Power Fishing with Kevin VanDam (Lesson 14: A "Classic" pattern)

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.

Anyone who questions the validity of power fishing tactics around the spawn should take a close look at what happened at this year's Bassmaster Classic.

In addition to my winning pattern, four of the other top seven finishers power fished spinnerbaits and crankbaits on the same spawning flat. In three days of competition, 289 pounds, 9 ounces of bass (75 fish) were weighed in off the 150-yard long flat. Those don't include the dozens we culled or threw back.

Here's a little background: The area was 2 to 3 feet deep; it was a stump-covered flat adjacent to a large weedy lake. The flat provided the hardest bottom in the vicinity, making it a likely spawning area. There were a lot of cypress stumps in the area, but the most productive section had a mixture of milfoil and hydrilla growing around the wood. Anytime you find grass with stumps, it's an added bonus.

Furthermore, the water temperature rose more than 10 degrees in a week's time, which drew the fish onto the flat, and we were fishing under full moon conditions.

During the first day of competition, the fish were moving up and aggressively striking spinnerbaits. By the second day, however, they were more focused on clearing beds around the stumps and therefore needed to be triggered into striking.

That's when the crankbait came into play.

Now, it would be a normal assessment that jigs and worms dropped into those spawning areas would be more effective.

But they weren't. We tried them, but couldn't get the bass to respond. Part of that was due to the dirty water conditions, which is another factor that contributed to the crankbait's effectiveness.

As I discovered early on — and what gave me an edge over my competitors — is you had to use the crankbait to locate the stumps, then make persistent casts at them to trigger a reaction.

In other words, I'd fancast an area until I felt the lure bump a stump or catch in grass that was also scattered on the flat. When I hit a stump, I kept casting at it from various angles. I also had to slow the retrieve to keep the bait banging on the cover so it would deflect and move erratically, which is a great way to make non-feeding bass react.

Several of my big fish came after four or more casts to the same stump!

All of us were fishing square-bill crankbaits, and three of us were using the Strike King KVD 1.5 Elite square bill that has terrific deflection qualities.

Here's another trick I used: If I snagged, I would never get over the stump to free the bait. I either snapped the lure free from a distance or broke it off. That way I didn't disturb the area.

The lesson here is: Don't assume you have to finesse spawning bass to get them to bite. You might catch a few, but the crankbait may be more efficient for catching quality bass.

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