Data doesn't lie, and fishing pattern data from BassGold.com indicates that Kevin VanDam is the prohibitive favorite to win the GEICO Bassmaster Classic on Lake Guntersville.
Putting aside the fact that Kevin may be the best bass fisherman to have ever walked the planet, two data-driven reasons make him the odds-on favorite to win the Classic.
One is that BassGold shows definitively that crankbaits outperform any other bait when it comes to wins and high finishes on Guntersville. This is exactly as true in February as it is all year long: Crankbaits account for 33 percent of wins and high finishes. That's nearly three times more than the next most effective bait: jerkbaits in February, and jigs year-round.
The second reason is the stats show that KVD is a crankbait master both this time of year and in Classics. In the prior five Bassmaster Classics, VanDam has won an incredible 100 percent of the time when the crankbait bite is dominant: in 2011 on the Louisiana Delta, and in 2010 on Lay Lake, Ala.
Not only that, Lay Lake is the same water body type – what BassGold classifies a 'riverine reservoir' – as Guntersville. This is significant because BassGold has definitively proven that water bodies of the same type, no matter where they are, fish very similarly.
"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 in February, 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 baits he's planning to bring, he said: "Without a doubt, at the top of my list is [Strike King] 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."
VanDam also finished 8th and 11th in the 2013 and 2012 Classics, respectively, and third in a Bassmaster Tour event on Guntersville held in late February 2004.
Does all of this mean that Kevin will definitely win the Classic? Not necessarily. That's one of the great things about professional bass fishing: You never know who will win, and other guys for sure can and will do well. But data doesn't lie, and in this case it points to a tournament that lines up really favorably for the mighty KVD.