Hope floats high for KVD: Can Kevin VanDam close his 30-place gap in the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year race, considering he has only six events to engineer a recovery?
“For sure, absolutely, there’s no doubt.” said VanDam, the 2009 AOY who sits in 42nd place in the 2010 AOY standings. “Points-wise, it’s not like it’s monumental to get to the top 12, by no means. But that being said, with eight events total, you’ve got to make that happen in a hurry.”
Last season after two events, the pro from Kalamazoo, Mich., led the AOY race. He stayed at or near the top until he won the 2009 crown, his fifth. A few months later, he won the 2010 Bassmaster Classic.
To have a shot at the 2010 Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year title, he needs to end the 2010 regular season in 12th place or higher. That would qualify him for the July Bassmaster Elite Series postseason, the finish line of the AOY race.
History says VanDam has a fighting chance to be in the postseason. That’s according to Ken “Bass Geek” Duke, the editor of Bassmaster.com.
“Only four anglers have clawed their way into the top 12 after being ranked so low after two tournaments, and twice it was Mike Iaconelli,” Duke wrote in his April 9 blog. “…So for all you Kevin VanDam fans out there, his tough start (42nd place) is not a death sentence.”
Mathematically speaking, recovery is possible. Mentally speaking, VanDam is confident he can move past his subpar, relatively speaking, finishes in the first two events, both in California: a 29th place on the Delta and a 59th finish on Clear Lake.
“You really have to put it behind you,” he said. “It isn’t going to have a bearing on how I’m going to approach Smith Mountain Lake.”
That’s where the third event of the Elite’s 2010 season will happen this week. VanDam is the defending Blue Ridge Brawl champion.
“You win one, you want to win the next one too. I’m looking forward to it because I had a really good event there last time. Anytime I go someplace and have success, I feel really good about going back,” he said.
In Virginia, the Blue Ridge Brawl begins Thursday and ends Sunday. VanDam will attempt to defend his title taken there in 2009, and take home the $100,000 first prize. And, of course, as many points as he can earn.
FIRST LOOK: Monday, Bassmaster Elite Series pros hit the water for the first of three days of practice before competition begins Thursday.
“I think sight fishing is going to play heavily in this event,” said James Niggemeyer of Van, Texas, who finished 7th at the 2009 Brawl, and who is 7th in the 2010 AOY points standings. “There’s going to be some different ways to catch them, but to say sight fishing wouldn’t be a factor would not be right.”
Whether the bass are moving up or backing out is the question.
“It’s hard to say exactly what’s going on because it’s my first day on the water,” Niggemeyer said. “I would say by the looks of things that some of them have already been there (on the beds), but there are a good bunch of fish still in pre-spawn mode.”
Florida pro Shaw Grigsby, known as one of the world’s best sight fishermen, said his day on the water told him that many of the big females may be finished spawning.
“It got so warm a week ago, it really pushed the water temperature up. … I definitely know there will be a fair amount of sight fish caught, but I think the bigger ones are done and out,” said Grigsby, who was 6th at the 2009 Brawl and sits in 10th in the current points race. “There’s plenty of little guys on the bank, but not quality fish. It doesn’t all happen in a week, but I think a lot of it has happened. I’m not seeing the quality ones I’d like to and have seen in the past.”
Matt Herren of Trussville, Ala. — 2nd at the 2009 Brawl, and 15th in the AOY standings — said his first practice day showed him at least one thing: He’s in for what he described as a chess match.
“There’s a few on, but there’s a lot of cruising going on,” Herren said. “I would rather not have to sight-fish. I do OK at it, but it’s like a chess match with your competitors, trying to figure out who knows where what fish are, making the right stops at the right times, figuring out which areas of the lake are hot.”
Herren said locating a few bigger fish will be as crucial this year as it was last year. “Here, you have to get those key bites,” he said.
WEIGHTY GUESSES: James Niggemeyer guesses the winning Smith Mountain Lake weight will be close to that of 2009 champ Kevin VanDam: 61 pounds, 13 ounces.
“I think if a guy had 15 a day, he’d be strong,” he said.
Shaw Grigsby estimated that 15 a day will put an angler in the top 12 for the final day.
It could take 18 a day to win, he said. He pointed out that a one-day tournament last weekend on Smith Mountain was won with more than 20 pounds, but that was dead-on when large females were moving shallow.
Herren predicted the winning weight would exceed that of 2009. “But by just a couple pounds more, and still in the 60s somewhere.”
About two weeks out, before the weather turned warmer, VanDam estimated 15 pounds a day would put an angler at the top. “Conversely, if another bad, cold front comes through, it could turn the bite off a little bit and it could take only 12 pounds a day to win,” he said.
Fishing fans can take their own guesses by playing the Ramada Worldwide Winning Weight Game online at Bassmaster.com, or by texting to “Ramada” at 4ESPN. Click here for details.
DOUBLE UP AT BASS PRO: As it did last season, Bass Pro Shops is offering double reward points on purchases of products used to win BASS events.
Now eligible for double points in the Outdoor Rewards program are products used by 2010 Bassmaster Classic champ Kevin VanDam, such as his Quantum Tour rod. Other products include those used by Duel in the Delta winner John Crews and Golden State Shootout winner Byron Velvick.
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