2014 A.R.E. Truck Caps Bassmaster Elite at Cayuga Lake
New Jersey’s Pete Gluszek won the Cayuga Bassmaster Open with a three-day total of 56.1 pounds of largemouth bass. His second day limit topped 20 pounds. Arkansas Elite Series pro Stephen Browning also bagged a limit of largemouths weighing over 20 pounds and finished second with 51.5 pounds.
That tournament happened in late August, just prior to the August 21-24 dates for the 2014 Elite Series event. Browning expects the Elite pros to drag more heavy limits to the scales than the Open anglers did.
“Cayuga is a self-explanatory type of lake,” Browning says. “The Elite guys will figure it out quickly, even those that have never been there before.”
Most of the bass catching will happen within 200 yards of the shoreline, Browning points out. This simplifies things, but it can also make for crowded fishing conditions.
Largemouths will dominate the tournament, and they will be caught from mainly from the grass and Cayuga’s many boat docks. Unlike docks at Oneida Lake, which are in a skim of water, Cayuga’s docks have plenty of water under them where heavy bass feel right at home.
Key baits will be jigs, a host of soft plastic offerings, crankbaits and spinnerbaits. No doubt, the Elite pros will come up with a wide variety of lures and presentations that will produce.
Another reason that there are likely to be more heavy limits than during the Open tournament is that Elite anglers are limited to three practice days. They also tend to practice differently than many of the fishermen that compete in Open tournaments, Browning adds.
“The Elites don’t have to catch many bass to understand what they need to do,” Browning says. “They save their bass for the tournament days.”
KVD: I'll be back
UNION SPRINGS, N.Y. — It didn't become official until Saturday's weigh-in at the Bassmaster Elite Series Cayuga Lake tournament was complete.
But it's a done deal now: Kevin VanDam, the most accomplished angler in B.A.S.S. history, didn't qualify to compete in what would have been his 25th Bassmaster Classic in a row.
That's almost unimaginable because VanDam has been so consistently good for so long.
KVD handled the bad news just like he's handled everything else in his brilliant career -- with class and honesty.
"I can promise you, I hate it right now," he said at the Frontenac Park weigh-in site.
"But I don't care who you are or how good you are, it's going to happen eventually. It's very humbling out here."
This season has been unfathomably humbling for the 46-year-old Kalamazoo, Mich., resident. Only a few years after he burst on the B.A.S.S. scene it was unquestionable that there was a Superman on the circuit and KVD were his initials.
Consider this: In the first eight seasons of the Elite Series, VanDam missed the top 50 cut (and the $10,000 check that goes with it) only four times.
That's cashing-in on 69 of 73 chances. But in 2014, VanDam doubled those sub-top 50 performances – four more in a single season, including the four worst finishes of his Elite Series career.
"I fished harder and longer hours of practice this year than I ever have," VanDam said. "I knew some of these events would be really challenging, like the Delaware River (where he finished 97th).
"But the tournaments that really disappointed me this year were at the St. Johns River and (Lake) Dardanelle. Those are places where I know the water. I have history there. I know what to do and how to do it. I just couldn't make it happen."
Friday on Cayuga Lake was a fitting capper to a frustrating year. If VanDam had caught just one additional 2 1/2-pound bass, he would have made the Top 50 and had a chance to improve his Angler of the Year points standings.
Only the top 50 in AOY points here qualify to fish at Lake Michigan in September, when the final Classic qualifiers for 2015 will be determined.
"It was almost surreal (Friday), the way things were going badly for me," VanDam said. "When I would get a bite, I'd lose it. One decent fish was the difference between me being in the top 50 and going to Michigan or sitting out on the sideline."
VanDam has seven Angler of the Year titles in his career. His previous worst finish in the AOY race was 26th.
"Other than that, I've never been out of the top 10," he said. "That's something I'm pretty proud of. The fact that I messed it up so bad this year tells me that I need to really re-think how I'm going about these events.
"Believe me, I'm going to have a different focus next year."
VanDam has always kept himself in good physical condition. His power fishing style requires it. And never has his mental toughness been questioned.
But he promised to be better on both fronts next season. That's got to be a little scary for the rest of the Elite Series competitors.
This bad season may have awakened a sleeping bear.
But VanDam knows it's not that simple. You just don't decide to win and follow up with victories. This game is more competitive than it has ever been.
"I can't guarantee anything," he said. "I'm not going to say I'm going to knock it out of the park and win three of the next five events or anything like that.
"But I can tell you this: I'm going to come back with a new focus and intensity. I can't do it any other way. We'll see what the results are."
One final note: Before VanDam came along, Rick Clunn was the king of B.A.S.S. Both he and VanDam have won four Bassmaster Classics, and Clunn has qualified for 32 Classics.
Since Ray Scott held the first Classic in 1971, there have only been three (the first three) when either Clunn or VanDam wasn't in the Classic, and most often both were there.
The 2015 Classic field isn't completely set yet, but it will probably be the first one since 1973 that doesn't include either Clunn or KVD in the field.
"I've watched the greatest anglers in the sport rise and fall," VanDam said. "It's inevitable.
"I'm just not ready to go away yet."
KVD's Bassmaster Classic standings
To paraphrase Mark Twain, reports of Kevin VanDam's Bassmaster Classic demise have been exaggerated ... but only a little. The man who has qualified for 24 consecutive Classics currently sits in 53rd place in the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year points standings. Since only the Top 50 will be invited to the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year Championship and since only event winners and anglers fishing the championship have a shot at earning a Classic berth through the Elite Series, you might think KVD is done, that the streak has ended and that there's nothing left for the B.O.A.T. (Best of All-Time) but to go home to Kalamazoo and get ready for next year.
Not so fast.
KVD's Classic hopes are not dead yet ... not quite anyway. Though they're certainly on life support, one foot's on thin ice and the other is on a banana peel and the fat lady is warming up backstage. Nevertheless, there is a chance, and it goes like this.
VanDam's regular season is over. He's stuck with 443 AOY points, but that's not the same as being stuck in 53rd place. Those 443 AOY points might leave him in 55th place when it's all over ... or 51st ... or, dare I say it, even 50th.
The way that could happen is for the anglers immediately ahead of VanDam in the AOY race who are still fishing at Cayuga Lake to slip ... just enough to fall past him and elevate him to 50th and into the AOY Championship.
For that to happen, four things need to transpire, and all of them will either happen or not happen on Saturday.
Three of the following six things needs to happen:
(a) Brent Chapman (currently 10th at Cayuga) needs to finish 15th or worse;
(b) Davy Hite (currently 26th) needs to finish 40th or worse;
(c) Chris Zaldain (currently 6th) needs to finish 26th or worse;
(d) Fred Roumbanis (currently 12th) needs to finish 32nd or worse;
(e) Casey Scanlon (currently 7th) needs to finish 40th or worse;
(f) Marty Robinson (currently 14th) needs to finish 49th or worse.
OK, so half of those things need to happen and none of following can happen:
(a) Davy Hite (currently 26th) finishes 25th or better;
(b) Mike Kernan (currently 48th) finishes 19th or better;
(c) Nate Wellman (currently 46th) finishes 16th or better;
(d) Russ Lane (currently 43rd) finishes 12th or better.
Bottom line is this: if half of the first group happens and none of the second group happens, KVD is in the Classic. For everything in the second group that happens, you need one more thing in the top group to happen in order for VanDam to get in.
Confused? Think of it this way: It's Week 17 of the NFL season and your beloved Cleveland Browns are teetering on a playoff berth. Johnny Manziel didn't really pan out, but 65-year-old Brian Sipe came out of retirement to lead the Browns to a 9-7 season. Now all of the Browns division rivals have to lose in the final weekend and the Dolphins and Patriots have to play to a scoreless tie ... and Godzilla must destroy Tokyo after defeating King Kong in the battle for giant monster supremacy. When that happens, your Browns are in!
So don't put a fork in KVD's Classic hopes just yet. There's always time for a miracle!
It's that time of year again — time to list the top-notch anglers who will not qualify for the 2015 Bassmaster Classic and shake our heads in collective wonder about what happened.
Of course, any such list has to begin with Kevin VanDam. After 24 consecutive Classic appearances (second only to Rick Clunn's 28 straight), it's hard to believe the run is over, but it seems to be. Only a miracle will save KVD now.
But he's not alone. This year (like every other) there are lots of talented pros who will be watching the Classic rather than fishing it. We won't know the full list until after the AOY Championship, but here's a partial rundown and it looks like a bass fishing all-star team. For now, I'm listing only those anglers who cannot qualify for the Classic on points.
Brent Chapman is one of those guys. Just two years removed from his AOY season, the Kansas pro needs to win Cayuga to get back to the Classic. It'll be the first he's missed since 2007.
Rick Clunn, Gary Klein and Shaw Grigsby are out. They've all missed some Classics recently, but the championship is definitely better when they're in it. They'll be missed.
Ish Monroe has made a lot more Classics than he's missed over the past decade, but one of the toughest years of his career will put him on the sidelines for 2015. Ditto for Boyd Duckett, the 2007 Classic champ.
A couple of guys are on the bubble to qualify for the AOY Championship and keep their Classic hopes alive for a while longer. Terry Scroggins and Davy Hite are on the fence now. Hite, at least, controls his own fate and can get in with a good Day 3 at Cayuga. Scroggins has already been eliminated from the regular season finale and will be watching the weekend weigh-ins with more interest than most.
KVD with a big keeper on day 2
Clear Water Benefits
The Elite Series event here on Cayuga Lake in New York is dispelling a myth held by many anglers about northern natural lakes.
I’ve heard people say they are afraid to fish up here because the water is so clear. They think it’s tough to catch fish because of it.
Well, the fact is, clear water is more of a positive than a negative, as a lot of the deep south pros who have fished up here often are finding out.
Make no mistake about it, Cayuga is clear – you can see bottom in 10 feet in most areas and even deeper in others. While that’s pretty clear, I’ve caught bass in a lot clearer water and the same thing has held true: you can use it to your advantage.
For example, you can see the bottom and have a better visual of what you’re fishing and learn the area so much better.
That’s not to say our electronics aren’t necessary in clear water. In fact, my Hummingbird Side and Down Imaging come in handy when looking for grass beds on the deep flats.
But when you can couple that with being able to physically see into the grass, see what’s around dock pilings, see rock piles, it gives you a better perspective of what the area has to offer.
In clear water, bass will relate to anything that gives them shade so visually knowing what’s there is huge.
Perhaps even more important is that you can see the bait and how it looks in the water, and occasionally spot the bass and how they are relating to the cover.
That’s where a good pair of polarized sunglasses are critical and have been one of my most important “tools” here at Cayuga. I’ve been able to see the color of sunfish and perch and the bottom. Everything in a clear water environment is built to emulate its surroundings, so your lures should resemble the color of bottom and habitat you’re fishing.
The exception is the baitfish that roams, such as shiners, alewives, smelt and ciscoes that don’t spend much time on the bottom. They are transparent and silvery in color so you must match lures fished in the upper water column accordingly.
And remember that bass will use clear water to their advantage. They become more of a sight feeder, which means our presentations have to be more natural. Lure colors should closely match the natural forage that the bass are feeding on.
The gaudy, chartreuse and white spinnerbait you slow roll in stained water isn’t going to catch you anything but the most aggressive fish.
Now, you can get away with fast moving baits if the conditions warrant it, such as when there is cloud cover and wind that limit how well a fish gets a look at your bait.
But when the sun is out and the skies are clear, you need a two-pronged approach of either finesse tactics or overpower the fish to get them to bite.
By overpowering them, you can’t give the bass too good of a look at it, so you need to go with heavier weights that plummet natural looking lures quicker.
If you pitch a jig with a ¼ or 3/8 ounce, the lure may fall more seductively, but the fish sees it too well. If it falls quickly, they don’t have as much time to look or think about it. They react to it.
Louisiana pro Greg Hackney, one of the front runners in this tournament and a good friend of mine, is a good example. He says he loves fishing clear lakes with grass, because he’s learned to use it to his advantage.
Northern bass aren’t shy and will attack your baits when you keep them natural and use the presentations mentioned here.
Once you get a feel for this great fishing, you will change your mind and you’ll realize it’s all about the attitude!
-- Kevin VanDam
Day 2 on Cayuga Lake with KVD
KVD still on the bubble
Kevin VanDam didn't help himself get into qualifying position for his 25th straight Bassmaster Classic. In fact, he lost ground. VanDam was 42nd in AOY points entering the tournament; after Day 1, he's 44th.
VanDam caught a limit weighing 14-4 Thursday, which put him in a 44th place tie in the standings with Chris Lane.
"It's pretty stressful," VanDam said. "The lowest I've ever been in AOY is 26th. The Delaware River killed me. I was in good shape going into that one."
VanDam, once again this season, caught plenty of fish, just not the right size fish.
"Today I never got a good bite at all. I need to get a good bite and I never got one," he said.
As previously mentioned, there will be some dreams made and some hearts broken during Friday's weigh-in at Cayuga Lake. VanDam, the seven-time AOY and four-time Bassmaster Classic champion, won't fit into either of those extremes – no matter what happens Friday.
But you can bet he won't sleep soundly Thursday night, just like so many other Elite Series anglers.
Day 1 on Cayuga Lake
KVD with 5 on day 1
8:40am: Kevin VanDam just caught his fifth fish of the day, a 2 1/2 pounder. He says he has a small limit.
It's pouring down rain right now.
KVD for the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge
Greg Hackney - 85-0
1. 20-5, 2. 23-1, 3. 17-11, 4. 23-15
Todd Faircloth - 75-13
1. 20-2, 2. 20-2, 3. 20-3, 4. 15-6
Chris Zaldain - 74-12
1. 15-12, 2. 21-8, 3. 19-0, 4. 18-8
Edwin Evers - 72-9
1. 19-12, 2. 19-5, 3. 13-11, 4. 19-13
Jared Lintner - 71-6
1. 17-0, 2. 19-6, 3. 17-6, 4. 17-10
Jacob Powroznik - 70-11
1. 20-4, 2. 18-10, 3. 16-13, 4. 15-0
Brent Chapman - 69-13
1. 19-1, 2. 17-6, 3. 17-13, 4. 15-9
Brandon Palaniuk - 69-0
1. 20-10, 2. 16-5, 3. 17-8, 4. 14-9
Kevin Short - 67-10
1. 19-6, 2. 19-14, 3. 12-0, 4. 16-6
Matthew Herren - 66-0
1. 18-11, 2. 15-12, 3. 17-0, 4. 14-9
Dean Rojas - 64-13
1. 16-1, 2. 16-12, 3. 18-10, 4. 13-6
Paul Elias - 59-0
1. 17-1, 2. 15-4, 3. 19-1, 4. 7-10
Kevin VanDam - 24-4
1. 14-4, 2. 10-0
History & Notes;
Day 1: Jacob Powroznik 6-6
Day 4: Jared Lintner 6-2