2011 Elite Series - Dixie Duel
In 2008, Jeremy Starks edged out Kevin VanDam for top honors with a four-day catch weighing 78-10. A year later, Tommy Biffle won a tournament that was shortened by a day due to bad weather. Biffle pitched a lizard, beaver and jig to laydowns in extremely shallow water for the April win. Shaw Grigsby had the event's big bass, a 7-2 that struck a topwater frog.
Wheeler offers a wide variety of terrific bass habitat, from the riverine waters of its upper end to the stump flats and weedbeds of its middle section to the step banks and long points near the dam. In June, the bass will have moved to their summer haunts where crankbaits and soft plastics should play a big role.
KVD just short on day 2
> Day 4: 5, 14-11 (20, 61-13)
VanDam didn't hook up with the type of fish on the final day that he needed to win, and the best one he had on slipped away. This was his second runner-up showing at Wheeler in his last three visits – he finished a half-pound behind Jeremy Starks in 2008 and then won the following week at Kentucky Lake.
“I just didn’t get the quality bites today,” he said. “I caught a ton of fish today, I fished everything I wanted to, but it was all I could manage.
"I fished clean this week. I didn’t lose – I got beat.”
He was in his element at this event as he was able to run around frenetically and throw a crankbait on the ledges. He said the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) pulled more water for power generation today than on previous days, and that had a positive effect on the number of bites he got.
"It was an awesome day and I caught a ton of fish, but I knew I needed one of those big ones. I hooked one on my very last cast, but I didn't get him in.
"I needed a 6- or 7-pounder and it didn't pan out, but it's been an incredible year."
KVD up to 13 pounds on day 4
Kevin alternates between a hair jig and crankbait
Sunday updates from Wheeler
Some might think that Kevin VanDam's competitive fires are a little cooler today after taking the 2012 Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year award yesterday. I don't think so, though. He's geared different from most (maybe different from all) and can redirect that drive in a hurry.
With AOY out of the way, he'll focus on winning this tournament. He knows two things: (1) He's won at least one Elite event every year since 2007 and he doesn't want that streak to end, and (2) you don't get a lot of chances to win at this level -- not even KVD.
This close to the trophy and the big check, KVD will turn up the heat again and push hard for the win. Yes, he already has the career wins record with 20 (as compared to Roland Martin's 19), but in ping pong and maybe even bass fishing you have to win by two, so he's going for it.
Then there's Bradley Roy, unofficially tied with KVD and three pounds off the pace. I was on Roy yesterday afternoon and saw him catch several of his better fish late in the day. If that pattern continues, he'll make a race of this thing yet.
Yesterday, Ish Monroe left the area (they're fishing close enough to hit each other with a short pitch) in the early afternoon, leaving it all to Roy. I'm sure Bradley won't have any issues with Ish if he wants to leave early again. The area fishes very small, and any edge like that will benefit the last angler on the spot.
From Zona -- more than once KVD has made a cast and said "that's the cast." Meaning that yes, the fish are here but that only very specific setups with boat position and cast will trigger the bite.
Amazing -- the amount of knowledge, skill, experience, timing and execution you have to bring to the table to get lucky.
-- Tommy Sanders
VanDam hooks another fish after it punches his crankbait two times. This fish is a solid three and will cull. He is putting together something that looks pretty formidable this early on. Between 13 and 14 pounds. Zona says he has the whole school fired up.
-- Tommy Sanders
Two more fish quickly for VanDam and they both will cull. Now he is over 12 pounds.
-- Tommy Sanders
Fishing out here is definitely a bit more work than yesterday -- wind is blowing a steady 10 mph plus. Doubt if KVD notices -- Zona from his boat says he's definitely going for the win -- shocker. Also from Zona -- that last keeper came on a 1/2 ounce hair jig.
-- Tommy Sanders
Omori took one weighing about 1 1/2 on his topwater before we pulled away. He'll need more if he wants to move up. We're on KVD now. He's got the usual KVD navy with him -- 20 other boats, all keeping their distance. VanDam's throwing a crankbait out here on the flats, not very far from Omori. We haven't seen him catch anything yet, but with him, inevitable. Wait ... he's got one -- about 2 pounds -- and he's culling with it! This guy's good! He might have a future in this sport! -- Ken Duke
KVD bags fish number 7 in a Sunday morning flurry
KVD has a limit early on the final day, Dixie Duel 2011
KVD highlight reel, 2011 Angler of the Year
KVD is interviewed after winning Angler of the Year - his 4th straight
KVD is announced as Angler of the Year for the 7th time
Kevin picks a few All Star week anglers with Zona
pick your All Star Week choices
Let us know your All Star Week choices here:
KVD and Zona update 3
Day 3 news and notes
On our way back up the lake, a handful of boats came charging at us. That could only be Kevin VanDam. He had only six or seven boats with him, which is pretty light for him on the Tennessee River.
He was cranking a ledge and as many of the boats were coming off pad, he was hooking up with a fish. The bass was a puny 2-pounder, chump change after what he put in the well already. He quickly boated the fish and tossed it back.
Up from him, the Decatur Flats were looking a lot less crowded today with the reduced field.
If he wins here, Roy will be the youngest champ in Elite history, eclipsing Casey Ashley, who was 23 when he won on Smith Mountain Lake in 2007. It will also send Bradley, 21 years old, to his first Classic after a frustrating year.
For the first time today KVD has vacated his spot offshore and sped to the cooling water discharge where he has spent time earlier this week as documented on Bassmaster.com. Seems to be getting a few grabs but nothing hooked.
From James Overstreet: KVD says the water has dropped but this place should be unaffected.
Overstreet is in the boat with KVD now for pictures. Says Van Dam told him if he catches two more good ones he'll head to the dock and order pizzas.
-- Tommy Sanders
Zona says he has been offering to help Van Dam for the last hour or so.
Zona: "I tell you what--I can pick up one of those rods and show you how to fire up the school on this Tennessee river."
KVD : "Seriously?"
Zona was going to send us a BassCam of KVD's picks for the four voted spots in Toyota Trucks All Star Week but the bit didn't happen. But he texted the names to me: Reese, Omori, Palaniuk, and Broderick
-- Tommy Sanders
You don't have to be around Bassmaster long to know two things: Mark Zona is a borderline maniac and KVD and him together are a team of maniacs.
Zona's in the boat with KVD and I'm starting to get a glimpse of what's taking place over there through Tommy Sanders. The two are getting some work done, though. Zona is asking him who woudl get his vote for the four remaining places in the All Star Week.
That should be coming shortly.
It's still slow at present. So slow that VanDam actually takes time for a sip of water and a lucky cookie. Even gives Zona one. From Zona:"it's the first time he has ever given me one. I'll win co-host of the year seven times in a row now.". Lucky.
Zona and Sanders are waiting on KVD to get something going again, but it's been slow. Zona says that VanDam relayed to him how nice it was to get 16 or 17 pounds in 30 minutes. It makes the rest of the day relaxing.
That would imply that maybe KVD wasn't so relaxed before that. Hmmm.
KVD, though, will undoubtedly shift into gear at some point. He maybe taking a few moments to revel in his 7th AOY, but it will be my guess that he will start bearing down trying to get another win. One of the things that makes him so great is he's the most competitive guy on tour. He gives no quarter and takes none.
Ott DeFoe has moved into second on BASSTrakk. He has a limit that weighs around 12 or 13 pounds. We expect Waker to be right around him, although his BASSTrakk isn't showing up that way. A lot of times, when there is a cameraman in the boat, the Marshal has a tough time keeping up with the changes. But that will shake out.
In other news, Mark Zona and Tommy Sanders have switched over to KVD and they are giving us a little insight.
KVD is using a Strike King crankbait, Series 4 or 5, we're not certain yet, but he's backing that up with a hair jig.
The two are still waiting for another fish from KVD. Zona says the Hydrowave has definitely fired up the schools for him when he has done his damage. The graph is lit up with suspended fish
Hank Weldon just pointed out an interesting scenario. VanDam wins the AOY, which by default puts him the Classic. That makes him double qualified, since he is the defending champion. If he were to win today, the Classic berth would go to him as well, which would make him triple qualified.
That would be the first time anyone has ever triple-qualified for the Classic, at least to my knowledge. I can't think of any scenario in the past 40 years that would ever even have something like that in place.
VanDam just keeps creating "firsts" in the sport of bass fishing.
-- Steve Bowman
A lot of Classic questions were answered yesterday, and some anglers went home disappointed. Ten anglers have now (unofficially) qualified for every Classic in the Elite era: Faircloth, Hackney, Iaconelli, Jordon, Kennedy, Martens, Reese (if he wins here), Scroggins, KVD and Wirth -- the cream of the Elite crop.
To give you an idea of how quick VanDam put this AOY title to rest, here is a list of his catches and times for the day, remembering that he took off at 6:45 a.m. The time is listed followed by the weight of each fish.
That's 10 keepers in less than 45 minutes
There was never really any doubt that VanDam would get the work done today to nail down the AOY, but even for those of us who knew it was coming, that early flurry that created 17 pounds sends a little shock wave through us.
It really does make us wonder if the guy is super natural in some way.
Yesterday, he had to wait to weigh in late with Evers and Kennedy. We set in the weigh-in line as angler after angler passed and all KVD could say about the AOY race was "I'm ready to get this over."
He said it enough that he obviously took it to heart. He's left absolutely no chance or no doubt.
Going into this morning we were thinking that there was a slight chance that KVD could slip up and by the narrowest of margins ever let someone else win the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year title.
Not anymore. VanDam has not only shut that door, he's slammed it shut, nailed it down and no matter how many miracles you can dream of he will be the next AOY.
While we were working up photo galleries and watching Walker, Hackney and DeFoe, VanDam quietly and very quickly has caught more than 17 pounds to not only assure an AOY victory but take the lead in this event.
Once again, KVD captures the magic and once again we can say there is no one better.
A look at some of the lures KVD is having luck with
KVD chats about Lake Wheeler and the Turning point in the season
Kevin mentions the Diamond Drive and the Arkansas River as being a crucial factor in the season.
Kevin starts off day 3 with a boom
KVD Saturday AM report
KVD on day 2 fishing for the Angler of the Year, and Dixie Duel title
Day 2 updates from the Dixie Duel
AOY Standings after day 2
Kevin VanDam may have just nailed the door shut on the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year title. Just a few minutes ago he got off the 1-pound fernzy and boated a 4-pounder. That gives him 26 pounds and change shoots him to a tie for 5th on our BASSTrakk list.
I never doubted him for a second. Or did I?
Meanwhile Kennedy and Evers seem to be stuck in the 8- to 9-pound range, well down the list. Mathematically it's still not over. Pragmatically, though, VanDam doesn't disappoint.
I was watching the BASSTrakk a few minutes ago, just wiling it to move. My mind is screaming "someone catch something."
Evidently, I'm pyschic or something. While watching it KVD's catches rolled a bit.
He caught a keeper that upgraded him from 8-8 to 8-10.
It didn't even move him in the standings, just enough of a change for me to see it move. Obviously, my pyschic powers are under-whelming.
But I still contend that every ounce, or pound in this case, that he doesn't catch in the next hour just leaves the door a little more open for Kennedy and Evers. They just haven't had the opportunity to walk thru it.
KVD isn't exactly struggling, since he is catching them. But it's a far cry from where was yesterday. If that trend continues into tomorrow, then..who knows?
We know what rain and clouds can do for fishing. In most cases it's good, sometimes not so good.
It doesn't appear to have hurt the fishing at all.
It has had an impact on bloggers, as evidenced by Ken Duke's musings below.
KVD doesn't go fishing because "fishing" implies the possibility of failure. KVD goes "catching."
When the Boogeyman goes to sleep every night, he checks under his bed for KVD.
If Superman and Batman were to square off in a battle of superheroes, KVD would win.
KVD put Humpty Dumpty back together again!
KVD not only found Waldo, but he has him waypointed on his GPS.
KVD uses a night light -- not because he's afraid of the dark, but because the dark is afraid of KVD.
Paper beats rock, rock beats scissors and scissors beats paper, but KVD beats them all with a final round charge of 32 pounds and an 11-pound kicker.
-- Ken Duke
Kevin VanDam has been hopscotching ledges and has now moved back to his "happy hole" where he started Day One and filled out his limit while catching a slime-covered spinning reel-and-rod on Day Two. He continues to catch fish wherever he goes, but hasn't caught an anchor fish yet. He's been culling for ounces.
Although it's still raining, it's not a downpour now and the lightning has ceased. That has brought some creative fans back on the lake to follow the six-time Toyota Tundra Angler of the Year (and soon to be seven, it appears). One boat added a "tent" to help deal with the rain. It's actually a portable bass boat restroom, called "The Bass Room."
The Bass Room is the answer to the question: What in the wide, wide world of bass fishing will they think up next?
- Steve Wright
Check out how smart these KVD fans are bring a tent out with them to help deal with the rain. It's actually a portable bass boat restroom called the bass room. Wow these guys can go to the can while they watch KVD try put TTBAOT Number 7 in the can.
-- Dave Mercer
Van Dam has a limit, Evers has two. Kennedy has one. It's not academic yet, but the chubby lady is starting to clear her throat.
Evers and Kennedy needs a big surge, to put them back in the mix. There is obviously a lot of time left to do that. But KVD isn't making it easy on them. No one expected he would.
While it's doubtful that KVD can be bested at this point, it won't be completely sewn up for another day, unless Evers and Kennedy fail to make the top 50.
If they do, the odds will likely be aginst them. But you have to give every possible scenario a chance to work. The hole, though, just gets deeper for those two.
-- Steve Bowman
AOY standings after day 1
1. Kevin VanDam MI 1,999
2. Edwin Evers OK 1,865
3. Stephen Kennedy AL 1,860
4. Ott Defoe 1,840
5. Terry Scroggins FL 1,836
Day 1 PM report with KVD
KVD on his day 1 performance and the AOY race
“I’m really happy with the way the day turned out,” VanDam said. “If I have a good day (Friday), I’ll feel pretty good about it. But it’s a long way from over.”
VanDam burned a lot of gas Thursday, and he thinks that was a big key to his success.
“If you hit enough places on this lake, eventually you’ll run into them,” VanDam said.
KVD widens lead for AOY after day 1
VanDam made a strong case for AOY today (finishing in 8th place with 15 pounds, 6 ounces) that you can’t bet against the guy we used to call the Kalamazoo Kid. Now he’s just plain KVD, and he extended his AOY lead from 55 points to 134 points over Edwin Evers and 139 points over Steve Kennedy.
A small limit tomorrow with a 50th place or better finish and he could wrap up things. But that assumes a lot of things. For instance, that Evers has a fork in him and is done. Evers doesn’t think so.
“I’ve caught some of my biggest stringers in the later days of a tournament,’’ he said, almost defiantly after today’s weigh-in.
The point was so well-taken, that if you were a betting man you would feel like laying down the money on the semi-long-shot. Evers finished the day in 43rd with 11-10. Kennedy, on the other hand, is just 5 points behind Evers, after an 18th place start with 14-4. Both would need an Ott DeFoe-esque kind of day to continue making a run at it, while VanDam would need to stumble and bumble his way through the day.
What are the odds?
After last week on the Arkansas River, where VanDam showed us a human side with just two keepers on Day Three, then I guess the odds are at least possible a stumble could happen.
After watching the determination in the face of Evers all season long, the kind of day he needs is more than possible. Knowing Kennedy, anything is possible. The destiny of that title, though, lies in VanDam’s hands, the exact place he wanted it to be on this day.
The bigger story might be how the standings have changed.
DeFoe (4th in AOY) is sewing up his opportunity to appear in the Toyota Trucks All-Star Week. Terry Scroggins (5th), Davy Hite (6th), Swindle (7th) and Casey Ashley (8th) are all sitting pretty for that.
On the Classic front, David Walker, Greg Hackney, Peter T and Kelly Jordon jumped in the Classic after starting the day outside of that list.
There is a whole list of guys on the verge of falling out. And another list of guys poised to jump in.
There are a lot of moves and shakes going on in the standings. Chances are good there will be more changes on Day Two.
You can bet on that. The KVD thing? That’s up to you.
-- Steve Bowman
KVD wraps up a day 1
2pm update, day 1
It's always impressive to see the cream rise to the top after one of these tough days of fishing.
Davy Hite, who is having a year that some of us might say is his comeback, is now in third. Ott DeFoe, who has been leading the Rookie race all year, has jumped to fourth and now is challenging for a position in the All-Star Week. His challenger in the rookie standings, Keith Combs is in the top 10.
Love to see Kelly Jordon in the top five. He's gotten married, had a bout with skin cancer and is now a new daddy. He's getting back on track. Terry Scroggins may be serving notice to KVD, Evers and Kennedy that they need to bring the goods in the AOY race. Evers, by the way, has slipped to 16th at the moment.
Then you have Brauer, who is obviously on a roll, and Mark Davis, who needs a top finish, rounding out the top 10.
This event gets more interesting by the second. Remember we only have trackers on 50, and some of them are out of sight.
Skeet Reese, for example, is determined to win this event. Swindle is fishing close to home and we have no idea what either is doing. Outside of knowing he has a decent limit, we really don't know what KVD has.
The weigh in will fun.
-- Steve Bowman
Day 1 - 10:35 am update - last minute heroics
Every sport fan loves last-minute heroics, come-from-behind underdogs, magic in the fourth quarter _ that type of thing.
We are seeing a lot of that type stuff today. It's not the fourth quarter yet, but just looking at the standings and reading the blogs, there seems to be a lot of guys fishing their pants off out of desperation.
Hackney, Davis, Walker, Lane are just a few we've mentioned. Tensions have to be high for those guys because they know every ounce counts in whether they go to the Classic or not. That's the pinnacle for them, it can mean the difference between a good year or one that is dismal.
Then you have the rookie race with Combs making his move. Evers, who is in 6th place currently, seemingly fishing against all odds at catching KVD. The drama is being played out on the water. We are just getting to see the results of it on the leaderboard and eventually the weigh in.
Great sporting events have that drama, and by any account this is setting up to be one of the greatest.
Kevin makes a move on day 1
Kevin's early limit draws a crowd
Dixie Duel day 1 morning update
Dustin Carson Joshua had a few good questions for Edwin Evers. To answer them, Evers has caught seven keeper largemouth, culling twice. I don't like to say too much about where he is at this point in the tournament, but suffice to say he's down the lake a little ways.
As for beating VanDam, when I asked him, he said he knows he needs more than a limit. The big fish don't seem as accessible as they were the last time the Elites were here in June, but there are still good fish to be had. In a race that might come down to a matter of a couple pounds, every big fish will be worth their weight in gold.
Evers made a move and I hopped out if his boat, moving down the lake more to find David Walker. BASSTrakk has him at 17 pounds right now. Entering this event in 46th place in the AOY points, Walker needs a big finish to close out a Classic berth.
It's been an up and down year for him, barely missing out on a win at Toledo Bend, but also a few poor finishes. A strong finish would be great momentum for his return to B.A.S.S. competition.
Dennis Tietje just caught a small bass that was big enough to go into his livewell. He and Mark Davis are fishing the main river channel within sight of Kevin VanDam, Marty Robinson and Jason Williamson, who are fishing a split in the main river channel. Tietje and Davis are fishing on one side of the channel marker buoys and the three others are on the outside of the other set of channel buoys.
Tietje’s is the only catch we’ve seen here in the last 20 minutes. We are within sight of downtown Decatur.
Speaking of the channel marker buoys, they are the easiest visual clue for indicating how much water is going through the dam. And they are showing very little current in Lake Wheeler, although we are at one of the widest points in the lake. Some current would help place the bass that are holding on these ledges near the main river channel, and improve the catch rate here.
With five bass in the boat, VanDam probably has more patience to fish this than anyone else.
Kevin VanDam has had enough of his initial spot. He's leaving this area just a five-minute boat ride from the launch ramp. He's got a limit and, obviously, plenty of confidence as he goes to his second hole of the day.
Kevin VanDam didn’t waste any time Thursday as he begins his quest for a fourth-straight Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year title. VanDam made a five-minute boat ride to his first spot of the day, followed by 10 spectator boats. Less than an hour into his day, VanDam was already culling. He has caught over a dozen fish anchored by a 3-pounder. Since we have been watching him, VanDam has picked up six different rods, so he’s throwing the kitchen sink at them. And everything seems to be working.
Dixie Duel morning update from KVD
Kevin checks in before the final event of the 2011 season, leading the Angler of the Year points race:
Kevin starts out with a bang
KVD "annihilating" them on day1, Dixie Duel:
Kevin at launch, day 1
Leave your comments here as the Dixie Duel wraps up the 2011 season:
David Walker - 63-10
1. 18-2, 2. 17-1, 3. 13-7, 4. 14-11
Kevin VanDam - 61-13
1. 15-6, 2. 15-12, 3. 16-0, 4. 14-11
Bradley Roy - 60-06
1. 14-10, 2. 18-1, 3. 17-10, 4. 10-01
Ish Monroe - 58-15
1. 11-14, 2. 12-5, 3. 20-14, 4. 13-14
Arthur DeFoe - 58-09
1. 18-6, 2. 14-7, 3. 14-5, 4. 11-07
Greg Hackney - 58-00
1. 14-12, 2. 19-9, 3. 12-5, 4. 11-06
Russell Lane - 57-08
1. 16-6, 2. 10-3, 3. 16-5, 4. 14-10
Timmy Horton - 53-12
1. 11-13, 2. 16-2, 3. 13-8, 4. 12-05
Kelly Jordon - 53-07
1. 14-11, 2. 12-2, 3. 16-13, 4. 9-13
Keith Poche - 50-00
1. 12-10, 2. 11-12, 3. 18-0, 4. 07-10
Bernard Schultz - 49-02
1. 15-1, 2. 13-8, 3. 12-14, 4. 07-11
Takahiro Omori - 48-05
1. 13-4, 2. 12-15, 3. 13-13, 4. 08-05
Steve Kennedy - 31-2
1. 14-4, 2. 9-1, 3. 7-13
Edwin Evers - 32-4
1. 11-10, 2. 10-14, 3. 9-12
History & Notes;
day 1: Marty Robinson
day 2: Timmy Horton 6-4
day 3: Keith Poche 6-6
> Fri., June 17 - Isolated T-Storms - 97°/73°
- Wind: From the SW at 13 mph
> Sat., June 18 - Isolated T-Storms - 97°/74°
- Wind: From the SW at 15 mph
> Sun., June 19 - Mostly Sunny - 97°/74°
- Wind: From the SW at 13 mph
Angler of the Year Standings heading into the Dixie Duel