By Jonathan LePera
Special to BassFan
Although many would credit the spinnerbait for a bunch of Kevin VanDam’s four Bassmaster Classic wins and seven B.A.S.S. Angler of the Year titles, due respect must be paid to the impact that the Strike King KVD square-bill has had on his success.
VanDam relishes the versatility of the bait. With 15 to 20 color patterns exclusive to Bass Pro Shops alone, the KVD 1.5 is a bait that can help any angler put more fish in the boat.
The versatility of the KVD 1.5 is key. Around wood, the bait excels as it has excellent deflection properties and it’s a neat tool when he’s targeting largemouth. Docks, stumps, grass lines and cypress trees are all logical places to throw the 1.5.
The natural hunting action of the bait makes it an excellent option when targeting shallow-water smallmouth in crystal clear water for not only targeting aggressive fish, but enticing those that would be otherwise uncatchable. VanDam makes super-long casts when covering flats that typically harbor smallmouth.
VanDam’s 2011 Bassmaster Classic win at New Orleans put the bait on the map shortly after it came out. While he acknowledges that many pros knew about and were already fishing square-bills at the time, his win at the Classic definitely catapulted the bait to stardom.
VanDam will utilize a variety of line sizes to control the depth that he needs his bait to run.
“To me, it’s about that depth zone,” he said.
He noted that the bait will bang bottom in 7 feet of water when fished on 10-pound Bass Pro Shops XPS fluorocarbon. Very rarely will he fish it with a steady retrieve. He’ll mix in varied retrieves until he figures out what the fish want.
What’s unique about the Strike King 1.5 is that its action doesn’t suffer when fished on heavier lines in the 20- to 25-pound range. Hefty fluorocarbon works to keep the bait higher in the water column and to deflect off nasty cover.
“Day in and day out, I’m going to have a set-up rigged on 12-pound line and one rigged on 17-pound,” he said.
For anyone who has studied VanDam’s career, he leaves nothing to chance. When he designed his signature series of rods for Quantum, the actions had to be exact to not only fish the way he wanted them to, but also to best compliment the actions of the baits that he’s fishing.
VanDam reaches for a Tour KVD cranking rod that’s built on a blank that is the result of a fibreglass and graphite blend. Its parabolic action not only helps the action of the bait, but also keeps bass buttoned once they’re hooked. When covering open water and flats, the 7-foot medium-action rod works best, but he’ll opt for the 6-foot, 8-inch model when he needs pinpoint accuracy around specific targets.
As for the baits, the only modification he’ll make is adding a pair of #2 Mustad KVD Elite treble hooks. He’s got a strong hunch that the bigger hooks and their added weight actually enhance the bait’s action.
“I’d hate to count how many bass I’ve caught and how much money I’ve won on that 7-foot KVD cranking rod with that line with those hooks. It’s just a killer set-up,” he said.
VanDam keeps all of his baits in a plastic bag jammed to capacity with over 300 baits that he carries with him while fishing the Bassmaster Elite tour. He might not make it home for months at a time, so being prepared is key. He’ll remove the hooks. Once the tournament starts, he’ll pack what he needs into a Plano 3700 box and you’d be hard pressed to fit another in the box.
“Most cases, I’ve got at least two of every color in that box … and some 3 and 4,” he said.
While matching the hatch is key, VanDam is confident that he’s got the bases covered.
“We have some really natural translucent colors for those clear-water situations, a lot of bluegill patterns for clear lakes,” he added.
His favorites include orange bream, bluegill patterns, sexy shad, black back/chartreuse, summer sexy shad, chili craw and delta craw.
“It’s a go-to bait for me, largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass, in clear or dirty water, spring, summer, fall, or winter,” he said. “It’s amazing to me the versatility of this bait.”