Jonathon VanDam set a new Elite Series record at Lake Havasu last Saturday. Literally – a new record.
In this the 10th year of the Bassmaster Elite Series, no one had ever rallied from 52nd place on Day 2 to qualify for the Top 12 cut on Day 3. But that's exactly what VanDam did Saturday in the Bassmaster Lake Havasu Elite sponsored by Dick Cepek Tires & Wheels. He went from last man in the two-day cut to one of the last 12 fishing on Sunday, when he finished 9th overall.
Yes, there's an asterisk by this record. In the first nine years of the Elite Series the two-day cut was the Top 50, so no one had a chance to rally from 52nd place Saturday to the Top 12 Sunday prior to this season.
But that doesn't diminish what JVD, the 26-year-old nephew of Kevin VanDam, achieved last weekend.
"I didn't go out there with the mentality of trying to catch a big bag," VanDam said Saturday, as he paced backstage, waiting to see if his 18-8 total would be enough to give him another day on Lake Havasu.
"I didn't do anything different. I just fished everything I had been fishing. Same lures. I just got some better bites."
Those lures were a Strike King 6XD blue gizzard shad-colored crankbait and a KVD Dream shot in the KVD Magic color pattern, both the regular and magnum versions.
"I was drop-shotting, primarily," VanDam said. "The magnum Dream Shot produced some of my better bites."
For those who believe Jonathon is riding the coattails of his famous uncle, there was this fact Friday: KVD caught only 3 bass totaling 9-2 and dropped from 10th to 58th, missing the cut; JVD caught a limit weighing 15-8 and moved up from 61st to 53rd.
This is Jonathon's fifth season on the Elite Series. In that time he's proven he can stand on his own. He won the Elite Series event at Lake Michigan (Green Bay) in 2012 when he was only 23 years old. And he qualified for the Bassmaster Classic in both 2013 at Grand Lake, where he finished 23rd, and 2014 at Lake Guntersville, where he finished 16th.
But VanDam didn't qualify for the Classic this year at Lake Hartwell after finishing 66th in the Toyota Angler of the Year standings in 2014. And he was coming off by far his worst finish of the year, where he placed 102nd at Sacramento.
At the halfway point in the Elite Series season, VanDam is 45th in the AOY standings. If he qualifies for the 2016 Classic, last Saturday will be looked back upon as a crucial day for him. And no matter what happens the rest of the way, it will stand as an Elite Series record-setting day for Jonathon VanDam.