Here’s an incredible fact: Over the last five years, Strike King pro Kevin VanDam has won every Bassmaster Classic when the crankbait bite is dominant. That was the case in the 2011 and 2010 Classics, both of which he won. And in this year’s Classic on Lake Guntersville, Ala., the crankbait bite will be dominant again.
Data from the bass patterning app BassGold.com shows that crankbaits account for the most wins in February on Guntersville – in fact, crankbaits account for most wins year-round there. Because of that and because of VanDam’s track record of big-game performances, he appears to be the prohibitive favorite to win this year’s Classic.
“I’m definitely excited about it,” VanDam said. “I have a lot of history at Guntersville, and even when I haven’t won I’ve had a lot of success there. It’s a lake that fits my style and I have a lot of confidence for sure.”
Although he’s keeping a close eye on the weather and doesn’t want to make any predictions about what he’ll actually do come game day, VanDam does believe cranking will play a big role. “I think in cold-water situations, bass are definitely in that mode when you can make them react better to crankbaits than other times of the year,” he said.
As to why he’s been so successful with crankbaits, he gave this analogy: “Everyone knows how to flip a mat, but the Shaws (Grigsby) and Lanes of the world who do that a lot really understand the subtle differences of the technique in colder weather. I think it’s the same way for me, fishing a lot in Michigan. Since I fish (crankbaits) when it’s cold in the spring and late fall, I understand a lot of the little things that have helped me be successful in some of those recent Classics.”
In terms of what Strike King crankbaits he’s planning to bring, he said: “Without a doubt, at the top of my list is Red Eye Shads. The winter/spring lipless crankbait bite at Guntersville is legendary, and I have several boxes full of Red Eye Shads ready to go.
“I also have the full compliment of Strike King diving baits, from our new 1.5 flat-sided crankbait to the squarebills to all the different number-series baits. I’ve been working since right after Christmas on reorganizing my Plano 3700-series boxes with a mix of the right colors so I’m prepared for whatever water clarity or color situation I have.”
He added: “The last two Classics I won, in Birmingham and Louisiana, I made good decisions and everything just lined up. But several Classics before that in a row, I had really good game plans too and the conditions took me out of contention to win.
“That’s the thing about Classics: doing well isn’t a factor. It’s all about winning. You have to take bigger risks, and when you take bigger risks, the odds of that working out are less.”
“Kevin is a gamer in every sense of the word,” said Strike King marketing manager Mark Copley. “I have no doubt he will be a force to reckon with at Guntersville, as he is in every Classic and for that matter every tournament.”
He added that Strike King has six other pros in this year’s Classic, “and many other great fishermen are in it. We can’t wait to see what happens.”
Image courtesy Strike King