Comfort is king

NEW ORLEANS, La.  After putting the exclamation mark on a magical week with a dominant Day Three performance, Kevin VanDam attributed much of his confidence to a system that he designed himself, from his rod and reel to the crankbait he hooked a majority of his fish on this week.


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Having confidence in equipment that he was completely comfortable in makes the most dangerous angler even more deadly.

"I worked for over a year with the lure developers looking for that erratic action," VanDam said. "That's what triggers those bass. It was the same crankbait I used to win the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year."

The Strike King KVD HC crankbait was released just months ago, but the rest of his arsenal have been a part of his line-up for years now. His Quantum Tour KVD Cranking rods have contributed to Elite Series wins as well as multiple Classic and TTBAOY victories.

"I'm fortunate to work with companies where I can develop products built for the way I like to fish," VanDam said.

His week didn't start with a crankbait though, as the bass started chewing a spinnerbait on the first day of the event. Things started to change in a hurry.

"The first day, I caught them on a spinnerbait, but after a few hours, I could already see how things were going to change," VanDam said. "They move fast and change their mood quickly. Aaron and I pulled up the first morning and had it pretty dialed in. He caught two 4-pounders back to back and I caught a 4-pounder. They just crushed that spinnerbait, but by the end of the day, they were just knocking it."

VanDam's success that morning came on a 3/8th-ounce Strike King KVD signature spinnerbait in a chartreuse sexy shad color. Most people missed out on the key, which was moving the bait very slowly. In fact, he geared up a Quantum KVD series reel that had a 5.3:1 gear ratio to help slow himself down.

"By the end of the day, the spinnerbait bite was really dwindling," VanDam said. "On Day Two, I fished for the first hour and had five fish hit and miss the spinnerbait. I knew I had to make a change."

That's when he went to work with his square-billed crankbait and never looked back. He used a chartreuse, black back color in the dirty water.

"When the bass get funky, they don't like bluegill," VanDam said. "That color works well when it's stained around the spawn."

The spot VanDam, and the other top finishers, caught their massive Day Three bags from was a big flat the fish were funneling into with the warming weather. The cut-down cypress stumps surrounded by grass was an ideal holding ground for large bass moving up to spawn.

VanDam had patience bumping his crankbait off the stumps multiple time to trigger a strike.

"That big fish Saturday, I made four casts to the same stump before I caught it," VanDam said. "On the final day, first thing, I made four casts to the same stump and boom, caught a 6-pounder. I would go to the areas I knew had clusters of stumps and drop my Power-Pole."

VanDam literally stumbled on the stumps in practice while running through the area. He could see the shadows of the stumps littered across the flat as he was running in very shallow water. Without getting any information or scouting previously, he didn't realize he probably shouldn't have been on plane back in there.

The grass back on the flat held large concentrations of fish. To work the area efficiently, he upped the size of his line, so he could just tick the top of the grass.

"That heavy line helped keep the bait out of the grass," VanDam said. "I was using line size to control the running depth of the bait. In this case, it was 20-pound Bass Pro Shops XPS fluorocarbon line."

To top off the KVD system, he changed out the stock hooks to number 2 KVD Mustad hooks and on the final day, worked his new HydroWave system, which is similar to products he used in the past. In this case, it was a prototype that only had one sound pattern.

"It was an aggressive pattern and today was the day for that," VanDam said.