Kevin VanDam's Secret Bait

News & Tips: Kevin VanDam's Secret Bait

Every once in a while there’s a new kid on the block that changes the rules a little.  With the emergency of the swinging football head, four-time Bassmaster Classic winner Kevin VanDam has found the rig to be an important part of his fishing arsenal.

Where it Shines

This system excels whenever he’s faced with a flat or a large area to cover that has a hard bottom containing sand, gravel, or rocks when the fish are more scattered and KVD needs to efficiently cover the bottom.

“With fluorocarbon and tungsten heads, you can feel the bottom really well.  Not only that, the noise of that rig banging across the bottom attracts bass to it.  You can feel where it goes from gravel to sand or if there is a shell bed on a ledge or a stump, you can definitely feel the hard and soft,” VanDam said.

Rigged and Ready

VanDam advises anglers to fish a heavy enough weight for whatever depth they are in to keep it on bottom.  “You are really reeling it like a crankbait, slower, but not by a whole lot,” VanDam said.

A 7’4 or 7’6 medium-heavy action Quantum Tour KVD rod paired with a high-speed Quantum reel is the deal. The extra reel speed allows VanDam to catch those smallmouth and spotted bass that charge the boat once they’ve been hooked.

Normally, he’ll use 14-pound BPS XPS fluorocarbon but, depending on the conditions, has downsized to 10-pound test.  When fishing the ledges on Kentucky Lake in the summer, or on Falcon when targeting monster bass nestled around nasty cover, 17 to 20-pound test is imperative. 

1 arrow pointVanDam advises anglers to let the depth and bottom cover dictate the size of the line to throw.  The key is to get the bait down to the bottom quickly, yet not be outgunned once you hook a quality fish should it try to saw the line against wooden cover or on a rock laden ledge. 

Weighty Decisions

When head weights, VanDam advises anglers to fish a rig as heavy as they can get away with without over powering the bottom and getting stuck.  

“You want to have good bottom contact.  They make them from a 1/4 – ounce to 1-ounce.  My most common sizes are a ½-ounce to ¾-ounce. It fits that 8- to 20- foot zone really well,” he said.  When fishing deeper ledge during the summer, VanDam rigs up a 1-ounce head and heavier line to get his bait down to the bottom quickly, and keep it there.  He’ll also lighten up to a 3/8-ounce during the spawn when blind fishing up shallow.

1 arrow point VanDam fishes the Strike King Tour Grade Tungsten Swing Football Head and the Mustad Fastach clip Football Weight rigged with a Mustad KVD Grip Pin hook.

“Having that Grip Pin hook on there is real important.  I can rig the bait I want on there without having to worry about it sliding down the hook and keeping me from getting a good hookset.  If I am using a smaller creature bait I can use a smaller hook size.  If I want to use a big 10-inch worm, I can go up to a 6/0 without even having to re-tie,” VanDam explained.

KVD's Bait Selection

The Strike King Rage Structure Bug, fished on a 4/0 hook, was actually designed for a swinging jig-head and makes for a great crawfish imitator due to its appendages and ability to move water.  In clear water green pumpkin and summer craw are good choices while dirty water necessitates colors like black/blue, June bug, and Okeechobee craw.

“I try to match the profile and color to what I think the predominate forage is- both size and color,” VanDam reasoned.  “At Kentucky Lake in the summer, I caught a lot of largemouth on the 10-inch Rage Thumper worm and the 7-inch Caffeine Shad which imitated those gizzard shad.”

Working the Bait

For the most part, when KVD is looking for fish, he’ll employ a steady drag along the bottom.  In doing so, the sinker will bump along the bottom and into obstacles causing the bait to jump around since it doesn’t have that solid connection with the bottom.  

“Day in day out, when you are just trying to cover water and see where the fish are at, low profile, rod tip to the water, and just reel it fast enough so that its ticking along the bottom,” VanDam explained.

Think Outside the Box

The beauty of the fishing rig is its versatility- the loose connection between the hook and the sinker ads so much action that VanDam prefers it to a Texas-rigged bait in such situations.  He will experiment if he has fish pegged on a specific spot by dragging it, stopping it, and shaking it.