Kevin VanDam Storms into Lead at Elite Series Event on Grand Lake
GROVE, Okla. - Relying on his typical "helter-skelter" approach and covering abundant water on picturesque Grand Lake, Kevin VanDam of Kalamazoo, Mich., caught a 21-pound, 11-ounce limit Thursday to lead Bassmaster Elite Series rookie Marty Robinson of Landrum, S.C., by more than 1 pound at the Sooner Run presented by Longhorn Tobacco.
The seventh Elite Series event of the season will end Sunday with the winner receiving a $100,000 top prize. Fishing fans can view all of the on-the-water action on The Bassmasters on ESPN2 at 9 a.m. ET Saturday, June 30.
Perhaps the most dominant angler in professional fishing, VanDam already has scored one Elite victory this year, at Alabama's Lake Guntersville. His focus for the rest of the season is turned to the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year race. He is in second place, trailing California's Skeet Reese.
"When I fish, I am trying to effectively control all the variables that I can," said VanDam, who is looking to clinch his fourth AOY title. "I have had some ups and downs this year, but if I finish well, I have a real shot at the Angler of the Year."
Despite the lead, VanDam said he was never in a "comfort zone" Thursday and used most of his competition day to practice for the remainder of the tournament. The 39-year-old said he caught the majority of his weight just hours after launching.
VanDam, who finished 22nd at the Elite event on Grand last year, said the fishery is much different than it was a year ago. The change allowed VanDam to catch fish with a spinnerbait and buzzbait, two lures he prefers.
"There are a number of ways to catch them out here," said VanDam, who is the BASS all-time money winner with more than $2 million in career earnings. "But it will be hard to duplicate things from day to day. The angler who will win this event needs to be versatile."
Robinson, who finished second, is following in the footsteps of rookie Elite anglers who have been successful this year. First, Derek Remitz won the season-opening event on Texas' Lake Amistad. Just two weeks ago, Casey Ashley, the youngest angler in the field, was victorious at Virginia's Smith Mountain Lake.
Like most of the field, Robinson targeted shallow fish early in the morning and then focused on the deep bite later in the afternoon. He worked 30 to 35 points to catch 20 pounds, 0 ounces.
"The big fish come on the first few casts to the points," said Robinson, who moved into the top five for the first time. "I feel if I stick with the same pattern tomorrow, I can bring in another solid limit."
Tied for third with 19 pounds, 8 ounces, were 2006 Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year Mike Iaconelli of Runnemede, N.J., and Ben Matsubu of Hemphill, Texas. Remitz, an Elite rookie from Madison, Ala., was fifth with 19 pounds, 1 ounce.
2006 Sooner Run champion Mike McClelland of Bella Vista, Ark., was 11th with 17 pounds, 15 ounces.
In the co-angler division, Texan Michael Vintges led the field competing for a Triton/Mercury boat package valued at $50,000. He weighed in 17 pounds, 11 ounces. Trailing Vintges were homestate anglers David Herman with 16 pounds, 7 ounces, and Kelly Banks with 15 pounds, 13 ounces.
Fishing fans can watch live, streaming video of the daily weigh-ins of the Sooner Run presented by Longhorn Tobacco at www.ESPNOutdoors.com beginning at 3 p.m. CT. On Sunday, fans can also monitor www.ESPNOutdoors.com throughout the day for live updates and Hooked Up with Tommy Sanders and ESPN Outdoors personality Mark Zona.
Local sponsors: Local sponsors include Grand Lake Association.
Bassmaster Elite Series sponsors: Sponsors of the Bassmaster Elite Series include Toyota Tundra, Purolator, Triton Boats, Mercury Marine, Berkley, Advance Auto Parts, Lowrance Electronics, MotorGuide and Costa Del Mar.
For more information, contact BASS Communications at (407) 566-2208 or visit www.bassmaster.com. Visit www.espnmediazone.com for ESPN's latest releases, schedules and other news, plus photos, video and audio clips and more.
BASS is the worldwide authority on bass fishing, sanctioning more than 20,000 events through the BASS Federation Nation annually. Guided by its mission to serve all fishing fans, BASS sets the standard for credibility, professionalism, sportsmanship and conservation, as it has for nearly 40 years.
BASS stages bass fishing tournaments for every skill level and culminates with the Bassmaster Classic. Through its clubs, youth programs, aquatic resource advocacy, magazine publishing and multimedia platforms, BASS offers the industry's widest array of services and support to its nearly 530,000 members. The organization is headquartered in Celebration, Fla.
Source: bassmaster.com (2007-06-21)
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