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How the Pros Helped Him Fish Better

Kevin VanDamEditor's Note: I'm glad you came to visit Strike King's webpage to learn better tactics from Strike King pros. Let me tell how other pros have helped me fish better.

To learn how to catch the most bass in the shortest time, regardless of where you live and where you fish, listen to the bass-fishing pros. You can learn from the best when you listen when the pros speak at seminars, watch videos produced by the pros about their techniques, read magazine articles and, watch television shows that feature the pros.

In the first tournament I ever won while fishing on Lake Lanier in Georgia, I used a tactic I'd gleaned from watching Jimmy Houston on television. To win the tournament, I had to make a number of casts to the same target with a spinner bait. When I came to a log where I thought a big bass might hold, I made four or five casts down the log. But I didn't get a bite.

Kevin VanDamI had decided to give up on casting to the log. However, then I remembered seeing Jimmy Houston on television fishing a spinner bait down beside a log where he'd made the same cast numerous times before finally catching a 5-pound bass. Houston's tip taught me that I often had to make multiple casts at the same piece of structure to get a bass to bite. Therefore, I continued to cast to that same log five more times.

On my eleventh cast, I took the bass that helped me win the tournament. If I hadn't seen Jimmy Houston's TV show, I probably would have quit five casts short of winning the tournament.

I personally think that if you want to fish like the best, it only makes sense for you to learn from the best. I consider David Fritts one of the best crankbait fishermen in the nation. He's taught me how to stay in better contact with my bait as it works along the bottom or through brush. Fritts has showed me that when you're cranking you need to use a low-stretch line and a high-quality rod to help you feel the bottom better.

David FrittsWith this line and rod combination, you often can feel the structure before the bait gets to the structure. This information lets you know how to work your bait to bring it through the cover without getting hung up. If you fish with a sensitive line and rod, you can feel when the bass takes the bait, even if the bass bites lightly.


VanDam on More of What the Pros Taught Him

Kevin VanDamEditor's Note: I'm glad you came to visit Strike King's webpage to learn better tactics from Strike King pros. Let me tell how other pros have helped me fish better.

Denny Brauer isn't only the master of flipping, a relatively easy technique to learn, but he's also an expert at skipping and pitching. I attended one of Brauer's seminars years ago and learned the basic mechanics of the pitches and skips he uses to get his lures in and under cover like boat docks where the average angler can't fish.

Denny BrauerTo cast like this, I learned you had to have the magnets in your casting reel set a certain way to keep the reel from backlashing when the jig hit the water and then skipping to the back of the boat house or dock.

I watched how Brauer held his rod, how he set his reel up, how he moved his arm forward to make a skip, and how he got the jig to go where he wanted. I learned how to use the skipping technique that I utilize in my fishing today from that seminar with Brauer.

From Rick Clunn, I learned how to thoroughly fish a spot and make bass bite. Clunn showed me that if you believed a bass was in a bush, on points or around some type of structure, then you should work that piece of structure from both the shallow side to the deep side of the structure into shallow water.

Rick ClunnIf you still didn't get a bite, Clunn suggested that you change lures and continue to work that spot until you believed a bass wasn't there or until you made the bass bite your lure.

Tommy Martin taught me how to Carolina-rig a worm and how to use a 7-foot graphite rod with a soft tip to feel the lead as it moved along the bottom. I also learned from him how to feel every type of structure the lead touched.

Before I fished with Martin, I would try to set the hook as soon as the bass picked up a Carolina-rigged worm, just like I'd set the hook when I fished a worm rigged Texas-style. However, Martin showed me how to wait and make sure the bass had the worm all the way in its mouth before I set the hook.

Tommy MartinEvery pro angler I've fished with, read about, watched on television or listened to at seminars has taught me a useful technique or unusual strategy to improve my fishing. From the other pros, I've learned how to be a pro and how to continually improve my fishing ability. I believe you will too.


VanDam on Fall Spinner Baits

Kevin VanDamEditor's Note: Thirty-four-year-old Kevin VanDam of Kalamazoo, Michigan, currently ranked second on the tour and number one on www.bassfan.com, has had seven career wins and 43 top-ten finishes. VanDam has won the Angler-of-the-Year title three times. When he has prize money on the line in the fall, he relies on a spinner bait.

During the fall with its heavy rains, new water that draws baitfish will come into the backs of creeks. The bass will follow the baitfish. I often will move to the backs of these creeks when I fish spinner baits, depending on the time of the year, the clarity of the water and the amount of rain the lake has received.

I prefer to fish a 1/2-ounce double willow-leaf-bladed Strike King Pro Model spinner bait. I change blades depending on the water conditions and the color of the sky. On a sunny day with a clear sky, I'll choose natural-colored blades, often casting a clear-water shad model with its silver-blue metal flake blades and a clear-blue glitter-type skirt.

Kevin VanDamIf the water's crystal-clear, I like to use the Emerald Shiner, an almost completely clear model. Since baitfish color lightens to match clear water, I use translucent-colored skirts.

On cloudy days, I fish with painted blades because the metal blades don't give off as much flash then as they do when the sun shines. I may fish an all-white spinner bait, including white blades and a white skirt, or a white-and-chartreuse-colored spinner bait with white-and-chartreuse blades and a skirt.

I catch 25% of my bass on a trailer hook on a spinner bait. Put the trailer hook on the hook of the spinner bait first. Then add the small rubber retaining ring to allow the trailer hook to swing freely behind the main hook. When the bait falls and flutters, the trailer hook will ride behind the skirt and not get hung up.

Kevin VanDamI use 17-pound test line with a spinner bait because extra-tough line will go through logs, stumps and brush. I fish with 6 1/2-foot medium-action graphite rod and a reel with a 6:1 gear ratio.


VanDam on Water Clarity and Lethargic Bass

Kevin VanDamEditor's Note: Thirty-four-year-old Kevin VanDam of Kalamazoo, Michigan, currently ranked second on the tour and number one on www.bassfan.com, has had seven career wins and 43 top-ten finishes. VanDam has won the Angler-of-the-Year title three times. When he has prize money on the line in the fall, he relies on a spinner bait.

In clear-water conditions, I fish the spinner bait fast to keep the bass from getting a good look at the bait. I try to get a reaction strike more than a feeding strike by retrieving the bait quickly to cause the lure to appear like a darting baitfish. But in stained water, I use a brighter-colored bait and slow my retrieve down to enable the fish to see the bait more easily and longer.

As the water cools down in the fall and the bass's metabolism slows down, I like a slow retrieve to keep the bass from having to expend so much energy to catch it. Then when the water temperature reaches 50 degrees, you have to slow your bait down more because the bass will feed more in a winter pattern than in a fall pattern.

Kevin VanDam* Use light, natural-colored baits and blades in clear water or on sunny days.

* Fish with painted blades and either white or chartreuse skirts in stained water or on overcast days.

* Match your retrieve to the weather conditions. On warm days during the spring and summer, swim the spinner bait quickly back to the boat. But in the fall and winter as the water temperature begins to cool, slow down your retrieve and crawl the bait just above the cover.


VanDam on Slow-Rolling the Spinner Bait

Kevin VanDamEditor's Note: Thirty-four-year-old Kevin VanDam of Kalamazoo, Michigan, currently ranked second on the tour and number one on www.bassfan.com, has had seven career wins and 43 top-ten finishes. VanDam has won the Angler-of-the-Year title three times. When he has prize money on the line in the fall, he relies on a spinner bait.

When the water temperature dips below 50 degrees, most bass fishermen slow-roll the spinner bait. You can slow-roll any size spinner bait in any depth of water.

I slow-roll a spinner bait under tough fishing conditions, especially after a cold front comes through and a high-pressure front moves onto a lake. These conditions make fish act more lethargic, and their strike zones will become much smaller. They won't chase baits very far to eat them.

When I slow-roll a spinner bait, I'll cast to targets like trees fallen in the water, grassy points, rocky banks or some other type of cover. I always want to make sure the spinner bait swims above where I think bass are holding.

If I bring the lure through fallen trees, I want the bait to barely hit the upper branches of the trees. If I run it over a grass line, I want it to tick the top of the grass. If I fish a rocky bottom, I want the bait to come above the rocks and the bass's head.

Kevin VanDamRemember when slow-rolling a spinner bait that bass will come up to take a bait much easier than they'll turn sideways or dive for the bait. A bait swimming above the bass blends in more with the sky, which helps to disguise the bait better, than if the fish looks down on the bait and sees the bottom as a background.

In my arsenal of lures, I like the spinner bait best because it's such a versatile lure, and I can fish it under any weather, water and structure condition. Spinner baits attract large bass.