Hite with 5, 6

After a couple casts, Brett Hite put his 5th fish in the boat, another 2-pounder. He's hoping for a  miracle, but for all we know there's 20 fish sitting there just looking to chomp. It's not impossible. He's back at it, hoping to turn a theory into reality...

(Editor's note: At the exact moment of publication of this blog post, Hite added number 6, and now has 10-6.)

Hite on the move

Brett Hite just abandoned his bridge bite after a couple hours of inactivity. The clock is ticking with less than an hour to go, and he needs to make something big happen fast. He surely has a lot on his mind, but it's not over until it's over ...

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.

Spooking the school

KVD has often talked about not liking to release smallmouth he's just caught because they will go back to the school and "warn" the other bass of danger. There is actually some science behind that idea.  Chemical and visual interactions have been found in several species of fish that help them communicate.  In heavy current situations like we have on the Niagara River, when these bass are released they are a bit disoriented and slightly weakened by the fight. They likely drift down river a distance before they regain their composure and relocate themselves. Giving KVD a chance to catch additional bass from the school.

A short move and a fish for Hite

Brett Hite relocated to the opposite end of the bridge and continued on the same pattern he's been fishing thus far. Two casts in he caught his fourth fish of the day, it looked slightly larger than his previous three, but only by a few ounces.

The pressure is mounting as the clock is ticking, and KVD has almost twice as much weight as Hite. He is given updates regularly, so he knows where he stands and is looking to add to his weight as quickly as possible. He has a few other spots I know he's considering that are up river a short distance from the bridge.

The question is: Stay or move. If he's going to switch it up, he'll likely do so shortly.

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