Power Fishing with Kevin VanDam: Mix it up for dog day bass

This is a time of year when fishing can get tough, and you have to grind it out. And while I prefer to catch bass when they're knocking the rod out of my hands, I tend to excel in tournaments when it's tough.

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.

This is a time of year when fishing can get tough, and you have to grind it out.

And while I prefer to catch bass when they're knocking the rod out of my hands, I tend to excel in tournaments when it's tough.


That doesn't mean I catch big bags, but it does mean my power fishing tactics can carry me through a decent day on the water.

When the water gets hot during dog days, the bait and bass like to suspend off structure, especially in lakes where there is little current.

You can still make those fish bite, but you have to work at it.

The thing to remember is the bass are totally focused on shad. So, when the baitfish lounge in those mid-water depths over deep points and humps, the bass will suspend with them. You must fish those mid-depths, too, which makes it tougher.

Typically, the water is clear, so the bass are selective in what they bite and are easily spooked. That means the odds of catching several from one spot are minimal.

But that fits my run-and-gun style. You have to hit a lot of spots and can't spend a lot of time in one area. Catch a few and move on when the action stops; give those edgy bass time to forget what just happened.

But it pays to go back to that area. I may hit the same spot three or four times during the day while rotating it with other areas that produced similar results.

I narrow my lures to those that trigger reactionary strikes — crankbaits, a Sexy Spoon, hair jig or a small swimbait rigged on a jighead.

I'll start with a crankbait. If the bass are on the bottom, you'll fire up the school and can catch several in a hurry. If the fish are suspended, I will choose a Strike King crankbait that runs at the depth the fish are holding. I will fish it more with a stop-and-go retrieve, jerking it like a jerkbait when it gets in that zone.

If that doesn't work, I try the spoon or hair jig that falls fast and gets to where the fish are. Once there, I'll rip either lure and let it fall back to resemble a dying shad.

If fishing the swimbait, I let the lure fall into the zone, then reel it fast to make that paddle tail flutter, then kill the bait and let it fall on a taut line. When they hit it, the line will jump, and I'll put the smack down on 'em hard.

And finally, I'll always have a topwater tied and ready in case the bass push the shad school to the surface. I match my topwater to the size of baitfish; if small, I'll use the Spit'n King. If larger, I'll throw a big wake bait or a prop bait that creates a lot of commotion.

Whichever lure you use, make sure it has quality hooks because lethargic bass tend to "slash" at baits.

Since I've starting using Mustad KVD Elite trebles, I land a much higher percentage of the fish that strike. 

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