Seven-time Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year Kevin VanDam put 17 pounds of bass on the scales on Day 1 of the Evan Williams Bassmaster Elite at Toledo Bend and walked to his boat to begin loading it on the trailer in the same way Peyton Manning heads to the sideline after another seemingly routine touchdown drive.
Don’t count on Peyton to hold up a diagram of the play he used to put it in the end zone for TV cameras though, and that’s pretty much what KVD graciously did when asked what setups he’s using to target postspawn largemouth this week on Toledo Bend.
“Check this out!” said VanDam, inviting us to take a closer look. “This Splash Jr. was brand new this morning, and now it’s covered in teeth marks after one day.”
Kevin was referring to a 1/4–ounce, 2 3/8-inc long topwater popper from Strike King he relies on heavily when largemouth are guarding their young fry immediately after the spawn.
“It’s just a dynamite bait when bass are fresh off the spawn,” says Kevin. “I throw it even under sunny blue skies in the afternoon; it doesn’t matter, they’ll eat it all day long.”
He ties the topwater lure to 14-pound monofilament because it doesn’t sink like fluorocarbon does. He uses a 6’ 10” Quantum rod, model TKVDC6105FB, because it has a real soft tip that allows him to cast it a really long way, and impart all the necessary action.
“That rod is a big part of making the bait walk, skip along and chug with that bloop, bloop, bloop sound,” he says. “And trust me, it’s the bloop, bloop, bloop sound that makes ‘em eat it,” grinned the 7-time Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year.
When they’re not busting surface lures, Kevin is probing Toledo’s 10- to 15-foot zone by cranking the outside grass edges with a Strike King 5XD crankbait. And no, it’s not – not – sexy shad in color.
“I’m using a color we call green gizzard shad this week because the water is pretty clear where I’m fishing,” he graciously explained. “I’m cranking the outside grasslines on secondary points just outside of the real shallow and flat spawning areas, trying to catch those bass that are just starting to move out deep toward their summer homes.”
Kevin always cranks with a 5.3:1 gear ratio reel he was heavily involved in helping Quantum design, and he meticulously chooses rod length based on the size of the crankbait he’s throwing. For smaller cranks, he’ll go as short as a 6’ 10” rod – but for the 5XD – he adamantly believes a 7’ 4” medium action rod to be perfect.
Like Manning, VanDam plays well just about every day – but Sundays seem to be his day to shine brightest. Only two more days to tell whether or not KVD can come from behind to notch his 21st career victory, but one thing’s for sure, his classy character – and willingness to share his game plan with those of us watching from home – will always count as a win.