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Kevin VanDam

Fishing with Kevin VanDamEditor's Note: Thirty-four-year-old Kevin VanDam, of Kalamazoo, Michigan, was the 2001 BASS Master's Classic Champion and won B.A.S.S. Angler of the Year three times. He competed in the Classic for 12 consecutive years and had six top-10 wins.

Question: Why did you believe at 19 years of age that you could become a major bass-fishing pro?

Answer: I grew up watching all my heroes like Denny Brauer, Larry Nixon and Rick Clunn, and I just thought I wanted to go out and see how good they were. You don't know until you go and try.

Question: What did winning your first Angler-of-the Year title feel like?

Answer: I felt pretty awesome. I didn't truly appreciate what that title meant at the time. I've done it three times since, and each time winning the title gets a little bit better. But last year winning the Classic was the highlight for me.

Fishing with Kevin VanDamQuestion: Were you intimidated about fishing with the bass pros you had read about all your life?

Answer: At the very first tournament, I went out with a very big-named guy on the first day. I was very intimidated at that time. The great thing is we kind of had a rough day, and I learned not to be intimidated a very important lesson.

Question: How did you learn not to be intimidated?

Answer: Because I knew my own ability and what I was doing, I knew that these guys were just regular guys just like everybody else. They weren't larger than life or magicians. This knowledge gave me a lot of confidence -- realizing that they were human too.

Question: Do you do anything to make sure you don't intimidate other fishermen?

Fishing with Kevin VanDamAnswer: I try not to. I try to really work close with my partners and help them out because that is the future of our sport, especially in these pro-am tournaments. I hope everybody that I've ever drawn will say that I'm a pretty good guy. I can sleep at night after I fish with somebody for sure. I don't treat them badly. I don't front end them. I help them out and give them lures or whatever. For instance, at the Lake Eufala tournament, my partner whipped me like a yard dog. I gave him half the baits in my tackle box so he would have stuff to fish with because he was leading the tournament.


Kevin VanDam's Advice For Young Fishermen

Fishing with Kevin VanDamEditor's Note: Thirty-four-year-old Kevin VanDam, of Kalamazoo, Michigan, was the 2001 BASS Master's Classic Champion and won B.A.S.S. Angler of the Year three times. He competed in the Classic for 12 consecutive years and had six top-10 wins.

Question: What advice would you give a young fisherman if he said to you, "Mr. VanDam, I want to grow up to be a bass pro just like you."

Answer: Well, the most important advice I will tell him is to finish school and probably get a marketing or a sales-type degree. Business education is very important in this industry. That experience is what sponsors are looking for, and you just can't fish successfully without sponsors.

Question: Tell me about the creature bait made by Strike King known as the Wild Thang that you used to win the 2001 BASS Masters Classic? What is the Wild Thang?

The Wild ThangAnswer: Well, the Wild Thang creature bait is a tube-style lure that has some extra appendages on it. This bait is very bulky. The creature bait is designed as a flipping lure for shallow cover. The Creature Bait is a great lure for swimming around shallow cover when the water is too flat or too clear to throw a spinner bait.

Question: Why do the creature baits attract bass?

Answer: These baits resemble different types of forage -- a bluegill, a shad or a crawfish, depending on what color you use and how you're fishing it. There is a lot of movement to this lure, which is what bass like.


More Tips And Tactics From Kevin VanDam

Kevin VanDamEditor's Note: Thirty-four-year-old Kevin VanDam, of Kalamazoo, Michigan, was the 2001 BASS Master's Classic Champion and won B.A.S.S. Angler of the Year three times. He competed in the Classic for 12 consecutive years and had six top-10 wins.

Question: Where do you like to fish a creature bait?

Answer: Primarily, my favorite place in which to flip a creature bait is around shallow vegetation or bushes or some cover in which bass suspend. But that lure is also productive to fish on a Carolina rig in deep water. I've also fished the creature bait weightless -- just casting it around shallow cover when the bass are spawning. But my favorite method is flipping and pitching a creature bait.

Question: When do you like to fish with the creature bait?

Answer: I'll fish it from early in the spring through the fall. Any time I encounter a lot of shallow cover and the water is either stained or dirty, I'll tie on that lure.

Question: What do you think is the future for the other creature baits in bass fishing?

Kevin VanDamAnswer: There are so many different little variations of creature baits, and they'll all catch bass. Each has its own attributes. The thing I like so much about the Wild Thang, a creature bait from Strike King, is its tube style body, because that allows it to trap air and makes the bait stand up a little more. Also, because of the tube body, you can use a real large hook to get very positive hook sets. On some of the other creature baits, you will lose some fish because driving the hook all the way through the plastic is hard. This one is superior for hooking.


Kevin VanDam's Rules For Fishing

Kevin VanDamEditor's Note: Thirty-four-year-old Kevin VanDam, of Kalamazoo, Michigan, was the 2001 BASS Master's Classic Champion and won B.A.S.S. Angler of the Year three times. He competed in the Classic for 12 consecutive years and had six top-10 wins.

Question: Since you're a clock-watcher when you are fishing, you say that a particular time is when you are going to fish a certain area. How do you decide how long to fish in one area?

Answer: Every situation is different. During practice I have what I call "the 10-minute rule." I won't spend more than 10 minutes in one exact spot doing the same exact thing without moving on so I don't waste too much time.

In a tournament, deciding whether to stay on at a spot and milking it or run-and-gun and hit a lot of spots is a matter of judgement. I tend to run and gun and fish.

Question: How do you decide when you should change baits?

Answer: If I go 10 or 15 minutes without getting a strike, I'll either change locations or switch lures. Usually what dictates a bait change is seeing the bass reacting differently to the bait. The bass will just nip at the bait, not bite it at all or just follow it.

Kevin VanDam When I see a clue from them, usually coinciding with the weather change, I'll just change colors, and suddenly the lure becomes the right bait. Usually something in the conditions changes, and when the bass aren't reacting as well, I'll change.

Question: How do you decide to completely leave a region where you're fishing?

Answer: Well, it's a judgement. Mostly, the conditions determine that kind of decision.

Question: How do you decide to go back to that same area where you haven't caught fish before?

Answer: Well, it's a judgement. Mostly, the conditions determine that kind of decision.


Kevin VanDam's Favorite Strike King Baits

Kevin VanDamEditor's Note: Thirty-four-year-old Kevin VanDam, of Kalamazoo, Michigan, was the 2001 BASS Master's Classic Champion and won B.A.S.S. Angler of the Year three times. He competed in the Classic for 12 consecutive years and had six top-10 wins.

Question: What is your favorite Strike King bait and why?

Answer: I have a lot of them. I like the Pro-Model spinner bait and the Pro-Model Premier spinner bait because it is just one of my favorite tools. That bait is very efficient and covers a lot of different water. I've caught so many bass and won hundreds of thousands of dollars on that bait. So it's pretty near and dear to me.

Question: Where do you like to fish the Pro-Model spinner bait?

Answer: I like to fish that bait in shallow-bank cover and in lay-downs, logs, bushes and things like that. I'll also fish that lure deep on ledges and brush piles. That is the great thing about it. It's a very versatile bait. You can fish that lure in all depth zones, and it catches bass all year long too.

Strike King LuresQuestion: What two other Strike King baits do you really depend on when you're in a tournament?

Answer: I use a lot of the Pro-Model crank baits. Strike King has baits that cover everything from very-shallow to very-deep water. Those baits are efficient at covering all the depth zones.

The other lure to fish is the Wild Shiner jerkbait, which is a great reactionary bait. I really rely on that bait in clear-water situations. The Wild Shiner is good any time of the year, but I prefer to fish it over the top of cover, gravel banks, tree tops or grass. That lure is mainly a clear-water lure, and it really makes the bass react.