(Written by Thomas Allen/Photo credit James Overstreet)
GROVE, Okla. — Kevin VanDam of Kalamazoo, Mich., relied upon large female prespawn bass to claim a record-breaking 25th title on the Bassmaster Elite Series, and a $100,000 payday at the 2018 Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Elite at Grand Lake in Grove, Okla.
During Championship Sunday, VanDam put up 18 pounds, 7 ounces to push his four-day total to 83-4, which topped Tommy Biffle of Wagoner, Okla., by more than 5 pounds.
The 50-year-old VanDam will place an unprecedented 25th Bassmaster trophy on his mantle — a feat many believe may never be broken.
This isn’t his first victory on the famous Oklahoma lake. He won an Elite Series event on Grand Lake in 2007 with 78-2.
The bass VanDam was targeting this time were primarily in the prespawn phase and were positioned along transition zones where one type of bottom met another.
“The male bass were all in shallow along the bank and pretty easy to catch,” VanDam said. “I knew that to win, I needed to catch the larger females that were staging farther offshore — around 8 to 10 feet of water.”
After an unproductive practice, the four-time Bassmaster Classic champion said he was forced to adapt and experiment on Thursday’s opening round of competition.
“I really didn’t think I could win this thing after the tough practice I had,” he said. “But I knew I had to cover water to find active fish. The female bass that were moving in to spawn were not yet on beds, but they would still hit a reaction bait like a crankbait or a spinnerbait.”
VanDam said he fished at least 50 spots per day early in the tournament, but dialed in to the best locations during Saturday and Sunday, which meant less traveling from one to the next.
“Today was a tougher bite for me. I caught fewer fish, but I was focusing on the locations that were producing the largest bass. It proved to be the right decision,” he said.
He caught some bass this week on a 1/2-ounce green pumpkin Strike King Structure Jig paired with a green pumpkin Rage Menace Grub with the tail dipped in chartreuse dye.
For the rod-and-reel combo, he used a 7-foot, 4-inch Quantum Tour KVD rod matched with a Quantum Smoke S3 baitcaster in a 7.3:1 gear ratio. The reel was spooled with 20-pound Bass Pro Shops XPS fluorocarbon line.
“My most productive bait was a Strike King KVD 1.5 squarebill crankbait in a brown craw color,” he said. “I pulled that on a 7-foot Quantum Tour KVD medium-action crankbait rod paired with a Quantum Smoke 200 reel in a 5.3:1 gear ratio. I tied the crankbait on to 12-pound Bass Pros Shops XPS fluorocarbon.”