Kevin VanDam needs no introduction. He's done everything there is to be done in the world of professional bass fishing ... multiple times.
I've shared a boat with VanDam several times, and I have been amazed at his uncanny ability to find and catch bass on lakes he either hasn't fished for years or has never fished before. When I asked him about his gift, he shrugged his shoulders and said, "I just follow my Seasonal Guide. It works on any bass lake, anywhere in the country."
Just what is this mysterious "Seasonal Guide" VanDam refers to? How is it different from the seasonal patterns bass anglers have long used to guide them to lures and locations?
VanDam agreed to explain his all-purpose approach to bass fishing in his own words to Bassmaster.com readers. We guarantee it's a framework you can use to get on bass quickly all year long, regardless of where you're fishing.
The Seasonal Guide is a system I've adapted to help find bass on unfamiliar waters. As a touring pro, I fish all kinds of lakes in many regions throughout the year. Obviously, I don't have time to become intimately familiar with each of these venues prior to tournament competition. When you only have three practice days to unlock the secrets of a 75,000-acre body of water, you need some guidance to help you quickly get on a viable fish catching pattern. The Seasonal Guide provides that information, regardless of where or when I'm fishing. It helps me make educated guesses about where bass are most likely to be at any given time of the year. It's a system that quickly eliminates unproductive water and helps me home in on areas holding the most bass.
The concept operates on the theory that at any given time, the majority of bass in a given lake will be on certain key types of structure. Of course, not all bass will adhere to this "rule." I could probably catch some bass off flats or in shallow bays in winter if I spent long enough trying, but in a tournament, I'm better off spending my limited fishing time in high percentage areas. The Seasonal Guide gives me the general direction I need to form a fish catching pattern quickly. How well I fine-tune this generalized pattern during competition determines how high I'll finish in the standings.
The temperature of the water is critical information — you can't fish the Seasonal Guide without knowing how cold or warm the water is.
Sometimes, especially in prespawn, water that's just one degree warmer will hold most of the bass. If you don't have a surface temperature monitor on your boat, get one.
Of course, the weather helps drive the Seasonal Guide. I'm addicted to The Weather Channel, and stay tuned to it constantly before and during tournament competition. I pay attention to both general weather trends and daily conditions. For example, I want to know if there's a warm front or cold front on the way in or out. I begin checking conditions for the area I'll be fishing as early as 15 days before a tournament.
In using the Seasonal Guide, it helps to determine what type of lake you're fishing, because bass use different places in different types of lakes. I follow the classification of bass waters that divides them into lowland reservoirs, highland reservoirs, natural lakes, tidewater lakes and rivers, both natural and dammed.
Let's take a walk through the six seasons of the bass fishing year and see what direction the Seasonal Guide can give us about each.