Michigan’s Kevin VanDam Seeks Redemption

GILBERTSVILLE, Ky. – After barely missing out on his 13th BASS win at Alabama’s Wheeler Lake last weekend, three-time Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year Kevin VanDam is back in the saddle again, leading the Bluegrass Brawl presented by DieHard Platinum Marine Batteries® with a Thursday catch of 24 pounds, 13 ounces.

Michigan’s Kevin VanDam Seeks Redemption; Leads Bassmaster Elite Series Event on Kentucky Lake

GILBERTSVILLE, Ky. – After barely missing out on his 13th BASS win at Alabama’s Wheeler Lake last weekend, three-time Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year Kevin VanDam is back in the saddle again, leading the Bluegrass Brawl presented by DieHard Platinum Marine Batteries® with a Thursday catch of 24 pounds, 13 ounces.

VanDam’s nearest competitor was Mike McClelland of Bella Vista, Ark., who weighed 23 pounds, 6 ounces. Perhaps the best angler in the history of bass fishing, VanDam continued his assault on the Tennessee River chain. He finished second at Wheeler last week, finishing behind first-time BASS winner Jeremy Starks of Charleston, W.Va., by just 8 ounces, and again used a similar pattern to propel himself into the early lead of the four-day tournament.

More important, VanDam moved up significantly in the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year race. If his position holds, he will be in good shape with only three events remaining to score his fourth AOY title. Texan Todd Faircloth, who led VanDam by just 18 points heading into the Kentucky Lake event, was 39th and Skeet Reese of Auburn, Calif., who was in third in the season-long points race, was tied for 10th. McClelland, who was in fourth in the AOY standings, could also gain significant ground. The winner of the AOY will receive $250,000 and the points will also determine the brunt of the 2009 Bassmaster Classic qualifiers.

With a victory, VanDam, 39, would earn $100,000, pushing his BASS career earnings mark to nearly $3 million. Also a two-time Bassmaster Classic winner, VanDam is seeking his fourth victory in Elite Series competition, which would be the most for any angler since the inception of the groundbreaking circuit.

Fishing fans can catch all of the action on The Bassmasters on Saturday, June 21 at 9 a.m. ET on ESPN2. As always, live, streaming video of the daily weigh-ins and real-time leaderboards can be accessed on http://www.Bassmaster.com.

In third was Byron Velvick of Del Rio, Texas, with 21 pounds, 15 ounces. Trailing Velvick were Timmy Horton of Muscle Shoals, Ala., in fourth with 21 pounds, 1 ounce and Bradley Hallman of Norman, Okla., in fifth with 20 pounds, 12 ounces. BASS four-day heavyweight record holder Paul Elias of Laurel, Miss., was sixth with 20 pounds, 4 ounces.

“I’m still not happy about last week,” said VanDam. “That’s the way fishing goes though. You can bet I’m going to get my share and I feel like I’m dialed in right now.”

His 24-13 limit included a six-pound, seven-ounce lunker, good enough for Purolator Big Bass honors and a $1,000 premium. Like last week on Wheeler, VanDam used a variety of lures to entice the biggest bass. He was executing his typical run-and-gun style, spending little time on locations before moving to the next.

His most productive lure, like Wheeler, was a Strike King sexy shad. He was bothered by boat pressure from anglers not in the tournament but felt he could fight through it as the tournament progressed.

“Kentucky Lake is absolutely on fire right now,” VanDam said of the spacious fishery. “We have hit it at the perfect time. This is going to be a very exciting tournament.”

McClelland has located three schools of fish that he is targeting throughout the day. Thursday, he was able to expand on his primary area and made a subtle bait change which he believed led to bigger bites.

He estimated he caught 30 fish that weighed more than 3 pounds and feels that local boat pressure could be a problem as the tournament unfolds.

“My practice was just insane,” said McClelland, 40. “I located some great areas that were away from the crowds. I’m hoping these spots can hold up.”

Elias, who was sixth, made a costly mistake, bringing six fish to the weigh-in. His penalty, losing his largest fish, estimated at more than 6 pounds, and a 1-pound subtraction, significantly impacted his weight. Still, he feels he is on the fish to win his second Elite event of 2008.

2006 Kentucky Lake Elite champion Morizo Shimizu of Japan struggled to an 83rd-place finish. Other notables include Kevin Wirth of Crestwood, Ky. (15th) and Canadian Jon Bondy (18th). Only the top 50 anglers will fish Saturday with the top 12 advance to Sunday, the final day of competition.

Meanwhile, Tommy Biffle of Wagoner, Okla., had his Thursday catch disqualified for violation of rule 6.iii, stating "all competitors are bound by the prevailing statutes and regulations of the various states within which they fish". Biffle was cited for fishing in Tennessee waters without a valid license.

In the co-angler division, Matt Hoffman of Highland Heights, Ky., leads the chase for the $25,000 top prize with 18 pounds, 14 ounces. Trailing Hoffman were Missouri’s Dave Dickherber in second with 16 pounds, 8 ounces and Indiana’s Jason Seaton with 16 pounds, 2 ounces. The co-angler competition ends Saturday.

Straddling the Kentucky-Tennessee border, Kentucky Lake is 185 miles in length, with 160,000 surface acres and 2,380 miles of shoreline. Barkley, a navigable canal, adds another 80,000 surface acres. The Bassmaster Elite Series made its last stop at Kentucky Lake in June 2006, when the top seven pros caught more than 60 pounds through four days. Winner Morizo Shimizu of Japan weighed in 66 pounds, 9 ounces.

Daily weigh-ins and launches at the Bluegrass Brawl will take place at Kentucky Dam Marina, 1300 Administration Drive. Launches Thursday-Sunday begin at 8 a.m. CT and weigh-ins begin at 5 p.m.

Activities at the Bluegrass Brawl include a musical performance Saturday and Sunday afternoon by country artists Nashville Songwriters. There will be a Berkley Beginner fishing class at 3:30 p.m. and a “Boat Performance with Skeeter” class daily at 4 p.m. both days, as well as Skeeter boat demo rides from noon to 2 p.m.

On Saturday, fans can talk to the Elite pros during “Ask the Experts” at Bassmaster University, set for 4:30 p.m. at the weigh-in site.

Sunday’s activities include the live taping at 4:30 p.m. CT of Hooked Up, hosted by BASS emcee Keith Alan, ESPN Outdoors personalities Tommy Sanders and Mark Zona. The show, which airs on Bassmaster.com, will preview the final weigh-in. Live, streaming video of the daily weigh-ins begins at 5 p.m. ET on Bassmaster.com.

For more information, contact BASS Communications at (407) 566-2208 or visit Bassmaster.com. Visit ESPNMediaZone.com for ESPN’s latest releases, schedules and other news, plus photos, video, audio clips and more.

The local sponsor of the Bluegrass Brawl is the Kentucky Sports Authority.

Sponsors of the Bassmaster Elite Series include Toyota Tundra, Advance Auto Parts, Berkley, Lowrance, Mercury, Purolator, Skeeter, Yamaha, Evan Williams Bourbon, Longhorn, OPTIMA Batteries, Triton Boats, Costa Del Mar, MotorGuide and Ramada Worldwide.

Location and Field
Bluegrass Brawl presented by DieHard Platinum Marine Batteries®
Kentucky Lake
Gilbertsville, Ky.
June 12-15, 2008

107 pros, 107 co-anglers
Cut to top-50 pros and co-anglers after Day 2
Cut to top 12 pro anglers after Day 3

Kentucky Dam Marina
1300 Administration Drive
Gilbertsville, Ky.
8 a.m./ 5 p.m. CT

2008 Bassmaster Elite Series Event Tournament Locations/Dates

March 6-9 Sunshine Showdown Harris Chain of Lakes Leesburg, Fla.
March 13-16 Citrus Slam Kissimmee Chain Lake Wales, Fla.

April 3-6 Lone Star Shootout Falcon Lake Zapata, Texas

April 10-13 Battle on the Border Lake Amistad Del Rio, Texas

May 1-4 Pride of Georgia Clarks Hill Lake Evans, Ga.

May 15-18 Carolina Clash Lake Murray Columbia, S.C.

June 5-8 Southern Challenge Wheeler Lake Decatur, Ala.

June 12-15 Bluegrass Brawl Kentucky Lake Gilbertsville, Ky.

June 26-29 Tennessee Triumph Old Hickory Lake Hendersonville, Tenn.

July 31- Aug. 3 Empire Chase Lake Erie/Niagara River Buffalo, N.Y.

Aug. 7-10 Champion’s Choice Oneida Lake Syracuse, N.Y

About BASS

For 40 years, BASS has served as the authority on bass fishing. With its considerable multi-media platforms and expansive tournament trail, BASS is guided by its mission to serve all fishing fans. Through its industry leading publications Bassmaster Magazine, BASS Times and Fishing Tackle Retailer and comprehensive web properties in Bassmaster.com and ESPNOutdoors.com, the organization is committed to delivering content true to the lifestyle. Additionally, television programming on ESPN2 continues to provide relevant content from tips and techniques to in-depth tournament coverage to passionate audiences.

The organization oversees the prestigious Bassmaster tournament trail which includes the Bassmaster Elite Series, Bassmaster Opens, Women’s Bassmaster Tour and the Bassmaster Classic, the ultimate celebration of competitive fishing. Through its grassroots network, the BASS Federation Nation, BASS sanctions more than 20,000 events annually.

BASS also offers an array of services to its more than 525,000 members while spearheading progressive, positive change on issues related to conservation and water access. The organization is headquartered in Celebration, Fla.

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