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The magnitude of winning

In today’s society, it’s all about winning. It doesn’t matter whether it’s NASCAR, PGA, NBA, MLB or any sport, fans, media and sponsors of those sports gravitate toward winners. You can finish second 17 times or consistently be among the leaders, but nothing delivers the recognition or importance to one’s career like winning does. Especially in our sport of professional bass fishing. Think about this: We have only nine Elite events, one Classic and a Toyota Bassmaster Angler of Year Championship. During the Elite events, there are 110 anglers vying for one spot in those regular season events. Most other sports …

VanDam: “Wind is not your friend on Toledo Bend”

Wednesday morning had a weird vibe at Cypress Bend Park’s well-known boat ramp on Toledo Bend. It was as though all the stars slept in on the final day of practice for the Bassmaster Elite Series presented by EconoLodge. The top-notch boat ramp that normally has 50 to 70 pros launching from it, only had eight at sunrise. Gerald Swindle who is staying nearby, could be seen driving over the hill toward a far more distant ramp. Finally, Skeet Reese showed up at Cypress Bend. Then came Aaron Martens and Kevin VanDam. VanDam had barely put his Tundra in park when …

It’s time to fish for big ‘uns

It’s big bass time across the country, and now is when it’s great to be on the water. We’ve had a warmer-than-average winter and spring is popping earlier than normal. I’m hearing about spawning bass in Texas, Alabama and most of the southern states. In fact, we’ve got a lot of open water in northern states and bass are already showing signs of prespawn activity. When approaching this time of the year you have to remember everything is focused around the spawn. This isn’t so much about going to your favorite lake and throwing your favorite baits. To catch big bass, …

Tough conditions? Deal with it

I have to admit I have the jitters as I compile this blog prior to the start of the Bassmaster Elite on Cherokee Lake. Although this is the start of my 27th season, the pre-tournament jitters are always the same. Especially now. We can usually get those jitters out of the way at the Bassmaster Classic, but this year we’re kicking off the season before the Classic. Every man in this field knows the importance of a good start to the season, and the tournament here on Cherokee is really going to make us step it up a notch. That’s because …

VanDam calls Cherokee Lake a ‘stress sandwich’

A cold 50-degree drizzle couldn’t chill Kevin VanDam’s attitude as he launched for the final day of practice at the Bassmaster Elite Series tournament at Cherokee Lake in East Tennessee, but stress levels are heating up like a bowl of white sausage gravy in the foggy East Tennessee air. For starters, this is the first Bassmaster Elite Series event of the 2017 season. Naturally, nobody wants to dig himself a hole capable of burying the season’s goodness right out of the gates. Secondly, the weather here has been like a roller coaster ride you might find 30 minutes from the boat …

Loving the Potomac River

With a spot in the 2017 Bassmaster Classic under my belt, I’m eager to get back to regular business at the Potomac River. I really enjoy fishing there and have had a lot of success. I’ve even won a Bassmaster event there. It’s a really unique fishery, and I like these kinds of challenges. I remember visiting there my first full season on the Bassmaster trail and finding out just how different it was. It looked a lot like the Grand River I fish at home with a lot of shallow grass, but the tidal situation makes it a lot different …

Bracket drama galore

Whoever said the Bassmaster Classic Bracket wouldn’t provide much drama was dead wrong. Only one of the eight pros had anything to sweat, but even so, the head-to-head matches had it all -- tension, drama, intrigue, rallies and potential disasters in various forms. It was an entertaining roller coaster of emotion. Kevin VanDam and Brett Hite had runaway wins in their two-day quarterfinals, and it appeared Jordan Lee was doing the same to Dean Rojas. Lee was up 5 pounds with 15 minutes to go. Then Rojas, who earlier in the week for a trash-talk video said, “Sit aside youngster, let …

Jerkin’ Niagara smallies

Jerkbaits have always been one of my favorite lures for locating largemouth and smallmouth bass in clear water because it is such a sight-oriented presentation. That’s why I relied heavily on it here at the Bassmaster Classic Bracket event this week on the Niagara River. The water is really clear – the bottom is visible in 8 to 10 feet of water in many areas. When I saw the clarity and the scattered grass and rocks during practice, not to mention the strong current, I figured a finesse bait would be tough to present properly. I also noticed this river has …

Close quarters

BUFFALO, N.Y. – There is nothing more frightening in bass fishing than Kevin VanDam on a roll. Fresh off a Bassmaster Elite Series win at Cayuga Lake, New York — his second victory of the year — the Kalamazoo, Mich., superstar claimed an early lead in a unique, head-to-head bracket tourney on New York's upper Niagara River that is being live-streamed on Bassmaster.com. Unlike traditional Elite Series events, an official on each boat immediately weighs the fish and releases it. VanDam, who is matched against Bassmaster Elite Series rookie Drew Benton, ended the morning 3-hour session with a 10-pound, 4-ounce limit, …

Finding a way to win

It’s no secret that I am not an ultra-finesse fisherman and have struggled throughout my career with slowing down and using those kinds of techniques when conditions warrant it. But that’s what I had to do to win the Busch Beer Bassmaster Elite at Cayuga Lake. We were confronted with bright clear skies and slick water on a lake that was super clear. I studied the long-term forecast during practice and determined early on that my power fishing techniques probably weren’t going to work. I am still a power fisherman; that’s where my heart and confidence lies. But once you find …