In danger of dying, Kevin VanDam came to the rescue.
Producer Mike McKinnis was lamenting the inaction and connectivity issues on Bassmaster LIVE during Day 4 of the Zippo Bassfest at Kentucky Lake presented by A.R.E. Truck Caps.
“We’re dying,” he said over an open mike to the crew. “Somebody do something. I hate Kentucky Lake. We are dying.”
VanDam couldn’t hear him, but he answered the call. After getting to a new spot, KVD went on a Kentucky ledge fishing tear that dropped the jaws of the production team.
“We’ve never been able to show an angler do something like that on the regular Bassmaster show,” McKinnis said. “It was eight, 10 minutes of pure bass fishing clinic.”
VanDam ignited one of the schools that bunch up on the lake’s ledges. Footage began with him reeling in the first, and he caught another on the next cast.
“They’re biting now … Every one counts at this point ... I like it, two casts, two bites,” he said before another hookset. “And three … Good one.”
“This is what we’ve waited for all day long,” Mark Zona said before he and co-host Tommy Sanders shut up and watched KVD fish.
During his five-fish rampage, KVD explained how the fish were positioned in a ditch, how he hurriedly sent his hair jig back into the school to keep it fired up and how he set up his Hyrdowave. Viewers saw an illuminated view of VanDam in action.
“Typically, the biggest ones are going to bite on the first and second cast, from there, they get smaller,” he said. “It just feels good to get a bite, finally, though.”
Viewers could see KVD change rods mid-flurry and switch his retrieve cadence of five turns of the reel and a two-second pause to a few turns with rod pumps. After five catches following by two misses, the spot died.
“Just like that, it’s over,” VanDam said.
Breaking it down
When the activity stopped, Sanders and Zona broke down the fantastic sequence.
“As remarkable a 10 minutes as I’ve ever seen,” Sanders said. “We would never have time to show that sequence in a one-hour show. Nobody needed to say a single thing. That was a seminar on ledge fishing on Kentucky Lake.”
“That’s Bassmaster University of throwing a hair jig,” Zona said. “One of the biggest things in ledge fishing is boat control and boat positioning. He’s constantly looking at his waypoints in conjunction to where the last bite came from. He said you can miss that school by 5 feet and not get a bite.”
The TV brain trust has for years talked about being able to show such a bass fishing burst, and after the Classic and four Elite events, it was really the first major flurry on LIVE. Showing one from start to finish had never been done.
“Tommy nailed it when he said timewise we have to break that up on the regular show of Bassmaster that everybody sees on ESPN,” Zona said. “We’ve talked about getting a school ignited on Bassmaster TV for years.
“Was that the biggest bass? No, but it was exactly what we talked about – igniting a school, the exact cast, the exact retrieve and the anxiety of that angler, knowing that this is a critical moment. To watch that from beginning, that school igniting, triggering that fish to them getting gunshy, that was exciting.”
A special segment
An avid angler who hosts his own show, Zona sees such fish catching bursts numerous times each year, but he said that first major one on LIVE was special.
“If you’ve never been there, you’ve just heard us clowns talking about it,” he said. “I’ve been fortunate to be in the boat with these guys and see this, but now the fans on Bassmaster LIVE get to see exactly what Tommy and I have tried to bring across in the past 10 years. That’s the beauty of LIVE.”
And it should be a learning tool for anglers, he said. LIVE is allowing viewers to see exactly what anglers are doing, and he said fishing might not be in their future if they can’t pick up useful tips.
“You can get up and listen to a seminar from KVD, you can listen to a seminar from Evers, but to have a visual to go along with a seminar, if you cannot become a better fisherman from watching that then bowling or golf may be what you should be doing,” Zona said. “Having this moving visual has to somehow make you a better fisherman next time you go to try something like this.”
McKinnis said the sequence was a savior for the show. As producer, he clamors for action. He sometimes begs for it. He intently watches the five camera feeds for catches, hoping for big fish to be caught. With event winner Edwin Evers fishing south out of any cell coverage, and others in spotty areas, his options were limited until KVD came to the rescue.
“We are dying. I hate Kentucky Lake,” he said before quickly changing his tune after the KVD flurry. “I love Kentucky Lake!”