Elite Series: Winning Gear

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Kevin VanDam captured his fifth Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year title by blowing away the competition at the Evan Williams Bourbon Trophy Triumph on the Alabama River in Montgomery, Ala.

His two-day total of 30 pounds, 6 ounces was almost 8 pounds better than second-place Tommy Biffle, giving KVD the year-end title by a mere six points.

VanDam focused on one main river spot and an assortment of shallow sandbars just off the river on the way to winning the second half of Toyota Trucks Championship Week. The bass on the Alabama River key in on shad as their main food source and VanDam adapted accordingly, throwing an array of shad-imitators.

His primary bait was a Strike King Series 5 crankbait in his signature Sexy Shad color. VanDam also mixed in a Strike King Series 1XS, shallow-running crankbait.

Both crankbaits were fished on a 7-foot, 10-inch Quantum KVD Signature Series crankbait rod paired with a Quantum KVD signature series PT casting reel with a 5.3:1 gear ratio.

"That reel gives me a little more power and the spool is bigger so I can make longer casts," VanDam said. "If you match that reel and rod together, I can thrown a lure a long way."

With the Series 5, VanDam fished 12-pound Bass Pro Shops XPS fluorocarbon, while with the Series 1XS, he used 17-pound test.

"Fluorocarbon makes the bait run deeper and it has less stretch and more feel," VanDam said.

Another key bait for VanDam was a silver flake Strike King Caffeine Shad soft plastic jerkbait. He rigged that on a 5/0 Mustad Ultrabite hook because with the wider bait, he "needed a big gap on the hook."

For the jerkbait, he used a 7-foot, 4-inch Quantum PT series rod with a Quantum Burner reel. Using the lure in his usual quick retrieve, VanDam said he was "trying to make the bait look like a fleeing shad."

VanDam also caught two keepers during competition on a 3.5-inch Strike King Shadalicious swimbait. He fished that on a 3/8-ounce jighead in the same places that he threw the crankbaits.

"The bass were feeding on shad there, so that's what I was trying to imitate," VanDam said.

Keeping with the shad theme, VanDam's Biosonix unit helped trigger schooling fish when he set it on an aggressive-shad pattern.

When around the sandbars, VanDam looked for isolated stumps on flats and cited his Oakley Tungsten Iridium Straight Jacket sunglasses.

"It's really hard to beat for seeing things in shallow water," VanDam said. "If you could just see the shadow of the stump in the shallow, muddy water, that was key."

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