By Kevin VanDam

(This is the first of a two part series on how Kevin VanDam stocks his terminal tackle boxes.)

Are You Properly Stocked with Sinkers?

Do you have an adequate supply of sinkers for the upcoming season? Inventory your terminal tackle before spring!

Shop the bargains at sport shows, local tackle shops and tackle catalogs.

Sure you have new baits on the mind, but don’t overlook terminal tackle that often gets depleted throughout the year.

By Kevin VanDam

Want More Casting Distance? Lengthen Your Rod Selection

Michiana anglers might want to consider lengthening their rods when fishing clear lakes.

As a Bassmaster pro, a new rule allows us to use rods up to 10 feet this year. Look for it to be a growing trend in the coming years.

Not that it’s going to replace the 7 footers you already use, but it will become a niche rod for special situations.

I’m working with Quantum to develop new spinning and cranking rods that extend beyond the former 8-foot limit B.A.S.S. imposed. Other companies are expanding their lineups as well.

Longer rods provide benefits, especially in those fishing scenarios where longer casts give the angler an edge.

By Alan McGuckin

Kevin VanDam’s Three Favorite Lures for Fall Reservoirs

Kevin VanDam loves football, archery season for whitetail deer, and thoughts of bass binging on baitfish. And those are just three good reasons the 7-time Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year calls autumn his favorite time of year.

"Oh yea, there's no doubt life is good this time of year," says VanDam. And football is a large part of October's goodness for him and his treasured family.

"Of course I love my home state Detroit Lions, but I maintain a friendship with Willie Young, an avid angler and pass rush specialist for the Chicago Bears, who used to play for Detroit," he says.

"Plus, my twin sons Jackson and Nicholas are in college at Grand Valley State University. Their football team owns the highest winning percentage in college football history, and we were recently on campus for Family Weekend when the Lakers won 49 to 0," says the ever-competitive VanDam.

But fall is certainly not only about football for the VanDams. They have long had a healthy appetite for whitetail deer hunting, and October 1st kicked off the start of Michigan's archery season that they treasure in much the same way bass covet baitfish during the calendar's fourth quarter.

By Kevin VanDam

Jerkbaits Aren’t Just for Spring

Have you noticed I’ve been throwing a jerkbait in tournaments year-round?

Yep, even in summer when the bass move off the flats, especially when I see them suspended in deeper, clear water.

When I go into northern Michigan, where the water is ultra-clear, I can pull fish out off the bottom in 20 feet to hit a standard jerkbait. But that’s not the norm for most of the nation.

That’s why I helped Strike King develop the KVDj300D that gets down to 10 feet or more on 10-pound fluorocarbon line.

(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.