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The greatest professional bass angler of all time got his start while casting topwater lures at summertime bass as a young teenager while walking the shoreline of School Section Lake where his grandparents lived in Central Michigan.

 Not much has changed in 40 years for Kevin VanDam. When asked recently to choose just two lures all anglers should consider having in their summer arsenal – he chose a topwater walking bait and a deep diving crankbait. 

 “Topwater was my thing back in those days, from Jitterbugs to buzzbaits, and now it’s a 4.5” KVD Sexy Dawg topwater that I’ve always got tied-on in summer,” says the 7-time Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year. “The thing is, no matter how hot it gets, there’s always a few bass shallow that are willing to hit a topwater at sunrise or sunset in the summertime.”

 One tip that might surprise a lot of anglers regarding VanDam’s topwater tactics is his insistence on always using 40-pound braided line. He says braid helps the Sexy Dawg ‘walk’ a little better on the surface, and even more importantly, leads to far firmer hooksets at the end of a long cast, as opposed to monofilament.

 VanDam spools his braided line to a fairly speedy 7.3:1 gear ratio Quantum Smoke S3 reel. The compact reel features a larger spool to hold more line that leads to longer smoother casts. He uses a 7’ 4” TourKVD rod with a soft and forgiving enough tip to make sure bass get a good grip and stay hooked when they smash his surface lure.

 As the day heats up, and topwater action is likely to fade, VanDam ties on a deep diving crankbait that has earned him hundreds-of-thousands of dollars – a Strike King 6XD that will dive to depths of 20-feet on 12 pound line.

 This lure allows the career long Quantum pro to dig depths on main lake points and deep aquatic vegetation where fat bass are likely to live in mid summer -- and to do so at a fairly efficient pace compared to a heavy jig or large plastic worm.

 In lakes where the water is pretty clear he likes the color “Blue Gizzard Shad” when cranking a 6XD – and if it’s dingier, he leans mostly on the color he made famous – “Sexy Shad.”

 Either way he ties them to a long 7’ 10” TourKVD rod that allows him to launch the lure as far as possible, which in turn maximizes its diving depth on the retrieve. And much like it’s tough to tow a large bass boat with a sports car, when deep cranking, he reaches for the Toyota Tundra of baitcasters – the large spooled 5.3:1 Quantum Smoke HD.

 VanDam no longer spends a lot of time walking the shores of School Section Lake casting Jitterbugs, but he absolutely loves sharing time on the water in the heat of summer away from the Elite Series by meandering various Michigan waterways in the family’s Regency pontoon. Of course, the pontoon is rigged to be fishing friendly for he and sons Jackson and Nicholas  – and there’s typically a topwater tied-on within arms reach, even when he’s just chillin to beat summer’s heat. 

 

  Alan McGuckin

Posted in Resources By Lisa Adams

 

Casey Ashley caught a solid limit amid Thursday’s sweltering heat to sit near the top of the leaderboard. The always easy-going 2015 Bassmaster Classic Champ took a minute prior to Friday’s launch to talk about Lake Travis, Toyota Trucks, swimbaits, and even a mention of Texas native Willie Nelson.

  

 

 

 

 

  

Q: What was the biggest surprise amid Day 1 of competition here at Toyota Bassmaster Texas Fest to benefit Texas Parks and Wildlife Department?

 Casey: The biggest surprise was that I actually caught a decent limit, because while you may catch 100 fish a day here, the randomness of catching a big one is truly an unknown.

 

 Q: Your biggest fish yesterday was a 4 pound 5 ounce largemouth. How did you catch it?

 Casey: I caught it on one of my absolute all time favorite lures – a green pumpkin Zoom trick worm rigged on a Casey Ashley Shaky Head from Greenfish Tackle.

  

Q: This week’s tournament is title sponsored by Toyota, and you’ve bought a bunch of Tundras. How many Toyota Tundras have you owned throughout your Elite Series career?

 Casey: I’ve bought five Tundras, and my daddy has bought two as well - so seven Tundras total between the two of us.

  

Q: You’re a music man. You recorded a demo CD in Nashville a few years back, and you’ve sang the National Anthem on a handful of occasions before blast-off at an Elite Series tournament. What song is stuck in your head this morning?

 Casey: Kenny Chesney’s “Lucky Old Sun” – which is pretty fitting for the hot weather we’re having here, and the fact it features Texas native Willie Nelson singing along with Kenny.

  

Q: Toyota Bassmaster Texas Fest helps raise money that Texas Parks and Wildlife uses to fund urban youth fishing initiatives. You have a youth angler of your own – a 5-year-old son named Troy. Tell us about fishing with him?

 Casey: I’ve learned from taking Troy fishing that size and species don’t matter. It’s all about getting a bite. And still there are times when I can be catching one crappie after another, and he’ll still lose interest. So when they tell you they’re done, don’t make them stay, or you’ll ruin the experience.

 I will say here at Lake Travis would be a great place to take a kid fishing, because there’s so many fish in here. I’d just tie on a little 3” swimbait for him, and let him cast and wind it on a Zebco reel. And as many little 12 to 13” bass that swim here – I’ll promise ya he’d have a real good chance of catching one. 

 

  Alan McGuckin

Posted in Resources By Lisa Adams

Two of professional bass fishing’s classiest guys, Matt Lee, who is getting married in 16 days, and Kevin VanDam who has been married for 26 years, gladly took a break from the 95-degree sunshine in Central Texas to sit in the shade and answer a few questions about this week’s Toyota Bassmaster Texas Fest to Benefit Texas Parks and Wildlife Department that starts Thursday on Lake Travis.

  

Q: Lake Travis is super healthy and full of fish. What’s the most number of bass you caught in a single practice day here this week?

 Matt Lee: 30

 KVD: 75

 Q: Name two lures we’ll see Elite Series pros slinging on Lake Travis to try to catch a big fish that will go a long way in separating themselves from the pack?

 Matt Lee: Topwater and a swimbait

 KVD: Swimbait and a big creature bait

  Q: There’s a lot of clear water on Lake Travis. Will the front deck of your boat be more full of Quantum spinning reels, or baitcasting reels?

 Matt Lee: An equal mix

 KVD: Just about even.

 Q: When the scales stop spinning after Day 1 – how much weight would you guess the guy sitting in 20th place will have?

 Matt Lee: 16 pounds

 KVD: 16 pounds

 Q: The hilarious and talented B.A.S.S. photographer, James Overstreet wants to know, if you could only eat one species of fish, what would it be?

 Matt Lee: walleye

 KVD: yellow perch from the Great Lakes region 

 

  Alan McGuckin

Posted in Resources By Lisa Adams

Tuesday morning marked the start of the second very long hot practice day on Lake Travis for the Toyota Bassmaster Texas Fest benefiting Texas Parks and Wildlife.

 Two of pro fishing’s most likeable, accomplished, and even-keeled veteran anglers, Mike McClelland and Kevin VanDam, launched next to one another in the humid predawn air, and say this gorgeous reservoir in the Texas Hill Country is very new to them, but also one they’re liking a lot, and feeling right at home on.

 “Yesterday was the first time I’ve ever fished here, and I like it a lot. It reminds me a lot of Table Rock in terms of the rocky terrain and all the rocky shoreline transitions,” says VanDam.

 “Yep, Kevin’s exactly right. It reminds me a ton of Table Rock too, as well as places like Bull Shoals and other Ozark reservoirs,” agrees McClelland. “Before I saw this place I envisioned it looking like Choke Canyon, maybe with vegetation like a lot of the great Texas fisheries we’ve been to, but it’s really more like Table Rock, or even a miniature Amistad.”

 “Fans can expect to see us use just about every lure imaginable this week – from soft plastics of every shape and kind, to crankbaits, spinnerbaits, swimbaits -- you name it – this event is one in which you’ll see ‘em all used,” says McClelland. 

 While both pros were their typically gracious selves, both were also jittery to start casting, knowing the early morning shad spawn was taking place as the sun began to rise over Travis’ clean waters that are currently about 78-degrees on the surface.

 “It’s that time of year, shad are spawning all over the southern half of the country right now, including here. So it’s time to get out there. I only practiced 13 hours yesterday,” winked VanDam, as he idled out for another long day of doing a job he’s loved for 28 remarkable seasons as a pro. 

 

  Alan McGuckin

Posted in Resources By Lisa Adams

Swindle says Lake Travis is full of fish

May 14, 2018 12:00:00 PM EDT

Gerald Swindle has no history with Lake Travis. He’d never seen the gorgeous 18,000 acre reservoir along the Colorado River in the Texas Hill Country until arriving for practice on Mother’s Day.

But after another long 12-hour day of practice, he likes what he sees.

“Well, I just saw a woman swim across the cove with her Larbradoodle, that was interesting. And they dang sure like to party on this lake, even on a Monday,” says the hilarious Team Toyota pro.

“It’s also full of fish. I think it’s gonna surprise people what we catch here this week. There’s a ton of bass swimming here. The challenge will be getting that big bite or two to separate yourself from the pack,” he explains.

Water temps are ranging 77 to 80. It’s full post-spawn mode, and how you choose to catch them is up to you. Swindle says most of the baitfish he saw on Lake Travis  were super tiny shoreline minnows.

“You name it – we’ll be throwing it this week,” says Swindle. “Drop shot, Ned Rig, a casting jig, Shaky head, spinnerbaits, swimbaits, deep cranking -- it’s all in play this week.”

Swindle piloted his Tundra roughly 14 hours to get to Austin after saying a brutally tough, heartbreaking goodbye to his dog Myrick, but Lake Travis has been reason to smile again for the highly accomplished Quantum pro.

“Grand Lake and Kentucky Lake, where we just came from, were places I’d been many times before, but bites were tough to come by,” says Swindle.

 “We weighed-in big bags, but bites were real tough to get. Coming here to Travis was a long drive, but kind of cool like getting a Christmas present. You’re excited to unwrap it, and see what you got, and so far, I like what we’ve got here.”

 “I think one of the reasons Lake Travis is good is because there’s not a lot of fishing pressure. Now look, there’s party pressure – if the bass bit Bud Light cans here they’d be in trouble, because these locals know how to party - especially with the weather being so hot this week – like hotter than Miranda Lambert in yoga pants,” he concluded. 

 

  Alan McGuckin

Posted in Resources By Lisa Adams

  The famous yellow mustard flowers are blooming around the banks at Kentucky Lake this week at the Bassmaster Elite, and that means the bass should be biting.

 Straight-shooting veteran anglers Greg Hackney and Jacob Powroznik preview the event that begins Friday and concludes on Monday near Paris, TN in Henry County.

 Q: Before we dive into this week’s event at Kentucky Lake, let’s flashback to a great Elite Series event at Grand Lake o’ the Cherokees in Oklahoma a few days ago. What’s your best memory from that event?

 Hackney: Watching Kevin VanDam win his 25th tournament on Bassmaster LIVE. Because here’s the deal, I’m not just a pro angler, I’m a huge fan of our sport, and that was pretty amazing to watch.

Powroznik: The second cast of the second day – I caught a 5 pound 10 ounce beast.

 

 

 

Q: Will this tournament at Kentucky Lake be won deeper or shallower than 5-feet of water?

 Hackney: Shallower

Powroznik: Shallower

 Q: We’ve been to Kentucky Lake many times. How is this week’s Kentucky Lake different that recent stops here?

 Hackney: Mostly that we’re here at a totally different time of year. We’ve always been here in post-spawn before. But the weather forecast is a great one, and that’s all you can ask for.

Powroznik: It’s a lot tougher. I’m not getting many bites compared to years past.

 Q: What will the toughest part of this tournament?

 Hackney: Surviving the long grind between bites. But don’t get me wrong – the bass still live here.

Powroznik: Getting five keeper bites a day.

 Q: How much weight will you need to average daily to make the Top 12 cut?

 Hackney: You’d better have 17 or 18 pounds a day.

Powroznik: 14 pounds a day. 

 

  Alan McGuckin

Posted in Resources By Lisa Adams

 

Bassmaster Classic Champion Jordan Lee played a lot of baseball in his younger years growing up around Cullman, Alabama. And right now, the easy-going 26 year old feels a lot like one of former Yankees icon Yogi Berra’s famous quotes, “It’s like déjà vu all over again.”

 Go to Conroe – win a Classic. Go to Hartwell the following year – win a Classic.

 Go to Grand Lake, Oklahoma last week knowing there’s bass on spawning beds poor water clarity won’t permit you to see.

 Work hard. Fish hard. Notch another Top 12 finish.

 Fire up the Tundra and head straight to the next event at Kentucky Lake, realize once again there’s bass on spawning beds poor water clarity won’t permit you to see.

 

 “There’s a lot of bass on beds here, but it won’t be much of a sight fishing tournament because the water’s been high and off-colored, and beds are hard to see here, just like at Grand Lake last week,” says the Quantum pro.

 And much like Northeast Oklahoma last week, the weather forecast is one to make the Chamber of Commerce proud here in Henry County, TN. Lots of sunshine and temps perfectly suited for nothing more than the Carhartt Force long sleeve shirt you seeing Lee wearing here.

 After two very long but comfortable days on Kentucky Lake, Lee predicts weights very similar to Grand Lake.

 “I averaged 17 pounds a day at Grand and finished 10th, and I’m guessing that’s just about exactly what it’ll take here for a Top 12,” he says.

 Unlike Grand, the water is in the bushes on Kentucky Lake, but it’s falling fast. And while there’s tons of shallow habitat to cast or pitch to right now, the TVA will likely suck as much as 2-feet of water out of this massive reservoir by competition … which again, could bring flashbacks of Grand’s mostly dry shoreline habitat.

 Still, just like Grand, Lee feels this will be a shallow water tournament. “The water temps are in the 60s and warming daily, fish want to be shallow. I’m not saying somebody won’t slip off the bank and win off a gravel bar or shell bar, but for the most part there’s going to be a lot of guys fishing shallow,” says Lee.

 Finally, there’s the intangibles that seem so similar with Jordan Lee at Kentucky Lake, just like Hartwell, Conroe, and Grand  – he’ll be one of the very last anglers to leave the boat ramp.

 “It’s 6:00 p.m., and I’ll probably be out here until pretty much dark at 8:00 p.m. – I’ve got a lot of work to do,” he grinned as the sun began to fall in western sky on Day 2 of practice near Buchanan, TN. 

 

  Alan McGuckin

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Posted in Resources By Lisa Adams

KVD's 25th Win at Grand

April 29, 2018 12:00:00 AM EDT

 

 

Kevin's gear for the win: TKVD705MB >    SHD200PPT >

 

 

  Alan McGuckin

Posted in Resources By Lisa Adams

The limestone, sandstone, and dolomite beds that cradle Grand Lake o’ the Cherokees yielded a disappointing 11-pound limit for Casey Ashley on Day 1 of the Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Elite.

 But the diamond he presented to longtime girlfriend Kenzi Hartman, in front of her friends and family at her parent’s home just down Interstate-44 in Broken Arrow last weekend, provided the emotional equivalent of his 2015 Bassmaster Classic win.

 Grand Lake holds special significance to Casey and Kenzi. The first time they met one another was when the South Carolina pro traveled to the 2013 Bassmaster Classic on Grand Lake to work for sponsors such as Triton, Costa, and Quantum at the Classic Outdoor Expo.

 It was one of the few Classics he’s failed to qualify for in his illustrious young career, but he netted a first date during the visit when Bob Bagby, a longtime marketing leader at Quantum, arranged for Casey to meet Kenzi, who Bagby knew through her former part time job at a local golf course.

 To say the first date went well, would be like saying Casey ain’t half bad at pitchin’ a jig. Six months after they met, Casey asked Kenzi to move from Northeast Oklahoma to be with him fulltime in South Carolina, and to travel the Bassmaster Elite Series tour with him.

 The Oklahoma State grad resigned a great job she had in sales, said a gut-wrenching goodbye to her parents and many close friends, and has been with Casey in South Carolina, and wherever the professional angling lifestyle takes them, ever since.

 For the last five years, romantic trips to the mountains, beaches and many other significant destinations passed without the marriage proposal every girl dreams of. “All those great times came and went, and he never proposed, so I really had no clue he would ask me to marry him at my parents last weekend, but it was absolutely perfect,” says Kenzi.

 “Rule #1 before any serious bass angler gives a girl a diamond ring is that she has to be a good cook, and she has to be able to back a boat trailer down a ramp. Kenzi can do both, and not only can she cook, but she’s a dang good cook,” says the Quantum pro.

 The other rule is no runny eggs. The 2015 Classic champ and country boy, who once recorded a demo CD in Nashville under the tutelage of highly accomplished songwriter and avid angler Rodney Clawson, refuses to eat eggs over easy. But Kenzi’s homemade chicken Alfredo … well, now … that’s the tall brunette’s very best dish according to Casey.

 Kenzi’s chicken Alfredo, Popeye’s spinach, General Mills’ Wheaties – whatever it takes to get Casey back in the hunt on the leaderboard – should probably be on the menu to make up for Casey’s small limit on Day 1.

 “Back home, you don’t even start to think about looking for bass on spawning beds until the water temp hits 60-degrees. So with the water being in the high 50s and dingy here, I went shallow crankin’ until late in the afternoon on Thursday when I saw two 3-pounders on a spawning bed, and I knew right then I had missed-out on how they were catchin ‘em here,” says Ashley.

 He mighta missed Grand Lake’s largemouth, but he’ll head east to the next Elite Series event at Kentucky Lake with one heckuva catch named Kenzi, and a diamond on her finger.

 

  

  Alan McGuckin

Posted in Resources By Lisa Adams

Matt Lee: Misplaced wallet and a lot of caffeine

April 26, 2018 12:00:00 AM EDT

Carhartt angler Matt Lee began the first day of the Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Elite at Grand Lake with scrambled eggs, low carb wheat toast, and black coffee in his 5th wheel RV, but soon realized on the dark drive to the Wolf Creek launch that he had misplaced his wallet, and had no way to stop at a convenient store for a bag of ice and the day’s supply of caffeine drinks.

 So at 5:37 a.m. he and fiancé Abby phoned a friend -- me.

 “Matt can’t find his wallet, we think it fell out of the grocery bag as we left the camper, and now we’re stuck in the boat launch line. So can we beg you to stop and buy us a black coffee, two sugar free Red Bulls, a bag of ice, and a honey bun with icing?”

 Of course, I obliged. First, because we take care of one another out here. And second, because I know Matt is a Type 1 diabetic who wears an insulin pump, and needs the proper blend of dietary fuel to make his body meet the demands of an energy-burning tournament day.

 

 Turns out the Honey Bun with icing was for Abby, but the caffeine was definitely for Matt. And ironically, Matt’s ride-along Marshall for the day is Susan Forbes, a dietician from nearby Neosho, MO hoping to garner some pointers for the Grand Challenge tournament she’s competing in next week.

 “He’s got a lot of quick energy and refined carbs, but not much fiber, so I don’t think we’ll have to worry about him having to use the restroom,” grinned Forbes.

 That’s good news. And so is the fact that Abby found Matt’s wallet upon returning to the RV after launch, as Matt made his way down lake to Duck Creek.

 “I didn’t have a real good practice, so I’m going to the one area where I feel like I can slow down, fish thoroughly, and catch some keepers,” says Lee.

 Hopefully, the Auburn grad with dual engineering degrees can continue his streak of Top 12 finishes this week. And one thing’s for certain, Abby will be waiting on the dock as he pulls into weigh-in, just as she does during every tournament day, with a sandwich he can eat immediately – and today, a once temporarily misplaced wallet too. 

  

  Alan McGuckin

Tags:

Posted in Resources By Lisa Adams

 If back-to-back Bassmaster Classic Champ Jordan Lee notches a Top 12 at the Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Elite at Grand Lake, there’s about a 38-percent chance he’ll catch his fish from spawning beds.

 Yep, after two long days of practice, when asked what percentage of the bass weighed-in this week on Grand Lake o’ the Cherokees would be caught from spawning beds, the always laid-back Lee comically replied, “I’d guess 38-percent. No, change that. I’m gonna say 38.5%.”

 Northeast Oklahoma has experienced a much colder than normal April like most of America. Snow flurries fell here two weeks ago. Water temps are ranging from 58 to 64, and a cold rain is falling on the final day of practice.

 So while there are absolutely bass on beds at the famed fishery full of 4-pounders that hosted the 2013 and 2016 Bassmaster Classics, many of Grand’s bass are still in pre-spawn phase, and those that are on beds are difficult to see according to Lee.

 “I’ve been from the Pensacola Dam to above the Elk River, and I’ve yet to find a spot that was clear enough to think I could see ‘em on beds well enough to do well on spawners,” says the Quantum pro.

 “I think there’s a few spawning, but I don’t think the majority are. And even though I expected the lower end of the lake near Ketchum to be clear, it’s really not. Just like during the 2016 Classic, the whole lake is what I’d call off-colored or heavily stained,” says Lee.

 “It’s kind of unfortunate, because I absolutely love to look for spawners, but I don’t think there’s gonna be much of a chance to do that here this week,” concludes the former Carhartt College Series champ.

 At least not more than a 38.5% chance. 

  

  Alan McGuckin

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Posted in Resources By Lisa Adams

Kevin VanDam likes Coleslaw Spinnerbaits

April 22, 2018 1:00:00 PM EDT

  As a Michigan native, Kevin VanDam grew up throwing a lot of spinnerbaits featuring painted blades for smallmouth. Some of the willowleaf blades were painted chartreuse, others were painted white, and when burned at a high retrieve speeds, smallies often crushed them in the typically clearer waters of the Great Lakes region.

 But it was a trip south to Table Rock Lake, MO, for a media gathering in the late 1990s, where VanDam first discovered painted white blades paired with a unique skirt color named for a side dish he always thought was reserved only for fried fish.

 “Stacey King is my buddy and a legendary pro, and he was the first one to show me this blade and skirt color they call “Coleslaw” that’s fairly popular with serious anglers around the Ozark reservoirs like Table Rock and Bull Shoals,” reflects the 7-time Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year Champion.

 Sure enough, while the skirt is primarily white like creamy mayonnaise covered cabbage, it has just a few strands of orange to look like the carrots that make the popular side dish complete. And while you’ll not find any chartreuse in a great dish of your momma’s slaw, there’s even a very slight hint of that too.

 

 “It looks like skirt color you might use in dirty water. But to me it always performs best in really clear, or barely stained, water on a cloudy or rainy day with about a 15 mph wind blowing,” says VanDam.

 “Those painted white blades and that peculiar skirt color, make an awesome silhouette, and while a plain white skirt under painted white blades might get the job done - “Coleslaw” sounds way better – and it dang sure taste better too - even to the bass,” he adds with a grin.

 Kevin’s Coleslaw Equipment: VanDam uses at least a ½ ounce, and often times a heavy ¾ ounce, Strike King spinnerbait to create a larger profile like a big gizzard shad. He always ties it to a 20-pound fluorocarbon line on a large spooled Quantum Smoke HD reel for optimum casting distance. He favors at least a 6.6:1 gear ratio on the reel SHD200SPT, and uses a Quantum 7’ 4” heavy action TourKVD rod TKVDC747XFB to handle the heavier lure.

 Kevin’s Favorite Meal Consisting of Coleslaw:  “Oh hands down, it has to be deep fried yellow perch anywhere around the Great Lakes. That’s a staple dinner where I’m from, especially on Friday nights. And if you’re feeling just a little adventurous, you can even put your slaw on top of the fried perch on a fish sandwich and eat it that way – it doesn’t get any better than that,” smiles VanDam. 

  

  Alan McGuckin

Posted in Resources By Lisa Adams

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