(By Kevin VanDam)

Electronics One of Many Fish-Finding Tools

Today’s electronics and GPS mapping programs are good – real good!

But those tools aren’t all an angler needs to help him find, develop and run patterns on sizable lakes.

Do you use paper maps and utilize satellite imagery when on the water? I do.

Some anglers believe paper maps are antiquated and useless since they have detailed maps on their graph screens.

But that’s not the case.

By Kevin VanDam

Small Swimbaits Are a Good Fit for Michiana Waters

An interesting technique that has emerged on the Bassmaster Elite Series the past couple of years has a place in Michiana.

I’m talking about the use of smaller bodied swimbaits on jigheads and spinning tackle. That fits in just about every Michiana angler’s arsenal.

It has proven to be extremely effective when the water is clear, cool and smallmouth are present. And believe me, largemouth will bite it, too.

The technique has proven to be incredibly effective during late winter through early spring and late fall.

That subtle swimming action you get from these smaller baits is something the fish can’t help but bite in that clear, cooler water.

When swimbaits first came on the scene, the larger, hollow bodied baits with thick paddle tails got everyone’s attention. The Strike King Shadalicious has caught a lot of fish for me, but when conditions are tougher and the water is extremely clear, that big wobble and tail action can be too much.

I’m not saying that those 5- to 6-inch swimbaits won’t work, but under extreme conditions, you might be wiser downsizing your lure.

That’s when a 4-inch or smaller swimbait like the Rage Swimmer with its smaller profile can be more effective. The Rage Swimmer has a slightly fatter body and thinner tail that produces a slower wag that should be deadly on A-rigs and for finesse swimbaiting in cold water.

A good sign that the smaller finesse bait would work is if you see a lot of 3- and 4-inch baitfish swimming around, or if you see bass suspended over structure or around balls of bait. Keep in mind that in clear water bass become sight feeders, so a swimbait that looks natural can be a huge advantage.

I rig finesse swimbaits on jigheads. If it’s weedy or there is wood around, I will use a belly-weight style hook and Texas rig it.

When choosing jig sizes, select the lightest you can use but still keep the bait in the proper depth zone. I throw 1/8, 3/16 and ¼ ounce mostly in water 15 feet or shallower, but if I have to get into a deeper zone I’ll go to 3/8 ounce.

I prefer to fish the baits on 8-pound fluorocarbon because you get better swimming action and more bites. The line doesn’t drag as much as heavier line, so you can maintain bait speed.

A slow, steady retrieve is best, but I will mix it up with periodic pauses so that the bait pendulums back to the bottom. You want the bait swimming slowly slightly above the weeds.

If you get a couple of bites but the bass aren’t real aggressive, experiment with different bait styles to see if a slightly different action, size or color works better.

Donors can win the fishing trip of a lifetime with Kevin VanDam at Omaze.com/KVD

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Bass Pro Shops and the Kevin VanDam (KVD) Foundation today announced plans to give one lucky winner the fishing trip of a lifetime alongside legendary pro angler Kevin VanDam as part of a fundraising campaign benefitting youth programs.

VanDam, winner of 25 professional events, seven-time Angler of the Year recipient and four-time BASSMASTER Classic champion, will take the winner out for an unforgettable day on the water in Memphis and share his best tips and techniques. The fishing trip with VanDam is part of a grand prize package that also includes travel for two to Memphis, a two-night stay at Big Cypress Lodge – located inside Bass Pro Shops at the Pyramid in downtown Memphis – and a special gear package from KVD sponsors valued at more than $8,000.00.

By Kevin VanDam

Kevin VanDamAsk a group of anglers what their favorite colors are on a specific Michiana body of water and you’re probably going to get a variety of answers.

That makes you wonder if color really matters, or is it simply a matter of confidence based on previous experiences.

Well, it’s probably a little of both.

There are a handful of basic colors that seem to work just about everywhere. But if you look around the country, there definitely are other colors that seem to work better than the basics.

In some situations water clarity dictates the appropriate color; some basic colors simply look more natural in different lakes. But that isn’t always the case.

I’ve also seen where a subtle color difference in clear water can make all the difference in the world. For example, on the Great Lakes during a mayfly hatch you’re going to catch a lot more fish on pumpkin brown than you will watermelon green, even though watermelon green works great at other times of the year.

That’s a case of matching the hatch during the bass’ shift to different forage.


Kevin VanDamThe continual evolution of tackle and technique trends amazes me.

I’ve been stunned by how things have changed and how technology has expedited those changes in recent years. Our improved tackle has made us far more efficient on the water than we were 10 years ago.

When I first began as pro some 26 years ago, I could go to a Bassmaster event just about anywhere and either flip, throw a spinnerbait or crankbait and be successful.

Today, we have categories of crankbaits, topwaters, jerkbaits, jigs, swimbaits and soft plastics designed for specific presentations.

We need all of those and more because even the best fisheries have taken their toll due to heavy fishing pressure.

That’s why you’re seeing such an influx of finesse tactics working on waters where anglers previously would never consider them. An angler needs a repertoire of finesse tactics/baits to be successful on tour these days.

By Kevin VanDam

Kevin VanDamA friend of mine called one day seeking advice on buying a new boat. His rig is five years old, and while it’s in great shape, he’s looking to upgrade his equipment or possibly trade it for a new one.

He’s planning to hit the boat shows this winter to research what’s out there and what’s best for him.

This is a great time to shop new boats, whether you’re a first-time buyer or looking to improve what you have. Dealers that attend shows are eager to deal, especially those sitting on last year’s models and who have new inventory coming in this spring.