Bass Pro Shops angler Kevin VanDam of Kalamazoo, Michigan, promised that MLF NOW! ® livestream viewers would see fireworks on Lake Chickamauga, Wednesday, and the man most consider the G.O.A.T. of professional bass fishing did not disappoint. VanDam caught 25 bass weighing 70 pounds, 1 ounce to win the Major League Fishing (MLF) Bass Pro Tour B&W Trailer Hitches Stage Four Presented by ATG by Wrangler at Lake Chickamauga in Dayton, Tennessee, and earn the top prize of $100,000.
It was a tight five-angler race to start the third and final period of competition but VanDam quickly pulled away, boating a dozen scorable bass weighing 34 pounds, 2 ounces, in just 30 minutes. VanDam won by a 6-pound, 10-ounce margin over second-place pro Jacob Wheeler, who caught 24 bass totaling 63 pounds, 7 ounces, good for $45,000.
“That last period – to get on a flurry like that. Man, that was incredible,” said VanDam, who pushed his career earnings to more than $6.9 million. “Any time you can have that kind of day fishing is special, but to do it on the last day of a Bass Pro Tour event is pretty dang awesome. This (trophy) was something that I’ve really wanted since we started this, so today was a pretty special day for me.”
VanDam earned his victory this week on Lake Chickamauga doing what he loves to do – fishing the deep Tennessee River ledges.
“I found those fish in practice and when I hit that school, I knew that I’d really found something special,” VanDam said. “I just had to wait for that window when the current gets just right and when it happened, it was magical.
“I caught fish on a lot of different baits this week, but far and away the Strike King Series 5 (green gizzard) and Strike King 5XD (blue gizzard shad) crankbaits were my money baits, all week long,” VanDam continued. “I fished them on my signature system – a Lew’s CC4 Cranking rod paired with a Lew’s BB1 Pro reel , 12-pound Bass Pro XPS fluorocarbon line, and I threw a couple of No. 2 Mustad Triple Grip (treble hooks) on there. I was fishing the bait real fast and really making the fish react to it, even when they didn’t want to bite.”
“My confidence was through the roof today,” VanDam said. “I had all of the tools that I needed. My whole system – my boat, my electronics, my rods, my reels, my hooks – it’s a whole system that I’ve developed over the past 31 years and I was really able to showcase them today.
“I finished runner-up to (Jacob) Wheeler the last time we were here, so today was really gratifying,” VanDam went on to say. “To go against the field that I did – Wheeler, Jordan (Lee), Michael Neal and Jason Lambert – two Tennessee ledge hammers – and win is just really special. I’ve won a lot of events and I promise you this – you appreciate every win more than the last, because you never know when you’re going to get your next one. And you never know when it could be your last one.”
The top 10 pros at the Bass Pro Tour B&W Trailer Hitches Stage Four on Lake Chickamauga finished:
1st: Kevin VanDam, Kalamazoo, Mich., 25 bass, 70-1, $100,000
2nd: Jacob Wheeler, Harrison, Tenn., 24 bass, 63-7, $45,000
3rd: Jason Lambert, Michie, Tenn., 16 bass, 59-8, $38,000
4th: Michael Neal, Dayton, Tenn., 15 bass, 46-1, $32,000
5th: Brent Ehrler, Redlands, Calif., 14 bass, 40-13, $30,000
6th: Shinichi Fukae, Osaka, Japan, 15 bass, 36-13, $26,000
7th: Stephen Browning, Hot Springs, Ark., 10 bass, 25-3, $23,000
8th: Jordan Lee, Cullman, Ala., six bass, 17-4, $21,000
9th: Casey Ashley, Donalds, S.C., four bass, 13-13, $19,000
10th: Anthony Gagliardi, Prosperity, S.C., three bass, 10-11, $16,000
Overall, there were 132 bass weighing 383 pounds, 9 ounces caught by the final 10 pros on Wednesday.
VanDam and Lambert split Wednesday’s $1,000 Berkley Big Bass Award, each weighing a 6-pound, 5-ounce largemouth to split the prize. Favorite Fishing pro Matt Becker of Finleyville, Pennsylvania, earned the $3,000 Berkley Big Bass award for the largest bass of the event with his 8-pound, 12-ounce largemouth that he weighed on Day 5 of competition.