“I had a terrible practice. It was really slow. I caught a few on top and a few pitching and flipping, but no real concrete pattern. I decided that I was going to run my best spots in the tournament and throw the topwater and then when I got around the thick stuff, I’d pick up the flipping stick. I started out that way and caught a 2-pounder pretty quick on top, but that was the only bite I got on top so I pretty much just kept my flipping stick in my hand that day and caught a small limit."
"On day 2, I hit something on the south end and canned a lower unit. The mercury service crew came down there and got me back up and going in pretty short order and I pulled into this backwater area that I knew was close by. I picked up a ¼ ounce Hack Attack Heavy Cover Swim Jig tipped with a Rage Craw trailer and it was just game on! I caught one about 6 real fast and they were smoking that jig! I didn’t have much time to fish that day after dealing with the break down, but I knew that I was on to something."
"On day 3, I headed straight back there and I just crushed em! I was catching them really good casting and pitching that ¼ ounce black & blue Hack Attack Heavy Cover Swim Jig with a Blue Bug Rage Craw trailer. If I ever saw a fish, I would pick up a rod with a ¼-oz. Tour Grade Tungsten weight and a Rodent and catch them that way. It was just an awesome day! I ended up with nearly 31 pounds and that’s always fun!"
"On day 4 I ran back to my spot and jacked one real quick on the swim jig. The problem was the wind. It was blowing so hard that it was impossible to make the proper, accurate presentation with the swim jig. I knew the right kind of fish lived in this area so I picked up my flipping stick armed with a rodent and took off. I managed to get several bites and caught a good sack, but the wind just kind of messed everything up."
"I’m happy with my tournament. I got to catch a 30-plus-pound sack. I posted a 4th place finish. I’ll take it and smile”.
Kevin VanDam: 8th Place - Total Weight: 72 lbs. 6 Oz.
KVD left the St. Johns River with a 24th place finish. Thirteen spots lower than he’d finished there in 2011. After that event I heard another Elite competitor say “Watch out for Kevin at the next one. It makes him mad to finish that low." Bear in mind that he was referring to a 24th place finish. Well, as it turns out, he wasn’t exactly wrong. KVD put his typical “cover water like a mad man” philosophy into practice, and walked away with another top ten. In his words, here is how it went down.
“The biggest deal with practice was that it was real windy and therefore a lot of the lake was muddy. My past experience on Okeechobee has taught me that the fish there don’t like muddy. The water needs to either be clear or at least clearing up for them to act right. Knowing that, I basically circled the lake every day of practice looking for the right water."
"Since we had a predominantly east wind every day, a lot of the better areas of the lake were really dirty on the outside grass lines. If you could find a little area or pocket where there was eel grass or hydrilla, the water would be a little more clear and the fish were really keying on those areas. They will literally move around based on the water clarity there. So I picked up a Rage Tail Shad and Rage Toad in order to locate fish and cover a lot of water. They would show themselves on those baits and I would slow down and catch them flipping. That allowed me to search vast areas at a fast pace and look for the right kind of water."
"When the tournament rolled around, I had found enough spots that I felt like had the right fish and right colored water. These spots were mainly reed edges and the fish were keying on the irregularities such as indentations and points. I found my best tool to be a Hack Attack Heavy Cover Flipping Jig paired with a KVD Perfect Plastic Sr. Chunk. Both of those were black & blue. When it was windy, I would use a ¾ ounce jig, and when it was calm, I would use a ½ ounce jig. I threw them both on Quantum Greg Hackney Flipping Stick and 65 lb. braid. When you pair that set up with the Hack Jig, it’s a system that can handle big bites in heavy cover."
"The first 2 days were kind of a grind. It was super windy and the water color and therefore the fish populations were changing throughout the day. On the third day though, when I had 28-11, the wind laid and I actually started seeing some fish. For instance, the big fish that I had that day was just sitting there kind of sunning. I pitched that jig in there and she hammered it! I then caught another 7-pounder that I saw that did the same thing."
"The thing that helped me that day was the sun came out and the wind slacked up and I got in a good clear spot and slowed down. I popped a 5 and a 4 real quick that morning and then I started seeing some fish so I just kind of decided to hang around there and see how it went. And it got good!”
Aside from Shaw and Kevin, new addition to the Strike King Team, Kyle Fox, finished 12th, but was unavailable for comment in time to get this story up. We would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Ish Monroe on a stellar performance and big win at Okeechobee.
The guys have a couple of weeks off to get ready for a big change of pace from Florida. We’ll catch up with some of them and get their thoughts on their season, upcoming tourneys, and tips and techniques to help you catch more and bigger fish. Keep checking back for the latest news and cutting edge information from the most elite pro staff on earth.