Kevin VanDam of Kalamazoo, Michigan, caught 27 bass weighing 78 pounds, 1 ounce, to win the Major League Fishing (MLF) Bass Pro Tour event on Tennessee’s Lake Chickamauga on June 9, 2021. A tight five-angler race started the third and final period of competition in the tournament. But VanDam quickly pulled away, boasting a dozen scorable bass that weighed 34 pounds, 2 ounces, in just 30 minutes. VanDam finally won by a 6-pound, 10-ounce margin over second place Jacob Wheeler, who caught 24 bass, totaling 63 pounds, 7 ounces.
“The last period – to get a flurry like that – man, that was incredible,” VanDam said, after pushing his career earnings to $6.9 million. “Any time I could have that kind of day fishing was special. But to do it on the last day of a Bass Pro Tour event was pretty danged awesome. This trophy was something I’d really wanted since we started the MLF. Today was a pretty special day for me.”
The key to VanDam’s success was fishing deep crankbaits on the lake’s ledges. He explained that, “I located those bass in practice. When I hit that school of bass, I knew I’d really found something special. I just had to wait for the window when the current got just right. Then it happened. It was magical.
“I caught bass on many different baits this week. But by far and away, the Strike King crankbaits – the Series 5 in green gizzard shad and the 5XD in blue gizzard shad – were my money baits all week long. My confidence was through the roof today, the last day. I had all the tools I needed to catch numbers of bass. My entire system, including my rods, my reels, my hooks, I’d developed over the past 31 years of bass fishing. I was able to showcase that system today.”
VanDam and Jason Lambert split Wednesday’s Berkley’s Big Bass Award of $1,000, with each weighing in a 6-pound, 5-ounce largemouth. In the eighth place finish was Mossy Oak Fishing team member Jordan Lee of Cullman, Alabama, who caught six bass for a total of 17 pounds, 4 ounces and took home a $21,000 check. Ott DeFoe of Blaine, Tennessee, also a Mossy Oak Fishing team member, finished the event in 17th place, which enabled him to overtake Bobby Lane in the MLF Bass Pour Tour Angler of the Year standings.
Congratulations to Kevin VanDam, Jordan Lee and Ott DeFoe, who carried the Mossy Oak Fishing banner high at this event.