CECIL COUNTY, Md. - Water levels and largemouth during practice at the Bassmaster Elite Series tourney on the Upper Chesapeake Bay at Cecil County, Md., were much like a Waffle House menu – smothered and scattered.
Heavy rains coupled with a rising tide made for a “flood tide” during practice. Water levels were so high in the Anchor Marina boat ramp parking lot during practice days that pros walked through knee-deep water in order to launch and retrieve their boats.
While many complained of never getting a bite during two days of practice, no surprise, Kevin VanDam launched his boat with a confident grin on the third and final day of practice and graciously shared a few tips that help him get bites when waters rise to flooded parking lot proportions.
“When you get a ton of water, whether it’s rain, a high tide, or both, you have to realize that bass scatter. They typically don’t stay locked-down to the habitat they were relating to previously,” says the winner of $6 million in career prize money.
Don't freak out
“Fast rising water can be intimidating, but you can’t freak out, you just have to fish what’s thrown at ya’,” says VanDam. “If there’s shoreline vegetation, that’s usually a magnet for bass in fast rising water – and nearly every body of water will have some sort of flooded vegetation when the water gets super high.”
Move quickly and focus on faster-moving lures
“With so much new habitat in the water, you can’t get caught up trying to fish every single little piece of flooded cover. You have to stay on the move and cover as much water as possible,” emphasizes VanDam. “I rely primarily on buzzbaits, spinnerbaits, swim jigs and a hollow-bodied topwater frog.”
Dark lures for dark days and dirty water
“Oftentimes fast rising water means you’re getting a lot of rainy days, plus the water is usually dirtier,” says VanDam. “When that’s the case, I use a lot of black colored lures.” All three of the lures VanDam pulled from his rod locker were indeed black. “If it turns sunny, then I’ll swap-out to shad colors, but I’ll still throw the swim jig, buzzbait, spinnerbait and frog.”
Get the right gear ratio
VanDam has become professional bass fishing’s all-time greatest largely by operating in fifth gear, and much like his selection of all black lures for dark days and dirty water are part of an obvious system, so are the gear ratios on each reel.
No surprise, speedy reels get the nod for VanDam when searching for bass quickly in flooded conditions, but each lure is matched to what he considers the perfect gear ratio on his reels. “I throw my buzzbaits on a TourKVD 7.3:1, my frog on a Quantum Smoke Speed Freak with an 8.1:1, and for the swim jigs, I make myself purposely slow down a notch by using a 6.6:1.”
Smothered and scattered … no worries … VanDam has it covered.