RACINE, WI. – Kevin VanDam’s on-water performance is on fire. In May, VanDam won on Toledo Bend, followed by an exclamation point at Cayuga in June. This most recent win at the Bassmaster Classic Bracket Tournament on the upper Niagara River makes it a trifecta of wins in as many months.
The top eight anglers from the Busch Beer Bassmaster Elite at Cayuga Lake tournament were pitted in a head-to-head competition. Of those initial eight, four were official Humminbird pros: Keith Combs, Brett Hite, Koby Kreiger, and Kevin VanDam.
Day Four’s final shoot-out pitted Arizona’s Brett Hite against Michigan’s Kevin VanDam with a new format of rules that changed the usual five bass limit, to total weight of all legal bass caught throughout the tournament day.
As spectators watched in real-time via Bassmaster LIVE, VanDam finished with 11 bass for 20-3. Brett Hite caught 7 bass for 13-9.
Now keep in the mind that the Niagara River is the same system as honeymoon must-see Niagara Falls. To call the current strong would be a gross understatement.
“At times it was hard just keeping the boat in position,” says VanDam.
Now imagine having to fish these conditions in a tournament setting. For VanDam, the key was finding the current breaks, which he plied with a tube, dropshot or jerkbait.
“With the Niagara current ripping like it does, little shallow flats act as current breaks. But I also fished the hard sea walls, the bridge pilings … the whole thing was current breaks and feeding flats, all areas where bass can ambush bait. Because the moon was full, some fish were hanging around where they would have been on the spawn, but that’s normal for the Great Lakes in summer, especially on a full moon, which might be related to crayfish molting during the same time,” says VanDam.
“The most valuable asset I had was theLakeMaster map on my Humminbird HELIX10. Their mapping is really good on the Niagara River. Having only one short practice day, it helped me find these flats and current breaks. On top that, one of the big things was finding clean areas around the grass. The LakeMaster map showed me the potential areas with the right stuff. When the sun came out you could see some of these spots and fish, but not always.”
He continues: “I also marked a couple on my Humminbird 2D Sonar and actually caught them, but it was really about setting my LakeMaster Depth Highlight to five feet and working those areas. The five to 10 foot zone was key. I’m either running my Depth Highlight at five or 10 feet pretty much everywhere I’m competing.”
This victory marks VanDam’s 23rd career win and guaranteed berth to the 2017 GEICO Bassmaster Classic to be held on Lake Conroe, Texas, March 24-26, 2017.
With three key wins under his belt, VanDam is a bit more relaxed than normal.
“It’s really nice to have that Classic spot in Houston locked up, and I’m in a good points-position for it. I can really concentrate on the next few tournaments and the AOY event. I’ll be able to take some chances I wouldn’t normally have!”
That’s where things could get interesting. Kevin wields a big stick and now he has no pressure and he’s free to swing for the fences. And with three stops left in the season, there’s time enough for anything to happen.