VanDam is a fish locator

Boat driver Don Staczyzyk has given me some added perspective this week on how good Kevin VanDam is at finding fish. On the spot where VanDam is catching fish now, we followed him there on Day 1 of the tournament.

Staczyzyk grew up here, plus he's spent a lot of time tournament fishing on the Niagara River. When he saw VanDam on this spot, he said, "I never thought in a million years that anybody would find that spot with no more practice time than they had."

The practice time for this tournament was from daylight until 2:30 p.m. on Monday.

"I look for areas that are going to have patchy grass and patchy rock, and that's how this sets up," VanDam said yesterday. "I found it in practice and thought it was the best place I'd found.

"It was really windy and I couldn't really see good on the first day of the tournament. But I looked at it (Wednesday) and knew it was good."

This is the spot VanDam tried to save "clean and green" for today, until Koby Kreiger put a scare in him yesterday and he had to go there. It's where he caught the fish to tie Kreiger, and VanDam won in the tiebreaker formula.

"I know what to look for on this type of fishery, or at least I think I do," VanDam said.

VanDam knows what to look for on every type of fishery. Several years ago, when the Elite Series went to Arkansas' Bull Shoals Lake, VanDam provided another example. I have a friend who lives on that lake and puts out quite a few brushpiles. He had one special brushpile, which he never told anyone about.

"The first day of the tournament, VanDam was on it," my buddy said. "I was impressed."

KVD's last fish did not count

Kevin VanDam did indeed catch one bass south of the tournament boundary, which is south of the International Bridge. That fish weighed 1 pound 13 ounces. The tournament official in the boat with VanDam is Trip Weldon. He ruled that fish did not count toward VanDam's total, which remains at 14-11.

KVD with No. 8

Kevin VanDam just boated bass number eight. This one weighed 1-1 and brought his total to 14-11. The location was about 100 yards south of the International Bridge. Brett Hite has four fish for 7-10.

Afterwards VanDam and tournament director Trip Weldon conferred on whether KVD had moved past the boundary for this tournament. We're not certain of that ruling. More to come.

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VanDam with 9, 10 and 11

Kevin VanDam moved north to fish the area he started in this morning.

And the move paid off with a 1-12, a 2-3 and 1-9 for a total of 20-3.

VanDam said yesterday he thought he could have had 18 pounds, with a 5-fish limit, if he could have caught several large smallmouth following his baits.

Today he has surpassed that by 2 pounds already. Of course, that's counting all 11 keepers.

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VanDam loves the wind

Kevin VanDam was looking forward to today's windy conditions. The perfect formula for catching smallmouth bass in clear water like the Niagara River is wind and sunshine, but wind is the more important of those two.
VanDam mentioned that fish haven't crushed a bait the last two days under calm conditions like they did the first day when the wind was blowing. But it hasn't blown all week like it is today, and cloudy skies are giving way to sunshine just past noon. 

VanDam has been relying on two types of lures this week: 1) Strike King KVD Jerkbaits, and 2) Strike King Drop Shot Half Shells, a new lure that VanDam and Mark Zona helped design. All VanDam had on his boat deck this morning were baitcasters with jerkbaits tied on and spinning rods with drop shot rigs.

In the photos above, you can see the variety of jerkbait colors VanDam started the day with, and you can see a couple of the Half Shells he's been using. The Half Shell is a bait similar to Strike King's Dream Shot, but with a different action.

"A Dream Shot is a really lively bait," VanDam said. "The Half Shell has a different tail, and it's designed to stand out horizontally. It really imitates a baitfish. The fish in this river are really feeding on shiners a lot, emerald and spot-tail shiners. These are really good imitations.

"When you shake the Half Shell, instead of quivering like a Dream Shot, it has more of a dart to it, almost a jerkbait type action. Both of them are very good baits, but they have a uniquely different action."

So it's all about "jerkbait type actions" with VanDam today, whether it's in an actual jerkbait, or the soft plastic Drop Shot Half Shell.

KVD with No. 6

Kevin VanDam just caught his 6th and 7th keepers, minutes apart. They weighed in at 2-7 and 1-12 respectively. That gives him a total of 13-10 so far. Hite remains at three fish for 5-9.

VanDam is fishing in strong current on the downstream side of the International Railroad Bridge.  We have not seen him fish this spot during the tournament. He told us he had some good spots he hadn't fished yet. I believe this is one of them.

KVD with keepers 3 and 4

The waters around Strawberry Island are paying off for Kevin VanDam. He just caught his 3rd and 4th keeper here. Number three was his biggest fish of the day at 2 pounds 11 ounces. Number four was his smallest fish at 15 ounces. This gives him a total of 7 pounds 1 ounce.

Brett Hite now has two fish for 3-14.

And remember, there's no five five limit today. Every bass that meets the 12 inch minimum is added to the angler's total weight.

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KVD move pays off

Kevin VanDam's move to Strawberry Island has paid off with two keepers. A 1-3 and a 2-4 for a total of 3 pounds 7 ounces. VanDam is fishing the same seawall where he caught two smallmouth yesterday. We believe the first one came on a jerkbait and the second one on a tube. This is the same spot where Keith Combs caught fish on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Game on!

VanDam fishing totally different

This my second day of following Kevin VanDam. And he's fishing totally differently today than he did yesterday. I'd describe his Thursday morning as laid back. He admitted as much. Koby Kreiger had not been catching fish all week. So it appeared VanDam had nothing to worry about. He had 6 pounds by 11:00 and he was clearly in no hurry.
Fishing slowly around the calm waters of Strawberry Island. Even taking time to sit down and go through his tackle. That all changed when Kreiger started catching fish, eventually moving ahead of KVD. Even then, VanDam fished calm and steady. At least outwardly so.

Today VanDam is moving often and even in the boat he's hoping around more aggressively. After all it is Championship Friday.

He's only caught one fish by 10:20. It was a dink. And he just made a longer move south to Strawberry Island.

KVD planned to burn some gas

It's no surprise that Kevin VanDam is running-and-gunning today. That's usually his style. But KVD planned to crank it up a notch for the final day, especially after hearing about the every-keeper-counts format.
"In practice I found a lot of spots that have fish on them," he said. "But on a lot of those spots there's just small fish, a lot of shorts and keeper-size fish. I kind of wrote those places off because I knew I had to fish places that had three- and four-pounders on them.

"Now with this, it opens all those up again. I'm going to hit a lot more spots. We're going to burn some gas and cover some water."

VanDam's theme for the day, noted earlier, bears repeating: "Two one-pounders weigh the same as one two-pounder in your final score. It's all about catching as many as you can."

In the first 90 minutes today, catching one one-pounder was an impossible task,