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2016 A.R.E. Truck Caps Bassmaster Elite at Toledo Bend

Preview

The Elite Series heats up on one of the best bass fisheries in the world at Toledo Bend, 2016!

Tour Review

The techniques I used to win on Toledo Bend

I’m getting a lot of questions about the crankbait strategy I used to win at Toledo Bend last week.

A lot of questions are about my system which was an integral part of my success. My rods (Quantum KVD Tour cranking 7-11 and 7-10), reels (KVD Tour and EXO 200) and line (XPS Fluorocarbon) made me extremely efficient at fishing those deep-running Strike King 6XD, 8XD and 10XD crankbaits.

But there was more to it than casting and winding. I was doing a lot of subtle things to help me catch the fish that I did.

The first two days were easier, but the tournament became a real grind and the fish became harder to make bite the last two days. I had to make repeated casts to the same area and change baits to make it happen.

The fish weren’t feeding aggressively so I had to find ways to make them bite. If I saw baitfish and bass on my Humminbird graph, I’d keep hammering the same spot; there were times I’d cast for 20 minutes before I could get the school fired up.

Boat position, line sizes and lure depth control were equally critical. I always want my crankbait running slightly deeper than the depth the fish are using. For example, if the fish are in 19 feet, I want a bait that gets to 20 feet but not one that dives to 25. If you use a bait that runs much deeper than the bottom, you lose the triggering qualities because the lure isn’t able to perform the way it was designed.

I can control that with boat positioning, casting distance and line size. Crankbaits run deeper on longer casts and lighter line, so I adjusted accordingly to make sure the lure is hitting the key zone and running slightly deeper than the bottom.

I had several different rods rigged with various line sizes for the each of the XD crankbaits I was using. I also had those baits in silent and rattling versions.

For example, I had a 6XD rigged on 12- and 17-pound line in silent and rattling, an 8XD with 14 and 17 and a 10 XD with 16-pound fluorocarbon.

I also alternated colors based on the forage base in the area I was fishing, the water clarity and the sky conditions. Remember that a lure looks different at 18 or 25 feet than what it does near the surface. Just because it’s dark or dirty doesn’t mean you have to use a chartreuse bait. Bass have no problem finding and eating natural looking forage at that depth.

During the early morning or on windy days I used the sexy blue back herring but when it was brighter and calm I’d use the bar fish color.

I rotated the silent and rattling versions, too. My first option was the rattling version, but after the bite slowed, I’d switch to the silent crankbait and often got the school fired up again.

Speed is another factor. I’m always experimenting with speeds, cranking faster at times or slower at others, paying close attention to which speed triggered the bites.

I also ran my HydroWave on the schooling pattern with a 30-second delay and kept the volume between 2 and 4, depending on the wind. There were several times that I caught a fish when the schooling pattern kicked in after the delay; I’ve seen that throughout my fishing career.

Sure, there are days when you can cast a crankbait on a ledge and blast a good limit in a hurry. But the angler who factors in all of the subtleties will enjoy more success on those days when fishing is tough.

It’s all about the attitude!

-- Kevin VanDam

Thank you Fans!
On stage with KVD - Toledo Bend Champion 2016 - GoPro
Main Stage - Championship Sunday - by GoPro
KVD pulls into the dock - LIVE
Davy Hite interviews Toledo Bend 2016 champion, Kevin VanDam
Junk fish style — with KVD

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2:30 PM - Sunday, May 15

Kevin VanDam may have just slammed the door on Toledo Bend. He has been casting and casting and casting that 10XD and finally put a solid 6-plus-pounder in the boat pushing his lead to over 8 pounds. While its unofficial until the fish hit the scales, but this baby may just be over.

VanDam's last win was at the Louisiana Delta during the 2011 Bassmaster Classic, and his most recent Top-12 finishes were both second places during the 2014 and 2015 BASSFest events. People have been wondering if the four-time Bassmaster Classic champion has lost his edge, but that myth just got debunked.

We'll wait for the official word before the celebration begins, but fire up the grill anyway — we're about to witness history with major victory No. 21.

 

 

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2:02 PM - Sunday May 15

It wasn't by much, but VanDam just made a slight upgrade to put him within ten pounds of breaking the century mark, which would be a first for the Michigan native. There's still plenty of time for him to put a big fish in the boat, and ten pounds could happen with two of the right bass.

He's not slammed the door just yet, but that single bite could still happen at any moment.

He currently has an estimated near 6-pound lead--if you dare to trust BASSTrakk--but a 5-pounder would be the final nail at Toledo Bend.

 

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9:00 AM - Sunday, May 15

When you think about junk fishermen, KVD may not be the first angler to pop into your head, but that's exactly what he's doing, and he's being very thorough. He's hit several wooden docks, small cypress trees and grass lines, and he's hitting every angle with numerous presentations.

By our estimations he's looking to fill his limit before returning to his deep-water stuff, which seems like an afternoon thing anyways. If he can find 16 to 18 pounds, KVD will be hard to catch. He's closing the gap.

 

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8:57AM

VanDam just put No. 3 in the boat, and it was a nice one, 3 maybe 4 pounds. He has that famous KVD confidence that the entire Bassmaster Elite Series field fears. When this guy gets in one of these modes he's tough to beat.

It's far from over, but he's executing exactly as he needs to.

KVD fishing live on Championship Sunday Toledo Bend 2016 - part 2
KVD fishing live on Championship Sunday Toledo Bend 2016
KVD fishing live on Championship Sunday - part 1
KVD Championship sunday morning - Toledo Bend
KVD arrives for weigh in - day 3
Day 3 updates with KVD

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1:01PM:

After spending most of the morning in one area, VanDam picked up and ran up the lake a few miles. He's made an interesting decision: Rather than sticking with the deep-water cranking that he is famous for, he is fishing a set of docks that he fished yesterday morning.

Being three bass shy of a limit, and with no wind and bright, sunny skies, one can only assume he's looking to fill a limit. He made a dozen casts and picked up and went on. He pulled into the next creek and picked up a crankbait again.

He's still got time to make some adjustments, but I've got to believe he is feeling the pressure.

 

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12:24 PM: 

Kevin VanDam: "I can't fish around here with all these people."

And with that he made a move, likely for a couple of reasons. For one, bolting from the crowd gives him a chance to get set up on the ideal spot, get lined up with the casting targets, and hopefully fire up a school before the floating gallery catches up. 

Hank Cherry eluded to doing something different in the middle of the day. He didn't want to disclose what that technique or pattern is and now we know. 

Cherry is fishing boat docks located on the main lake. Ideally, those docks are located near deep water. He's methodically fishing those docks with a swim bait. 

 

 

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11:30 AM:

3 leaders — 3 styles

Here's an interesting observation that tournament fans should appreciate. 

Each of the top 3 anglers are using different techniques and patterns. 

Hank Cherry is flipping flooded shoreline cover. (Update: He just switched to fishing around docks, but still different.)

Kevin VanDam is offshore, cranking points. 

Chris Lane is fishing creek mouths with a topwater. 

All three patterns have varying elements of luck and timing. 

According to Lane his best success comes between now and 1:30 p.m. That's a narrow timeframe. With a topwater bite he's not fishing for schooling bass. That makes it all contingent on individual bites, and good ones. He needs another, for sure. 

VanDam is surrounded by spectators, tournament anglers and weekend fishermen. He is fishing for bass coming out of the creeks following the spawn. What VanDam needs is for quality fish to show up on the points where he's found success the previous two days. Some wind is good, too much of it creates a challenge with boat positioning. He's fishing an x-marks-the-spot kind of pattern. As in precise casts are key in making contact with specific cover on the bottom. 

Cherry is also fishing for individual fish, not schoolers. His flipping bite is proving successful. Things can only get better as the sun casts more shade along the shoreline targets where he's flpping. More shade, more cover for the bass. But there is a risk when anyone ahead or behind him boats a big bass. 

 

from Craig Lamb and Thomas Allen:

KVD hooks a monster 9 pound bass
KVD with 9 pounder?

Things can change in a second. In the midst of dealing with some of the issues that commonly occur at the top level of professional bass fishing, the veteran persevered and just stuck a giant bass that might push 9 pounds. The crowd went wild.

That'll help.

KVD Live from the water on day 3 — Toledo Bend 2016
Kevin's first catch - day 3 Toledo Bend 2016
Day 3 with KVD on the water

Yesterday, KVD fished shallow for the first two hours, and didn't catch any big fish. Today he fished shallow for the first half hour and managed a nice 4-pounder. He decided to change it up and move offshore earlier today. He is now fishing the area where he did the most damage yesterday, but a few hours earlier. This big move could put him on bigger fish earlier in the day.

At least that's the assumption.

Never question KVD's gut. Ever.

KVD recounts and eventful day 2 on Toledo Bend
2 down, 2 to go

MANY, La. — The biggest thing Kevin VanDam has caught so far this week has been himself. 
 
But there could be far bigger catches ahead of him if he remains on his current path at the A.R.E. Truck Caps Bassmaster Elite at Toledo Bend.

VanDam had to have a treble hook removed from his hand during Friday’s second round after landing his biggest fish of the day. But it didn’t stop him from catching five bass that weighed 20 pounds, 11 ounces and helped him hold onto the tournament lead with a two-day total of 50-0.
 
“The fish had just one hook in its mouth, and those Mustad treble hooks are really sharp,” VanDam said. “The fish kind of shook as I was trying to take the hook out, and it jerked one of those trebles right in my hand. I had a crankbait with one hook connected to my hand and the other connected to a big bass.”

Freelance photographer and experienced saltwater angler Garrick Dixon was nearby, and he performed a quick hook removal for VanDam. (Click here to see the video.) Once the angler was free of his own bait, he turned his attention back to a day that was rapidly improving.

 After a slow start, he quickly put together a limit that weighed better than 18 pounds. Then he managed a couple of culls to get to 20-11 — and he did it all despite a strong wind that gave him fits much of the day.

 “I knew it was just a matter of running enough places,” VanDam said. “If you fish long enough here, you’re going to get them.
 
“I really only had the one big bite today, but it was a good one.”
 
VanDam will begin the semifinal round with a solid chance at securing his 21st career victory and the $100,000 check that goes with it.
 
He is followed closely by Alabamian Chris Lane (47-13), North Carolina pro Hank Cherry, Jr. (44-6), Californian Ish Monroe (43-9) and Arkansas pro Stephen Browning (43-0).
 
Lane, who has struggled at times this year, said he had hoped to catch a good limit early by targeting schooling fish. But when those fish wouldn’t cooperate, he made a long run and put together a catch of 23-15 doing something different.
 
Earlier this season, Lane complained that his “loonies,” were off, meaning he wasn’t making the best decisions on the water. But now he’s within striking distance of his first Elite Series win since the 2015 season-opening event on the Sabine River — another Louisiana fishery.
 
“I’m having a blast, and I’ve got a full head of confidence,” Lane said. “My loonies are starting to come back now.
 
“Feeling confident helps you make those early adjustments, and it helps you to grind it right to the end. I caught a good fish late (Thursday), and I caught a 4 1/2-pounder late today.”
 
Cherry began Friday’s round in third place and held onto that spot with a catch of 19-15 that gave him a two-day total of 44-6.  He said he’s been fishing for bass that are still spawning, even as the weather in central Louisiana has turned hot.
 
“It was still slow this morning, just like it was the first morning,” Cherry said. “But once I got to where I thought the fish would be, they were there.
 
“I think all of the fish I’m catching are spawning. If you miss one, you can just about count on going back to that spot and getting bit again.”
 
Monroe had the heaviest bag Friday with 24-10 — and he didn’t hesitate to detail how he caught his fish.
 
“It’s no secret what I do,” Monroe said. “I love to frog and flip. This week, I’m throwing a River2Sea Tommy Biffle Jig that has a really big, wide-gap hook. I’m backing that up with a Missile Baits D Bomb Destroyer, and it gives the bait a big profile that these big fish down here love.”
 
Toledo Bend Reservoir is noted for producing big largemouth bass — so much that it topped the most recent list of America’s Top 100 Bass Lakes by Bassmaster Magazine.
 
The biggest bass of the week so far was caught Friday by Arkansas angler Stephen Browning. At 9-5, the fish took the lead for Phoenix Boats Big Bass and will earn Browning $1,500 if no one tops the mark the rest of the way.
 
VanDam also earned the Livingston Lures Leader award of $500 for leading the second day of the event.
 
The tournament will resume Saturday with the Top 50 remaining pros leaving Cypress Bend Park at 6:15 a.m. CT. The weigh-in will be held back at the park at 3:15 p.m., with only the Top 12 pros advancing to Championship Sunday.

 

-- from Bassmaster.com

KVD — "What's so special about Toledo Bend?"

With the Bassmaster Elite Series stopping at Toledo Bend this week, it seems like a great time to look at what makes the lake so special and so legendary for bass anglers. You won’t be surprised to know that there’s a lot to recommend Toledo Bend and that the pros all look forward to coming here.

 

THE FISHING

For starters, of course, there’s the fishing. It’s great. It seems that it’s always been great, but I think it may be better right now than ever before … and that’s saying a lot.

Toledo Bend was impounded in the late 1960s and almost immediately B.A.S.S. began holding tournaments here. Within just a couple of years, everyone seemed to recognize Toledo Bend as the best bass lake in the country.

Fast forward almost 50 years and it’s still one of the best lakes in the country (No. 1 on the 2015 Bassmaster Top 100 list, in fact), but a lot has changed. In the early days, it was a numbers place. A skilled angler could come here and catch 100 bass a day.

Now you can still catch good numbers, but it also produces some giants. Last year 86 bass over 10 pounds were registered in the Toledo Bend Lunker Program run by Toledo Bend Lake Country. This year, that number is already at 139 and we’re only in the middle of May. I wouldn’t be surprised to a few double-digit largemouth brought to the Elite scales this week.

That kind of success doesn’t happen by accident. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries “get it.” They know what they’re doing and understand the impact and value of the resource they have here. Their stocking of Florida strain largemouth has really taken off and produced bigger bass here than ever before. As a result, the fishing is better, and Toledo Bend is a “hot” destination for anglers all over the country.

For another thing, there’s the size and variety of habitat you have at Toledo Bend. The lake covers 185,000 surface acres, and it has just about anything a bass angler might want to fish — timber, vegetation, channels, points, you name it. There aren’t many places you can visit that offer so much room to spread out and so many choices of how to fish. There’s really something for everyone here, and we can all fish our strengths. Humminbird LakeMaster has done a phenomenal job of mapping the lake. It’s visually stunning and can show us much more than we could ever see before.

 

THE HISTORY

Toledo Bend and nearby Sam Rayburn Reservoir were the proving grounds for many of the early stars of our sport. There was the “Hemphill Gang” (named for the Texas town) that consisted of top talent like Tommy Martin, Larry Nixon, Jon Hall, John Torian and others. Plus, there were just as many top pros who lived in other towns nearby and made big names for themselves — Harold Allen, Bo Dowden and lots more.

Toledo Bend provided the perfect training area because it’s so big and so varied. The area still produces great fishing talent for that reason.

I remember the first time I came here in the early ‘90s. I fished and stayed with 1974 Bassmaster Classic champ Tommy Martin, and we fished Rayburn and Toledo Bend. It was an education for me. Tommy taught me all about “Rayburn red” lipless crankbaits and Carolina rigging inside grass lines. We enjoyed some incredible fishing, and he really helped me a lot early in my career.

 

THE COMMUNITY

The Elite pros look forward to coming to Toledo Bend as soon as it shows up on the schedule, and it’s not just for the fishing. The community here is great, too. They love fishing and anglers, and they know how to have a good time.

Elite angler Dennis Tietje hosted a crawdad boil the other day and more are coming. When the Elite pros get together for one of these, they usually figure on 5 pounds of crawdads per person. I’m usually good for about 8 pounds, but for that first one I probably had 10 pounds. I enjoy them that much!

 

THE TOURNAMENT

Practice was a challenge this week at Toledo Bend because we had a lot of wind coming out of the south. Wind from that direction is tough to escape. If it will change direction or lie down a little, the fishing should be really strong.

Remember, it’s all about the attitude!

-- Kevin VanDam

VanDam still feeding the monster

MANY, La. — No one is ready to hand Kevin VanDam the title at the halfway point of the A.R.E. Truck Caps Bassmaster Elite at Toledo Bend. But he has led the first two days, which has served as a significant reminder of both what he means to the sport of bass tournament fishing, and how hot his competitive fire still burns.

Has there ever been a question about that? Well, yes, a lot of them lately, especially since the man with four Bassmaster Classic titles, seven B.A.S.S. Angler of the Year crowns and 20 Bassmaster tournament wins hasn't added any trophies since 2011. Plus, there was 2015, when VanDam didn't qualify to fish in the Classic.

"I've actually had some guys who've known him his whole career ask me if he'll ever win another one," said Davy Hite.

Randy Howell has heard the talk, too.

"When an athlete gets to a point like that, people always want to have something to talk about," said Howell, noting that golfer Tiger Woods and NBA great Kobe Bryant have dealt with similar issues.

But bass fishing isn't so dependent on physical skills, as was so emphatically pointed out by 69-year-old Rick Clunn's win at the St. Johns River. VanDam is only 48. He was so good for so long that any decline in his accomplishments tends to get people predicting the worst.

"If anybody ever thought that he wouldn't win again, they're delusional," said Skeet Reese. "There's nobody even remotely close to dealing with what he deals with – all the crowds that follow him, and especially all the people that come back and fish the water after he fishes. He's probably the best strategist ever in being able to save water, fish water properly and keep himself in position to win."

That's been on display through the first two days at Toledo Bend. Among the crowd following VanDam have been some "GPS pirates," anglers who "practice" for an upcoming tournament by following VanDam and marking waypoints where he catches fish. Not many other Elite Series anglers have to deal with that at all, much less to the extent that VanDam does.

"When he's on the water, whether he's catching 'em or not, he's always got the biggest crowd of boats following him," Howell said. "Dealing with that when you aren't catching 'em is probably worse than when you are catching 'em."

You have to put your name in some extremely bright lights for anyone to follow you on the water even when you're not catching fish. That's mostly what VanDam's "problem" is – he's been too good for too long.

"He's created that monster named Kevin VanDam," said Greg Hackney. "There are so many people out there pulling on him. He can't dedicate his time like he once did to just fishing. Now he's got to be KVD.

"It's incredible when you think about what he's done, then what he has to do when he's not fishing. I'd want to pull my hair out.

"Will we ever see him back to where he just dominates the world? I don't know. He's going to have to quit all his other jobs, and I don't think he's going to do that."

VanDam doesn't have to win another tournament to remain the greatest bass tournament angler ever, at least in the minds of his current Elite Series competitors.

"He's still amazing," Howell said. "He's still the best that's ever fished out here. I think he'll continue to do good. I doubt he'll ever miss another Classic again. He's just too good."

Again, nobody's is giving VanDam the title on Toledo Bend this week. But in the first two days, he has reminded the doubters that he's still got what it takes.

"Kevin's not done yet. I promise you that," said Hite.

KVD LIVE video - day 2 Toledo Bend catch
KVD tries a different lure on day 2
KVD gets hooked - day 2 Toledo Bend
KVD hooks one live - day 2
Day 2 launch, Toledo Bend - #GoPro
KVD on top - Day 1 Toledo Bend

Note: The top 5 anglers after day 1 have 10 Bassmaster Classic victories between them.

 

 

MANY, La. — Kevin VanDam wanted badly to fish offshore during the three-day practice period for the A.R.E. Truck Caps Bassmaster Elite at Toledo Bend.

But a steady 20-mph wind just wouldn’t allow it.

The winds died Thursday as the tournament began, and fishing fans in central Louisiana got to see why VanDam was so anxious to move away from the banks.

The pro fishing superstar from Kalamazoo, Mich., brought in a five-bass limit that weighed 29 pounds, 5 ounces to top the leaderboard on a day when 12 anglers caught at least 20 pounds. He leads a star-studded Top 5 that includes 69-year-old Missouri legend Rick Clunn (24-10), North Carolina pro Hank Cherry, Jr. (24- 7), 2012 GEICO Bassmaster Classic winner Chris Lane (23-14) and reigning Classic champion Edwin Evers (22-11).

“I started on the shallow pattern and caught a good limit early, and that gave me the confidence to go and fish deep,” said VanDam, who has four Classic titles on his resume. “I didn’t get to fish deep in practice the way I like to because of all the wind. So I fished a lot of places today that I hadn’t fished at all this week.

“You just can’t physically fish out there when it’s blowing 20 — if you want to fish off the bank.”

VanDam, who also had the big bass of the day with an 8-5 largemouth, said he was keying on areas that had big numbers of white bass and yellow bass. Both, he said, are good signs that hungry largemouth will be nearby.

“There are a lot of yellow bass — they call them ‘bar fish’ here — and a lot of the big largemouth eat those,” VanDam said. “Those yellow bass and the white bass are all following shad just like the largemouth.

“I caught a lot of white bass — and when you’re doing that, you know there will always be largemouth in the area.”

Clunn, who also has four Classic wins, already wowed the pro fishing community back in March when he won the season-opening Elite Series event on the St. Johns River in Florida. That win made him the oldest angler to ever win a B.A.S.S. event.

On Thursday, he moved into position to equal that feat with a bag of 24-10 that was bolstered by one magic area.

“I have one spot that’s always been good for me,” Clunn said. “It’s only good for one to three fish a day, but they’re always big fish. You can fish there all day long, and that’s all you’re going to get.”

The spot produced three big fish Thursday — a 7-pounder, a 6-pounder and a 4-pounder. When asked how long the spot has been good for him, Clunn responded, “How old is the lake?”

“I think I’ve been fishing that spot since 1974,” he said. “A lot of people won’t fish it because it’s only good for one or two. They pull up there, and if they don’t get a bite pretty soon, they’re moving on.”

Clunn is just 3 ounces ahead of Cherry, who brought in 24-7 despite some bad luck early.

“I weighed in one 3-pound fish, and I hated to do that,” Cherry said. “I lost a 4 1/2-pounder and a 7-pounder this morning. So I could have weighed in close to 30 pounds.”

Cherry said his unfortunate near misses might have been the result of him being “too wired up” because he knew he was on good fish.

“I knew I was going to get a lot of bites,” he said. “I didn’t know how big they were going to be, but I knew I was around a lot of fish.

“The fish are still there, because I know I left some.”

In all, 99 of the 108 Elite Series anglers weighed in five-bass limits today, validating Toledo Bend’s ranking as the No. 1 bass fishery in the country, according to Bassmaster Magazine’s current 100 Best Bass Lakes list.

If no one catches a bass as heavy as VanDam’s 8-5 largemouth through the end of the event Sunday, he will win the Phoenix Boats Big Bass award, worth $1,500.

The tournament will resume Friday, with take-off scheduled for 6:15 a.m. CT at Cypress Bend Park. The weigh-in will be held back at the park at 3:15 p.m., with the field being trimmed to the Top 50 for Saturday’s semifinal round.

Kevin VanDam on his day 1 lead, Toledo Bend 2016
KVDs cull - day 1 Toledo Bend
KVD Toledo Bend 2016 preview
2016 A.R.E. Truck Caps Bassmaster Elite at Toledo Bend
Toledo Bend, Many, Louisiana
May 12 - May 15, 2016

Leaderboard

1
Kevin VanDam - 96-2
1. 29-5, 2. 20-11, 3. 24-12
2
Chris Lane - 88-7
1. 23-14, 2. 23-15, 3. 21-3
3
Ish Monroe - 83-4
1. 18-15, 2. 24-10, 3. 22-4
4
Keith Combs - 82-11
1. 21-3, 2. 16-4, 3. 20-7
5
Paul Mueller - 81-12
1. 17-13, 2. 22-12, 3. 19-1
6
Hank Cherry Jr - 81-2
1. 24-7, 2. 19-15, 3. 18-12
7
Brett Hite - 79-14
1. 19-0, 2. 18-3, 3. 17-4
8
Andy Montgomery - 78-11
1. 17-11, 2. 23-4, 3. 16-9
9
Tommy Biffle - 75-9
1. 17-11, 2. 23-4, 3. 16-9
10
Edwin Evers - 71-1
1. 22-11, 2. 16-5, 3. 17-12
11
Stephen Browning - 67-14
1. 20-10, 2. 22-6, 3. 14-1
12
Morino Shimizu - 65-13
1. 18-9, 2. 20-7, 3. 16-13

History & Notes;

Big Bass

Day 1: Kevin VanDam - 8-5

Day 2: Stephen Browning - 9-5

Day 3: Kevin VanDam - 8-11