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Kevin VanDam: 28 and 4 in Fishing Bassmaster Classics

Kevin VanDam

This year, one question that almost everyone has asked me is, “Do you think you’ll win your fifth Bassmaster Classic this year in 2019?” My standard answer is, “I’ve fished 28 Bassmaster Classics, and I’ve only won four. You figure the odds.”

During the three days of practice fishing at the 2019 Bassmaster Classic, I saw Fort Loudoun and Tellico for the first time in my life. These two lakes create a massive waterway to try and find and catch bass at the headwaters of the Tennessee River. Their waters are at winter pool, and there’s a lot of current present with fairly dirty water due to all the rain in this section of Tennessee. 
My mission during the practice days was to try and identify several areas where I felt comfortable that I could Kevin VanDam Mossy Oak Elementscatch bass. In years past, I’d fished an abundance of water all across the U.S. that was similar to the water at the Classic this year. At Fort Loudoun and Tellico, I spent some time targeting smallmouth as well as largemouth bass on the Classic waters and a lot of time running that water. Based on what I’ve learned, I don’t believe anyone at this Classic will pinpoint bass that will produce bass for the entire three days of the tournament. My strategy will be to find a pattern to catch bass and then run that pattern on various sections of the lake where that pattern may work. 

I caught more largemouths during the practice days, than I did smallmouths. But the smallmouths I caught were nice-sized and weighed about four pounds each. These lakes have an 18-inch smallmouth size limit, so to put a smallmouth in the live well, it’s got to be a good size and probably weigh more than three pounds. The largemouth limit is 16 inches. Although I caught numbers of healthy largemouths during practice, I never caught a 5-pounder. But remember, we’re fishing the very fertile Tennessee River that homes an abundance of bait fish and has numerous rocks with crayfish in and under them. The predominant forage here for the bass is shad and crayfish.  

We’ll be fishing in rainy, cold weather broken up by some sunshine. I believe the key to winning this Classic is how quickly any angler can adapt to the changes in weather and water conditions during each tournament day we fish. Another factor that’s involved in catching bass is that the water level on these two lakes may change often. Those changing water levels will impact when and how much the bass move. Keeping up with those changes will be the most difficult problem all of us will encounter. 

Water levels and water conditions, air and water temperatures and changing weather patterns will have a different effect on the bass every day. Although I feel I’m good at adapting to changing fishing conditions, the Bassmaster Classic always is one of the most difficult tournaments to win. A contestant must have everything go his way for him to win. 

I think the person who wins this 2019 Bassmaster Classic will have to have a kicker bite that produces a 6- to 7-pound bass and that the winning 3-day stringer will be in the 45- to 50-pound range. Bringing in consistent weights each day of the 3-day tournament will be difficult. Whoever wins will have to have at least one big day and two solid days of catching bass. The 2019 Classic will be won by the angler who puts all the unknowns together better than anyone else. 

For more coverage of the Mossy Oak Fishing Team at the 2019 Bassmaster Classic, read:

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