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2009 Elite Series - Tennessee Triumph


In June, postspawn bass will be out on the ledges in 10 to 25 feet of water. At the 2006 Elite event on Kentucky Lake, Japan’s Morizu Shimizu won with nearly 67 pounds of bass over four days. Shimizu worked a deep-diving crankbait and creature bait down a creek channel ledge from 10 to 16 feet to catch the winning limits.

In 2008, Kevin VanDam notched another win here and climbed another rung on his ladder to fishing immortality. He, too, worked a deep-diving crankbait over channel ledges for his catch.

With more than 184 miles of reservoir covering better than 160,000 surface acres, Kentucky Lake will give the pros plenty of options.

Tour Review

KVD makes one final charge, takes 2nd in the Tennessee Triumph

While Kevin VanDam left the week still in control of the Angler of the Year race, he’d liked to have won another tournament at Kentucky Lake too. He pointed out that he would’ve needed a lot of things to go his way in order to win, and very little did. “It was a challenging day,” he said.

“I just kind of fought through it and tried to make the most of it. I wound up having a decent day, but certainly not what I wanted.”

VanDam knew early on that between the two-hour fog delay and the absence of any wind or current, the day’s prospects weren’t bright. “Without any current you know that it’s going to be tough,” he said.

“I was shooting for 24 or 25 pounds, but came up a little short of that.”

VanDam employed either a Strike King Series 6 XD or a Strike King Sexy Spoon, but pointed out that he “caught 75% of my fish this week on the crankbait.”

In hindsight, KVD said that he likely made a tactical error by over-managing his water Friday. “I had a place I was saving for today, but you have to have current,” he said. “Looking back, I sure wish that I would’ve fished it yesterday because there was zero current today.”

KVD finishes 2nd, remains first overall for AOY

VanDam admitted to slightly conflicting feelings about his runner-up showing in the Tennessee Triumph.

“I don’t like finishing 2nd,” he said, “but at the same time I’m real happy for Bobby. He’s a good guy and I’ve gotten to know him and his brother a little better, and I really like them a lot.

“He found the magic honey hole and he beat me straight up.”

His bag included a couple of 5-pounders, but he didn’t get the type of bites he needed to make a serious run at Lane.

“It was tough out there – I had to hunt around quite a bit and there was a lot of locals out. There was no current today and it seemed like my fish got a little deeper. They pulled off to the sides of the ledges instead of being on top.

“I caught a limit pretty early, but they weren’t very big. I just never got a really big bite.”

AOY race is deadlocked

With two tournaments to go, the race between Kevin VanDam and Skeet Reese for the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year has tightened.

Californian Reese was his customary laid-back self at the dock Saturday morning, secure in his fishing approach and water. VanDam, too, felt that he could at least bring in a stringer of five bass averaging more than 4 pounds, and he said that he had been saving a spot for the last day.

“I was worried about it Thursday because I saw another boat fishing it, but it wasn’t a tournament boat,” said VanDam Saturday morning. “Since then I haven’t seen anybody around it. I’ve caught big fish off it in the past, so I’m hoping it will produce another good keeper or two today.”

The Michigan pro, now in third place, trails Reese in the Tennessee Triumph standings by just 7 ounces. Unofficially, until the dust settles after this tournament, both men are deadlocked in the Angler-of-the-Year standings with 1588 points.

VanDam and Reese have been models of consistency in 2009

KVD Hanging tough in the Tennessee Triumph

Coming in to the Triumph, Kevin VanDam was the odds-on favorite to win…but then, when is he not? He’s had a great week, but like Skeet pointed out, the fishing is getting tough. “It was a really challenging day,” he said.

“I tried to manage my fish for tomorrow, but I’m just running out of spots.

When you’re trying to make up ground on a runaway leader, there’s no time to seek out new water. As such, you’re pretty much left to dance with the partner you came with. “You can’t take the time to practice now,” VanDam pointed out.

“What I have been doing, because these fish are moving around so much, is relocating them everyday. That’s given me a little better understanding of their travel routes, but I wouldn’t call it practicing. I’ve been moving around a lot out of necessity.”

Beyond fish management, VanDam explained that the crowd-control issues have continued to worsen as the week has wore on. “The spot that I had the first day was unbelievable, but the locals have already decimated it,” he said.

“When they see fish getting caught like that, the urge is awfully strong to go try and catch them too. I can’t catch them on it anymore because there’s always someone there.

VanDam explained that the fishing is not going to get any better on Saturday, and neither will the crowds of onlookers. “It’s going to be tough tomorrow and Saturday,” he said. “I’m kind of used to it here though, so at least I know what to expect.”

KVD holding steady in 2nd place through day 2

“Winning never gets old,” Kevin VanDam said before blast off this morning, on the third day of the SpongeTech Tennessee Triumph. VanDam trails leader Bobby Lane by 3 pounds heading into day 3.

VanDam claimed that he had no intention of playing mind games with Lane. “Bobby’s a good guy,” he said. “I don’t ever want to try to affect the other guys. I just want to control those variables I can control. He’s in a tough spot.”

The 3-pounder that expired in VanDam’s livewell cost him at least a pound and a half – his other four fish were all at least 4 1/2s and he threw back many others in that same size-class.

“It just decided to give up the ghost,” he said. “It’s disappointing, but I can’t blame anybody but myself.”

He said he burned through a lot of fish today and was on the move constantly.

Kevin VanDam caught some nice fish today, but a smaller one that died in his livewell kept him from having a heavier bag.
“I kind of ran some new stuff to see how it would go and it was a lot different for me. The fish are changing every day and moving around a lot. I just have to keep working hard at it and hope I run into them.

“The clouds might’ve made the fish move around some more, but I’d rather have it rainy. That’d mean there’d be a lot less (recreational traffic) on the water.”

“I had to throw back several four- and five-pound fish that would’ve really helped me. Now I’ve really got to go get them tomorrow to make sure that I’m here on Day Four.”

The ever-vigilant fish manager that he is, VanDam has no explanation for what happened to the two-and-a-half-pound bass that died in his Nitro’s live well. “I really have no idea what happened,” he said.

“A half-hour after I put it in there it was dead. If I had even noticed that it was struggling it would’ve been a different deal altogether.”

KVD pointed out that like everyone else, he’s almost constantly on the move in an effort to stay with his fish, and Wednesday’s wind made things doubly difficult. “I don’t know if it’s the clouds or the current or what, but these fish just move around so much,” he said.

“The wind is the biggest thing because it changes how the current moves down the ledges.”

VanDam is hopeful that tomorrow’s promise of sun will force improve the already strong ledge bite. “It helps everybody because we’re all fishing the same way,” he said. “I know how things are going to be traffic wise the closer we get to the weekend, so I’m certainly hoping that the sun improves the bite.”

KVD finds Quality

There’s a grass-roots movement going on around Paris, TN to rename Kentucky Lake in honor of Kevin VanDam given the success he’s had here in the two previous Elite Series events. However, with a mediocre practice, where he was catching a lot of small fish, KVD wasn’t sure of his chances this week.

“I just never caught any real quality,” he said. “I’ve got a number of spots that you can just sit there all day and catch fish after fish without ever seeing a keeper. Fortunately I hit a few of them when there were some bigger fish there.”

Like Bobby Lane, VanDam quite a little early and came in around 2:40. “I had two (fish) that were a little over four pounds, and I just didn’t want to continue catching four-pounders that I would have to throw back and might wind up needing them tomorrow,” he explained.

“That may come back to bite me because these fish are moving around so much right now.”

VanDam pointed out that, to him, Kentucky Lake is fishing different than it has in the past. “In my opinion, it was a lot better last year,” he said. “There was just a lot more quality last year. I don’t know if the little ones are just beating the bigger fish to the bait or what.”

Spectator traffic is already starting to hamper the current TTAOY points leader, and he knows that it’s only going to get more intense. “I know how the spectator traffic can get here,” he said. “In fact, I experienced it today. I wound up having to sort of pull a fast one to get away from them at one point.”

Though he’s in second place, VanDam is a realist and knows that there’s still a lot of tournament to go. “I had a real good first day, but it’s a four day tournament,” he pointed out. “I know how it’s going to get out there – especially by Saturday.”

KVD on his day 1 performance, running in 2nd place

VanDam invoked the old realtor’s cliché of “location, location, location” in describing why some anglers caught the big ones and others settled for decent-sized but not exceptional clones.

“You’ve got to be in a place where you can catch them,” he said. “There are lots of schools out there but not all of them have those bigger fish mixed in.”

While his rationale echoed the realtors’ maxim, he disputed the applicability of one of fishing’s oldest rules, the concept that you don’t leave biting fish to find more fish.

“It’s easy to get caught up in catching them,” VanDam said. “There are so many fish out there and it’s easy to catch a lot of them. That’s the trap that a lot of these guys fall into.”


VanDam said he had a lackluster practice, but things fell into place for him today.

“I caught some big ones that I hadn’t been able to catch in practice,” he said. “I think I know how to fish this lake, but it hadn’t been happening for me. Today, things worked out. I was really surprised by my weight.”

Kevin VanDam struggled in practice, but it was all smooth sailing on day 1. He said he’s fishing deep and covering a great deal of water, and thinks he’ll have to keep moving in order to stay near the top of the leaderboard. He isn’t much concerned with what the weather might do.

“These fish are pretty well set into their summer pattern. I think the only thing that could make it challenging is wind, and it’s not supposed to blow very hard.

“I was just glad to have a good day, and I’ll keep going out there and trying to see what I can do.”

Watch KVD live this weekend

Check back here for updates, and watch the KVD cam live here:

Day 1 report -- KVD in 2nd

KVD was at the dock nearly an hour before his flight was due in at 3:40 p.m. He said that there’s no reason to stay out “when you have a bag like that. You can’t keep catching 4-pounders. I had a real good day one but it’s a four-day tournament.”

VanDam typically crams more casts into four hours than most of the field can get through in eight, so maybe the early finish wasn’t a huge handicap. Either way, most of the field would probably like to see KVD’s days shortened on an ongoing basis.

2009 Elite Series - Tennessee Triumph
Kentucky Lake, Paris, Tennessee
Jun 4 - Jun 7, 2009


Bobby Lane - 97-9
1. 29-14, 2. 24-9, 3. 26-3, 4. 16-15
Kevin VanDam - 92-1
1. 28-11, 2. 21-9, 3. 21-3, 4. 20-10
Russ Lane - 90-9
1. 26-2, 2. 21-2, 3. 20-11, 4. 22-10
Skeet Reese - 90-7
1. 25-15, 2. 22-10, 3. 23-5, 4. 18-9
Rick Morris - 88-6
1. 26-0, 2. 16-10, 3. 23-1, 4. 22-11
Steve Kennedy - 87-4
1. 17-9, 2. 26-14, 3. 18-15, 4. 23-14
Britt Myers - 86-9
1. 22-0, 2. 19-15, 3. 24-7, 4. 20-3
Kelly Jordan - 85-3
1. 18-3, 2. 26-5, 3. 19-12, 4. 20-15
Gerald Swindle - 84-6
1. 21-0, 2. 22-1, 3. 22-1, 4. 19-4
Byron Velvick - 81-7
1. 27-6, 2. 19-7, 3. 19-13, 4. 14-13
Jeff Kriet - 80-15
1. 23-7, 2. 24-14, 3. 17-0, 4. 15-10
Fred Roumbanis - 79-2
1. 23-7, 2. 23-1, 3. 19-5, 4. 13-5

History & Notes;

Big Bass
Day 1 Bobby Lane 7-15
Day 2 Fred Roumbanis 8-4
Day 3 Michael Iaconelli 6-10
Day 4 Byron Velvick 7-12