferred lure of choice. For flat points, a lipless crankbait like Strike King's Red Eye Shad would do the job. On docks and submerged logs, it might be a spinnerbait.

And finally, know the lake's primary forage for that season. If it's blueback herring, you can fish a spinnerbait in the middle of the lake on a bright summer day when fish are schooling. In East Texas, spring crawfish are red and the bass are more apt to hit lures that imitate them.

With that in mind, here's how to refine your lure choices by season:

  • Spring: You can bust pre-spawners on lipless crankbaits around spawning flats early in the season or spinnerbaits around the bushes when the fish start moving shallower and are ready to spawn. Bass are very territorial then.

Also, be cognizant of what layer of water they are using. Spring bass will suspend around shallow cover, so choose lures that fish the appropriate depth zone.

After they start spawning, fast movers are least effective, so I start flipping a Strike King Rodent (creature bait) into their protective zones. My number one rule is to pick a lure that fishes well in that particular depth zone/cover AND that matches the mood of the fish and conditions I'm facing.

  • Summer: Bass begin relating to main lake structure — humps, points and ledges. That doesn't mean they're always deep, but somewhat deeper, so you need a lure that gets down quickly and covers the appropriate depth zone and cover.

If you're fishing shellbeds and ledges, a crankbait is hard to beat in the 5 to 21-foot depth range because it will give you a good feel of what kind of bottom is there and it covers water quickly.

If you don't have a crankbait that gets deep enough, a football jig or a Carolina rig with a heavy sinker will catch a lot of bass and help you find the cover and hard bottom spots. A big, Texas rigged worm will catch them, too, but isn't as fast or efficient when you're searching for fish.

Once I know the fish are on a specific spot, or if they lose interest in other presentations, I will hop a worm, slow roll a big spinnerbait or snap a Sexy Spoon in the area.

If the fish are suspended off structure, the spinnerbait and spoon are great choices.

Remember to always visualize what the lure is doing — especially in deep water. Know how deep your crankbait is running with the rod and reel setup you're using. If you're grinding the bottom with a deep crankbait and suddenly hit something, it could mean there's a hump, a stump or big rock there. If you catch one, you'll know how the fish are positioned and know to look for similar habitat.

I use my electronics continuously, motoring over these spots where I've had success to determine what is there to attract the fish. I mark the spot with my GPS, then lineup with a landmark so that I know exactly how I need to cast the next time I fish the spot.

  • Fall: The water starts to cool and baitfish begin to migrate to creeks and move shallower. I start on main lake creek points and work into the back, concentrating on channel drops, little flats and banks on which the channel swings nearby.

Many of the lures I used during the prespawn come back into play. Again, I take into account water depth and the cover I'm fishing as well as water clarity.

Because the fish are keying on baitfish, I prefer those that resemble the forage, which include crankbaits, spinnerbaits, lipless crankbaits, etc.

If the water is cooling down fast or the fish are not in a chasing mood, a jerkbait or a slow sinking soft jerkbait are excellent choices if the water is clear. They have good drawing power in clear water.

Regardless of the time of year, always be aware of potential changes in conditions that require a lure change or different tactic. Successful power fishermen are cognizant of the slightest change and adjust their lure selections and presentations accordingly. 

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