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2015 Zippo BASSfest at Kentucky Lake presented by A.R.E. Truck Caps


BASSfest starts the summer off with a bang and the chance to see your favorite anglers. 

Tour Review

KVD’s flurry on Kentucky Lake brings Bassmaster LIVE to life

In danger of dying, Kevin VanDam came to the rescue.

Producer Mike McKinnis was lamenting the inaction and connectivity issues on Bassmaster LIVE during Day 4 of the Zippo Bassfest at Kentucky Lake presented by A.R.E. Truck Caps.

“We’re dying,” he said over an open mike to the crew. “Somebody do something. I hate Kentucky Lake. We are dying.”

VanDam’s flurry

VanDam couldn’t hear him, but he answered the call. After getting to a new spot, KVD went on a Kentucky ledge fishing tear that dropped the jaws of the production team.

“We’ve never been able to show an angler do something like that on the regular Bassmaster show,” McKinnis said. “It was eight, 10 minutes of pure bass fishing clinic.”

VanDam ignited one of the schools that bunch up on the lake’s ledges. Footage began with him reeling in the first, and he caught another on the next cast.

“They’re biting now … Every one counts at this point ... I like it, two casts, two bites,” he said before another hookset. “And three … Good one.”

“This is what we’ve waited for all day long,” Mark Zona said before he and co-host Tommy Sanders shut up and watched KVD fish.

During his five-fish rampage, KVD explained how the fish were positioned in a ditch, how he hurriedly sent his hair jig back into the school to keep it fired up and how he set up his Hyrdowave. Viewers saw an illuminated view of VanDam in action.

“Typically, the biggest ones are going to bite on the first and second cast, from there, they get smaller,” he said. “It just feels good to get a bite, finally, though.”

Viewers could see KVD change rods mid-flurry and switch his retrieve cadence of five turns of the reel and a two-second pause to a few turns with rod pumps. After five catches following by two misses, the spot died.

“Just like that, it’s over,” VanDam said.

Breaking it down

When the activity stopped, Sanders and Zona broke down the fantastic sequence.

“As remarkable a 10 minutes as I’ve ever seen,” Sanders said. “We would never have time to show that sequence in a one-hour show. Nobody needed to say a single thing. That was a seminar on ledge fishing on Kentucky Lake.”

“That’s Bassmaster University of throwing a hair jig,” Zona said. “One of the biggest things in ledge fishing is boat control and boat positioning. He’s constantly looking at his waypoints in conjunction to where the last bite came from. He said you can miss that school by 5 feet and not get a bite.”

The TV brain trust has for years talked about being able to show such a bass fishing burst, and after the Classic and four Elite events, it was really the first major flurry on LIVE. Showing one from start to finish had never been done.  

“Tommy nailed it when he said timewise we have to break that up on the regular show of Bassmaster that everybody sees on ESPN,” Zona said. “We’ve talked about getting a school ignited on Bassmaster TV for years.

“Was that the biggest bass? No, but it was exactly what we talked about – igniting a school, the exact cast, the exact retrieve and the anxiety of that angler, knowing that this is a critical moment. To watch that from beginning, that school igniting, triggering that fish to them getting gunshy, that was exciting.”

A special segment

An avid angler who hosts his own show, Zona sees such fish catching bursts numerous times each year, but he said that first major one on LIVE was special.

“If you’ve never been there, you’ve just heard us clowns talking about it,” he said. “I’ve been fortunate to be in the boat with these guys and see this, but now the fans on Bassmaster LIVE get to see exactly what Tommy and I have tried to bring across in the past 10 years. That’s the beauty of LIVE.”

And it should be a learning tool for anglers, he said. LIVE is allowing viewers to see exactly what anglers are doing, and he said fishing might not be in their future if they can’t pick up useful tips.

“You can get up and listen to a seminar from KVD, you can listen to a seminar from Evers, but to have a visual to go along with a seminar, if you cannot become a better fisherman from watching that then bowling or golf may be what you should be doing,” Zona said. “Having this moving visual has to somehow make you a better fisherman next time you go to try something like this.”

McKinnis said the sequence was a savior for the show. As producer, he clamors for action. He sometimes begs for it. He intently watches the five camera feeds for catches, hoping for big fish to be caught. With event winner Edwin Evers fishing south out of any cell coverage, and others in spotty areas, his options were limited until KVD came to the rescue.

“We are dying. I hate Kentucky Lake,” he said before quickly changing his tune after the KVD flurry. “I love Kentucky Lake!”

Brasher: What KVD does is downright amazing

Back in about 1995, during a weekend tournament on Alabama’s Lay Lake, I left the takeoff site and went straight to a little grassy bank where I was sure I could catch a couple of decent largemouth on a topwater lure.

I figured the only thing I needed was to have the place to myself, and I might get my kicker fish before the sun was all the way up.

With a low boat number, I got to the spot first. But before I could make three casts, two more boats showed up and waited patiently for me to run the bank.

There were just two of them, and they didn’t bother me. But when I didn’t catch anything, I left ticked and convinced they were the reason.

Kevin VanDam must hear stories like that all the time and snicker under his breath.

After what I saw him dealing with last week at BASSfest on Kentucky Lake, I don’t know how any bass fisherman can ever complain about “boat traffic” with a straight face again.

You haven’t seen boat traffic until you’ve followed VanDam during a major event when he’s in contention.

After struggling at times to find the leaders at nook-and-cranny venues like the Sabine River and the California Delta, KVD was a breeze to find on Kentucky Lake. He was fishing offshore, right out in the middle of the lake – and since he usually had 30 or more boats with him, you could find him easily by just following the froth.

I don’t know how he maintains the confidence to fish at all in such an environment. But he finished second with 94 pounds, 4 ounces and might have won the thing if it hadn’t been for one sub-par day on Saturday.

Now understand, I’m not writing this as a “Poor, little, burdened KVD” column.

Do I feel sorry for him? No.

I’m sure having dozens of boats running outboards, trolling motors and sonars all around you when you’re trying to win a tournament is no fun. But I imagine the millions of dollars he’s made en route to becoming so popular help ease his frustrations just a little bit.

Do I think people are wrong for following him? Absolutely not.

The folks at B.A.S.S. have been working hard for decades to make professional bass fishing into a spectator’s sport, and KVD’s crowds are just proof their plan has worked. I was even part of a few KVD galleries myself back before I joined this business.

I don’t necessarily agree with the folks who wait for VanDam to leave a spot and then rush in to fish it themselves. But it’s a public lake – and who’s to say they haven’t had those same waypoints marked on their graphs for years?

What some see as “vulturing” or “picking up scraps” might just be anglers waiting patiently for VanDam to do his thing before they go about their regular business.

Seeing VanDam fish with gigantic crowds of onlookers nearby just adds a few more lines to the definition of the term “professional angler.”

He interacts frequently with the spectators, saying things like “Call TVA and tell them to turn the water on” and “I’m trying hard, guys, I promise.”

If he does need to ask someone to back up or take a different route to avoid running over the water he plans to fish, he does it like he’s talking to a good buddy. I actually heard some people talking last week who seemed thrilled because Kevin VanDam spoke to them on the water during a tournament.

For many fishermen across the country – myself included – having a lot of company on tournament day can be like bass-fishing kryptonite.

But a Superman like KVD has been dealing with it  and embracing it  for decades.

For him, it’s just another day on the lake.

No. 5 for KVD

Beautiful morning in Kentucky

Flurry time for KVD

Kevin VanDam is fast and furious on Bassmaster LIVE right now. He pulls up to a new spot and catches three fish in three casts and culls twice. Here is a flurry that we knew would happen. The only question is if KVD will boat another 5 to 6 pounder or if he will upgrade with just 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 pounders.


As I type this he catches another. That is 4 fish in 5 casts. It didnt cull though. He is doing some damage with a hair jig for the moment. He said it's his first bite on a hair jig this week...then mentions he hopes its his last. For viewers at home he explained how important hitting the exact line and make a perfect cast if you want to get bit on a ledge.




Bassmaster emcee Dave Mercer offered an interesting take on LIVE. He called Kevin VanDam’s gallery of 60 to 70 boats about twice as big as anybody elses.


“When he moves, it feels like a tournament just blasted off,” Mercer said, calling it the KVD Freeway.


Mercer felt a bit sorry for nearby Fletcher Shyrock, whose area was run over by most of the boat.


“Fletcher just looked at me,” Mercer said, “and said maybe it will turn my fish on.”


Bang. Shyrock landed the beaut above soon after.


Mercer did comment that those watching KVD have refrained from throwing next to him.


“You do hear people talk about how often the spectators will participate,” he said. “I want to commend them -- they’ve been real respectful.”


KVD started Day 4 in second and has a limit but fell down the BASSTrakk standings. He was calling for current, asking the TVA to start pulling water, which he believe would begin any time now.


“Gotta believe they’ll start generating,” he said. “Things are going to change a lot before the end of the day.”

2015 Zippo BASSfest at Kentucky Lake presented by A.R.E. Truck Caps
Kentucky Lake, Paris, Tennessee
Jun 3 - Jun 7, 2015


Edwin Evers - 97-4
1. 24-0, 2. 27-2, 3. 21-2, 4. 25-0
Kevin VanDam - 94-4
1. 23-9, 2. 24-5, 3. 19-12, 4. 26-10
Brett Hite - 91-9
1. 23-5, 2. 23-6, 3. 22-0, 4. 22-14
Tim Horton - 88-8
1. 20-3, 2. 27-1, 3. 18-9, 4. 22-11
Fred Roumbanis - 87-9
1. 21-9, 2. 20-10, 3. 26-15, 4. 18-7
Micah Frazier - 87-7
1. 19-1, 2. 26-11, 3. 20-2, 4. 21-9
Derek Remitz - 87-4
1. 19-3, 2. 28-1, 3. 22-7, 4. 17-9
Brandon Card - 86-13
1. 20-2, 2. 22-6, 3. 24-8, 4. 19-13
Brandon Lester - 85-6
1. 22-14, 2. 22-5, 3. 24-5, 4. 15-14
Billy McCaghren - 80-4
1. 21-12, 2. 19-4, 3. 21-15, 4. 17-5
Andy Montgomery - 77-7
1. 25-4, 2. 17-2, 3. 21-7, 4. 13-10
Kotaro Kiriyama - 71-15
1. 21-15, 2. 15-8, 3. 24-15, 4. 9-9