Kevin VanDam from Kalamazoo, Michigan, has won four Bassmaster Classics and is considered one of the best professional bass fishermen ever.
I had the chance to speak with Kevin VanDam recently to get his perspective on the 2014 Bassmaster Classic, which begins tomorrow and ends February 23.
John Phillips: Kevin, how will that big warm front coming through affect the Classic?
Kevin VanDam: We’ll definitely get some benefits from the warming trend during the tournament at Lake Guntersville, but the bass won’t move from their cold-weather pattern to their spawning pattern overnight. I’m sure some of the bass will move up and prepare to stage to spawn, but I believe the majority of the bass in Lake Guntersville will stay on their winter pre-spawn pattern throughout the entire tournament.
During practice, did you find any big schools of bass, or were most of the bass still scattered throughout the lake?
Guntersville has had the coldest winter on record and that has killed a lot of grass for which Lake Guntersville is famous. The water is also very dingy. Cold and dingy water are two factors that when combined make bass fishing as tough as it gets. But when you do catch a bass, these bass are super-healthy, chunky, and overall in really good shape. You’ll see some very big bass coming to the weigh-in stand from Guntersville.
You’ve won a couple of tournaments by fishing one spot throughout the entire tournament, and you’ve won others by running all over the lake and catching bass at different places. In this Classic, which do you expect to do?
Lake Guntersville is probably one of the most popular bass lakes in the nation right now. I don’t believe that the winner of the Classic will be able to sit in one spot during all three tournament days and win. I plan to run to a number of various places each day. The conditions on Guntersville will be changing possibly every hour. I don’t believe any contestant knows exactly where there’s a school of bass that he can sit on and win this Classic.
The other contestants in the Bassmaster Classic will be concerned with finding and catching bass. However, you have a huge fan base. I don’t think it’s unrealistic that you’ll have from 50 to 100 boats following you and watching you fish. How will you deal with the roar of that many engines and that much wave action hitting where you’re trying to fish?
Several anglers will have quite a few fans following them in this tournament, but the fans aren’t trying to get in our way or disrupt our fishing. With Guntersville being a grass lake and having several locations to catch big bass, most anglers will probably work back and forth over the same area, before they leave it. So, we’re hoping our spectators will bring binoculars, stay way back, watch us with their binoculars, and not get their boats in the shallow water. I truly appreciate the fans who support me. Before I get to the spot where I want to fish, I have to determine how I’ll manage the fan base. Since I’m somewhat accustomed to managing spectators, I definitely have prepared for dealing with the spectator pressure.
Kevin, taking yourself out of the race, who do you expect to perform the best on Lake Guntersville?
Because the weather will be changing every day at Guntersville, I think the fishermen who have experience and can adapt to weather changes quickly will have the best opportunities to win. This year’s Classic probably has the most local contestants we’ve ever had in the Classic, with nine really good Alabama fishermen competing. Skeet Reese and I have competed on Lake Guntersville more than on any other lake. These guys know the lake really well. Therefore when conditions change, they’ll know what to do and where to go instantly. I think the people who have the most experience fishing Lake Guntersville, whether they’re hometown boys or long-time tournament pros, definitely will have the advantage to win the Classic. However, Guntersville has big bass from one end of the lake to the other. I think the tournament can be won anywhere on the lake, because it has so many productive places. As a fan as well as a contestant, I’m interested to see how and where the winning bag of fish will be caught on Sunday.
Which lures do you think will win the Classic?
I really believe that a lipless crankbait like Strike King’s Red Eye Shad will be one of the baits that produce large stringers of big bass. Jerkbaits and swimbaits will also play a major role in producing a winner, and you can’t eliminate a jig. The question is which angler will be casting those lures at the right time and in the right place. There’s some huge bass at Guntersville, and I think the traditional baits that have been used over the years to catch big bass will be the lures that produce the winner this year.
To learn more about Kevin VanDam, go to www.kevinvandam.com.
Register to win one of 10 copies to be given away of John E. Phillips’ Kindle eBook, Catch the Most and Biggest Bass in Any Lake – 18 Pro Fishermen’s Best Tactics. Click here (will open a new email in your default email software) to submit your choices for what the weight will be of the heaviest daily limit of bass (pounds and ounces) per day of the 2014 Bassmaster Classic. Those who answer correctly will have their names put together and a random drawing made for the winners.
Image courtesy John Phillips