By John Johnson
BassFan Senior Editor

Not qualified for any of the first three 2019 Major League Fishing Cup events. No chance at making the season-ending Redcrest Championship. Just one finish among the top half of the field.

Not many would've predicted that's how Kevin VanDam's season would go through the first six stops on the MLF Bass Pro Tour's inaugural eight-event schedule. "Salvage mode" isn't a concept that the greatest competitive bass angler of all time is real familiar with.

Until Monday, when he caught a day-best 69-14 on 39 fish to top the weather-shortened Group B Elimination Round in the second BPT derby at Table Rock Lake in the span of three weeks, the seven-time B.A.S.S. Angler of the Year, four-time Classic champion and three-time MLF Cup winner's campaign had been pretty much devoid of highlights. The way he looks at things, winning a middle-of-the-road round when weights are set to be zeroed the following day likely isn't a big peg to hang a hat on.

Nonetheless, it was his best day on the water this season by far.

"I've been trying to win all of them, but I've missed a lot of cuts when I was pretty much right there in the last hour and trying to make something happen," he said. "In this format it's hard to not go backward if you have a slow period.

"It's been frustrating because I'm normally pretty good at making decisions and adjustments and I've had plenty of success in Major League Fishing over the years. My system has worked for a lot of years and I don't think it's faulty, so I've been sticking to what I do and I had a good day today. It's just been a struggle this year."

VanDam, who tallied a combined 72 scorable fish during the Shotgun and Elimination rounds, was one of seven anglers in Group B who topped the 100-pound mark over their first two days on the water. The others were Scott Suggs with 122-06 (77 fish), Brandon Palaniuk with 117-13 (68), Todd Faircloth with 115-09 (72), Dustin Connell with 107-01 (76), Ott DeFoe with 102-05 (68) and Greg Hackney with 100-14 (59).

The remainder of the top 10 consisted of Brent Ehrler (97-15 on 58 fish), Anthony Gagliardi (95-08 on 56) and Mark Davis (95-02 on 63).

The field got to fish slightly less than half of the scheduled 2 1/2-hour final period due to strong thunderstorms in the Branson, Mo. area. Competition in that stanza was conducted for the first half-hour, but then halted for 80 minutes before resuming for the final 40 minutes leading up to the 8 p.m. quitting time.

VanDam threw a variety of fast- and slow-moving baits during the course of the day.

"All three species (largemouths, smallmouths and spotted bass) live here and I'm doing as much as I can to generate bites from all of them," he said. "I've got a lot of rods out and I'm just hitting what's in front of me, trying to fish the conditions. Things vary a lot with the weather."



Major League Fishing/Phoenix Moore
Photo: Major League Fishing/Phoenix Moore

Mark Daniels Jr. had a rough day, but he had reason to smile when he became the final angler to advance to the Knockout Round.

Mark Daniels Jr., who started the day in 6th place, managed just 24-13 on 16 catches in the Elimination Round to become the last survivor of the cut to the top 20 for the Knockout Round.

"It was rougher than it should've been, but that certainly wasn't by design," he said. "I wanted to catch 30 or 40 pounds so I wouldn't have to worry and I could go do a little practicing, but it didn't work out that way. It was big-time stressful."

Daniels, who registered just one fish in the last period, thought he might've been doomed when his final bite broke off on a submerged portion of a dock. As it turned out, a 1-03 spot he'd boated with 10 minutes to go allowed him to subdue 21st-place finisher Bradley Roy by a single ounce.

"I really don't know why I didn't catch them better today," Daniels said. "My best place where I'd caught 20 the first day, I caught one bass there. There's probably been other guys fishing it, but I don't know. It just seemed very desolate.

"I think the weather had a little bit to do with it, too I've been fishing offshore and that gets tough when it's cloudy and overcast. The fish were acting weird. I think deep is the way to go and the way this is going to be won, but I don't have enough places to do it. Tomorrow I'm going to have to fish around and look for them."

Michael Neal (18th with 84-06) was the lone angler to make the cut after being on the wrong side of the line when the final 40 minutes got under way. He caught a 1-11 largemouth with 8 minutes left to break back into the top 20 and added two more fish thereafter to ensure he stayed there.

"It was interesting, to say the least," he said. "I thought I was shooting for 20th and when I went up to 17th for a minute I thought I might have a chance to make it and that calmed me down a little bit. It was nerve-wracking like it always is during the cut rounds.

"I feel like I can go out and catch some fish tomorrow, but I don't have any of the big schools like some guys have where they can catch one after another after another. I'll have to rotate a lot of spots and keep moving around. I think my only chance to make the top 10 (and advance to the Championship Round) is if we get some funny weather or something happens to bust the big schools up."

Weather Forecast

> Tue., June 4 Thunderstorms - 86/70
- Wind: From the S at 8 mph

> Wed., June 5 P.M. Thunderstorms - 86/68
- Wind: From the SW at 7 mph

Day 4 Standings (Group B Elimination Round)

1. Kevin VanDam -- 33, 54-00 -- 39, 69-14 -- 72, 123-14

2. Scott Suggs -- 44, 67-06 -- 33, 55-00 -- 77, 122-06

3. Brandon Palaniuk -- 41, 69-09 -- 27, 48-04 -- 68, 117-13

4. Todd Faircloth -- 45, 73-08 -- 27, 42-01 -- 72, 115-09

5. Dustin Connell -- 53, 74-08 -- 23, 32-09 -- 76, 107-01

6. Ott DeFoe -- 53, 81-07 -- 15, 20-14 -- 68, 102-05

7. Greg Hackney -- 21, 35-06 -- 38, 65-08 -- 59, 100-14

8. Brent Ehrler -- 24, 41-12 -- 34, 56-03 -- 58, 97-15

9. Anthony Gagliardi -- 30, 51-04 -- 26, 44-04 -- 56, 95-08

10. Mark Davis -- 26, 40-14 -- 37, 54-04 -- 63, 95-02

11. Gerald Spohrer -- 25, 42-01 -- 34, 52-06 -- 59, 94-07

12. Andy Montgomery -- 23, 29-14 -- 45, 62-09 -- 68, 92-07

13. Casey Ashley -- 29, 51-07 -- 21, 39-13 -- 50, 91-04

14. John Murray -- 22, 38-13 -- 29, 52-06 -- 51, 91-03

15. Josh Bertrand -- 31, 50-11 -- 22, 39-09 -- 53, 90-04

16. Greg Vinson -- 34, 45-07 -- 29, 41-05 -- 63, 86-12

17. Jesse Wiggins -- 29, 39-04 -- 31, 46-04 -- 60, 85-08

18. Michael Neal -- 30, 44-12 -- 25, 39-10 -- 55, 84-06

19. Edwin Evers -- 34, 53-14 -- 20, 30-08 -- 54, 84-06

20. Mark Daniels, Jr. -- 38, 59-00 -- 16, 24-13 -- 54, 83-13

The following anglers did not make the cut and will not compete in the Knockout Round.

21. Bradley Roy -- 29, 49-01 -- 21, 33-12 -- 50, 82-13

22. Alton Jones Jr. -- 27, 43-01 -- 25, 37-14 -- 52, 80-15

23. Justin Atkins -- 22, 33-04 -- 27, 43-08 -- 49, 76-12

24. Gerald Swindle -- 30, 44-12 -- 20, 29-14 -- 50, 74-10

25. Brent Chapman -- 24, 44-03 -- 17, 29-02 -- 41, 73-05

26. Brandon Coulter -- 15, 23-15 -- 29, 49-00 -- 44, 72-15

27. Kelly Jordon -- 29, 43-11 -- 16, 26-00 -- 45, 69-11

28. James Watson -- 23, 38-00 -- 20, 30-15 -- 43, 68-15

29. Brett Hite -- 19, 31-06 -- 22, 37-05 -- 41, 68-11

30. Boyd Duckett -- 22, 36-09 -- 17, 30-06 -- 39, 66-15

31. Roy Hawk -- 24, 40-07 -- 13, 26-05 -- 37, 66-12

32. Mike Iaconelli -- 23, 30-14 -- 21, 33-14 -- 44, 64-12

33. Gary Klein -- 23, 35-13 -- 17, 28-10 -- 40, 64-07

34. Alton Jones -- 18, 31-06 -- 21, 27-09 -- 39, 58-15

35. Jeff Kriet -- 22, 33-15 -- 16, 24-02 -- 38, 58-01

36. Dave Lefebre -- 21, 30-12 -- 16, 26-00 -- 37, 56-12

37. Skeet Reese -- 10, 17-10 -- 20, 37-09 -- 30, 55-03

38. Matt Lee -- 15, 22-02 -- 18, 28-07 -- 33, 50-09

39. Paul Elias -- 16, 33-00 -- 5, 8-08 -- 21, 41-08

40. Cliff Crochet -- 17, 25-11 -- 10, 14-06 -- 27, 40-01