Kevin VanDam shatters Bassmaster Classic record in New Orleans

Lyle Johnson
Kevin VanDam holds up two of his big bass that helped make up his 28 pound sack for the fans to see.

South Louisiana and New Orleans played host to the top 50 bass anglers in the world over the weekend at the 41st annual Bassmaster Classic. As one angler after another crossed the weigh-in stage, compliments were paid to the people, the place and the vast fishery they spent the week on.

But the one angler that was treated the best was Kalamazoo, Michigan native Kevin VanDam. He used his skills to the maximum and bagged fifteen bass over the three days that rang up 69 lbs, 11 oz to claim the world’s most coveted title in the bass fishing arena.

This event turned out to be a battle of two areas in the hundreds of miles of fishing water available to the fifty contestants. One area was Venice, over a hundred miles away from the launch site at Bayou Segnette State Park.

Venice is rich with chunky, football-sized bass that got the attention of twenty or so of the contenders during the three-day practice. The temptation to fill their live wells with these healthy fish helped make their decision to brave not only the long trip that only allowed a short time to fish, but the safety issue was a concern as well.

The possibility of fog coming into play had several of the contestants install radar on their boats to make the hazardous trip much safer. The fog did come into play as day one was shortened by 70 minutes, which gave the anglers less that three hours to fish.

Day two was worse; the departing time was held back for two hours and forty-five minutes that gave some of the anglers less than an hour to bag their five fish limit. Brent Chapman hammered a 20-1 limit in that short time and was the only angler that fished Venice to be in contention for the title on the final day.

Only a thirty minute delay on day three gave all the contenders a full day to fish, but the folks that made the long ride fell victim to the fog delays and a small lake that was only 15 minutes from the launch site; Lake Catouatche.

Six of the top seven finishers plied this “bass factory” for 342 lbs 11ozs worth of fat, female bass and over $650,000 in prize money that wowed a large crowd at the New Orleans Arena for three days. This spectacle even took the limelight from the Mardi Gras parades for this weekend and one that won’t be forgotten soon.

VanDam and the other six anglers found just enough in practice to make the decision to stay close and put all their eggs in this basket that proved to be a very prudent decision that gave them the maximum amount of fishing time. This choice coupled with the amounts of fish that were moving up to spawn paid off in a big way.

Day one ended with Aaron Martens in the 1st spot with a 20-7 limit with Scott Rook sporting 19-6 and VanDam in third with 19-3. Brent Chapman was 4th with a limit from Venice with 18 lbs from Venice and the following 6 spots went to Venice anglers as well.

Van Dam hammered a 22-08 limit on day two to take the lead with 41 lbs 11. The long delay on day two really put a hurting on the Venice anglers, but Brent Chapman hauled in the big bag of the day with a 20-01 limit and a total of 38-01 to claim the 2nd spot. Day one leader, Aaron Martens stumbled a bit with a 12-11 bag and 3rd place.

On day three, the fish in Lake Catouatche went on a feeding binge. Boyd Duckett, from Demopolis, Alabama came from a distant 19th place and whacked the biggest bag of the tournament. His five bass weighed in at 28-13 and landed him the 6th spot with a 53-02 total. In that sack of fish was a lunker that weighed in at 8-13 and took big bass honors. In 5th was Brent Chapman with a total of 54-08. 4th was Brandon Palaniuk with 55-07, 3rd was Derek Remitz with 56-08, 2nd was Aaron Martens with 59-00.

But the man of the hour was Kevin VanDam. He took his bass catching skills and put together a three day, 15 bass limit that totaled 69 lbs 11 oz and a record-tying fourth Bassmaster Classic victory.

“This one was very special to me, stated VanDam at a post victory press conference. “I won my first one here in New Orleans in 2001. Louisiana will always have a very special place in my heart.”

He used two of his signature lures for the victory; one was a 3/8 oz Strike King Kevin VanDam tournament series spinner bait. The other was a Strike King KVD 1.5 crank bait, chartreuse in color.

He compiled a pretty good list of accomplishments while winning the Classic. He tied Rick Clunn by capturing his 4th Classic Victory, surpassed Roland Martin in BASS tournament wins with 20, won back to back victories (ties with Clunn), passed $5 million in winnings and shattered the total weight for Classic wins by 13 lbs 9 oz. Not bad for three days work at the office!

Every one of these world class anglers paid homage to the eco-system and the habitat that supports such a variety of wildlife. Tommy Biffle asked the question on stage, “Where else in the world can you catch bass and see Flipper on the same day!”

They all encouraged us as a nation to take care of this place which will bring more national exposure to restoring our coastline. This was one to remember! So remember to keep the slack out and set the hook hard. So until next time have fun in the outdoors, be safe and may God bless you.

Kevin VanDam hoists up his 4th Bassmaster Classic Trophy to a wildly screaming crowd.