As of March 2012, Kevin VanDam (KVD) has won more tournaments than any other professional angler. Outdoor Hub Reporter John Phillips caught up with KVD to learn more about his fishing style and what make him such a success on the fishing tournament trail. Check out this previous part of the interview covering his favorite search baits and fishing style here.
Question: Kevin, you’re known as a ledge fisherman. You’ve won a number of tournaments and caught a lot of bass off ledges. How much research do you do to pinpoint the ledges on the lakes you’ll be fishing?
VanDam: I don’t get on the Internet and look for information. I look at a lake map to try to determine where the bass should be at the time of year when I’m fishing, under the weather and the water conditions I’m fishing. Then, I look at a topo map of the lake to try to see the ledges and the drop-offs that show up on the map. I’ll go one step further and graph the area, once I reach the lake. I use a Humminbird side-imaging unit, which is an unbelievable tool for fishing ledges. This unit gives me a detailed picture of not only what’s underneath the boat, like most depth finders, but also what’s off to the side of the boat. With a Humminbird side-imaging depth finder, I can look at about 200 feet of bottom at once, whereas with the old depth finders, I only could look at about 10 feet of bottom.
Also, to find the ledges, I spend a lot of time with Strike King crankbaits trying to cover the ledges and search for those little ledges that most people may not find. The obvious places, like points, main river drop-offs, creek-channel junctions and easy-to-find ledges, probably have been found by every bass fisherman who fishes that lake and are fished really hard. So, I search for drop-offs and ledges that probably aren’t on any lake maps. I’m looking for the very subtle drop-offs, like a 1 or a 2 foot drop-off. I still won’t find those hidden bottom breaks, unless I spend a lot of time cranking a Strike King crankbait. Strike King has a bait for almost every water depth I want to check out to identify a ledge. I can fish those shallow ledges that only may be 1 foot deep with the Strike King KVD 1.5 or 2.5 and those deep ledges more than 20 feet deep with a Series 6XD. The Series 6XD dives deeper than any other crankbait, so I can find and fish the ledges other fishermen aren’t able to fish with other crankbaits. Strike King designs lures for specific needs and purposes and to fill gaps in the fishing tackle industry. I use crankbaits to give me a better picture of the bottom and to feel the type of structure on the bottom.
VanDam: Once I locate a bottom break I want to fish, I try to let the bass tell me where they’re holding on that ledge on that day. Where the bass are holding on a break on any given day depends on the amount of current coming to the lake from hydroelectric power generation. In a fast current, the bass typically will pull up on top of the ledge and to the most shallow part of the ledge. On a slow current, the bass may be holding right on the break of the drop-off. With no current, the bass may be suspended off the edge of the break. I experiment with various crankbaits, running them at different depths to try to get a bite. When I get a bite, I’ll know how the bass are positioned on that bottom break. Once I know where the bass are holding, I can position my boat to fish that water depth and select the crankbait designed to run at that water depth. I’ve learned that bass will change their holding positions often during the day. To consistently find and catch big bass on lakes with hydroelectric power generation, I’ll call the power company on those lakes to learn the power generation schedule and know when they’ll start pulling water and running current. Then, when the time comes close when the current’s supposed to be running, I watch the sticks and the limbs that are sticking out of the water to see if I can see the current moving. This tells me how I need to position my boat to fish for the bass on the ledges.
Question: Most bass fishermen cast onto a shallow flat, bring their crankbaits over the lips of the breaks and then back to their boats. Or, they try to parallel that bottom break, so their lures are running right on the edge of the breaks. You’ll sometimes put your boat on the shallow side of the drop-off, cast out to the deep side and bring your Strike King crankbait from the deep water over the lip of the break and up to the shallow side of the break. Why do you use this tactic?
VanDam: When I’m fishing a bottom break I know is holding bass, I’ve learned that when I can show the bass crankbaits coming from a different angle than they’re accustomed to seeing, I can trigger a strike that I never will have gotten if I’ve continued to fish from the same direction from which I’ve fished earlier. Also, when I know the bass are inactive, I may change from a crankbait, cast a Football Jig out into the deep water and drag it from the deep water, up the ledge, over the top of the ledge and into the shallow water. Many times that action will elicit strikes that I may not have gotten with a crankbait. When you pinpoint a ledge where you know the bass are holding, oftentimes you’ll have to vary the position of your boat, not just your lures and the types of retrieve you’re using. To catch bass on a ledge, you may have to bring your bait from several different directions to find out which way the bass want to take the bait. That’s one of my keys to consistency.