GROVE, Okla. — When Kevin VanDam was finished, resulting in one more victory for the biggest name in bass fishing, he wasn't shy about disclosing the details of his first-place formula for the Sooner Run presented by Longhorn Tobacco.
Every fish he weighed-in at Grand Lake came on a Strike King Series 5 or Series 6 crankbait in a new "Sexy Shad" color pattern that he developed.
"I was confident that crankbait bite would hold up," VanDam said. "I made a decision before the tournament ever started that I was going to crank from start to finish and not get caught up in slowing down and trying to finesse fish.
"There are two ways to catch them when they are inactive. You've got to fish real slow and throw finesse-type baits, or you've got to trigger them with a reaction bait. That's just my style anyway."
But you've got to go back to last year, when VanDam finished 22nd in this event, to get the full picture of how VanDam formed his game plan this year.
"(Last year's tournament) helped tremendously," he said. "What I learned last year is when this lake is a little bit clearer and a little bit lower, I could not catch them crankin'.
"I basically fished a lot of the same places this year as I did last year, but I had to throw a jig or a worm or a Carolina rig to catch them then.
"This year I felt like with the lake a little higher, them planning to generate water (through the dam) all week and the color the lake had, I was confident the crankbait would hold up."
VanDam finished with four days of five-bass limits totaling 78 pounds, 2 ounces, which is almost a four-pound average per bass. Indeed it was four-pounders that made the difference last week.
Catching a limit wasn't a problem at Grand Lake. Out of a possible 278 limits on the pro side (108 anglers Thursday and Friday, plus 50 anglers Saturday and 12 Sunday) 256 limits were caught. And the average size of those bass weighed-in was amazingly consistent the first three days, right at 2 pounds, 13 ounces, jumping to 3-6 Sunday when the final 12 were all swinging for the fences.
The biggest bass each day didn't vary much either. The big bass of the tournament was a 6-4 caught Friday by Davy Hite. The other three days, big bass were 5-14, 6-2 and 5-13.
In a way, this tournament was a test of the two methods for inactive bass that VanDam mentioned previously — 1.) slow, finesse; 2.) fast, reaction.
Jeff Kriet, who led VanDam by seven ounces going into Sunday, chose the opposite method from VanDam. Mainly on a Carolina-rigged Zoom Brush Hawg, with some help from a big plastic worm and a five-inch Storm swimbait, Kriet weighed-in the biggest bag of the tournament, 24-11, which put him into the lead Saturday.
Kriet's mantra all week was "slow down, slow down, slow down." However, he managed only 14-8 Sunday to finish with 74-5, almost four pounds behind VanDam but still good enough for a second-place check of $39,000.
VanDam did occasionally cast something besides a crankbait, but 99.9 percent of his casts and 100 percent of the fish he weighed came on the crankbait.
VanDam's tools for success were as follows: 7-foot Quantum Tour Edition Crankin' Rod, Quantum Energy baitcast reel with a 5-to-1 gear ratio, 17- and 12-pound test Bass Pro XPS fluorocarbon line, and Strike King Series 5 and 6 crankbaits in a new "Sexy Shad" color pattern (which also produced his earlier Elite Series win at Lake Guntersville, Ala.).