KVD: From Fifty To a Few

Kevin VanDam is no stranger to Lay Lake, the playing field for 2024 REDCREST, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a professional angler with more experience in early spring championship tournaments than KVD. The Team Toyota pro famously won the Bassmaster Classic on Lay Lake back in 2010 and he’s won or finished in the top 10 of more springtime championships than any other angler in history.

Even with his past and familiarities, VanDam said he rigged nearly 50 rod and reel set ups before loading up his Tundra to make the drive from Michigan for official REDCREST practice. That’s a lot for anyone, and VanDam admitted this was more than what he would typically rig for a tournament.

“New technology has opened up where and how we can catch tournament winning fish like never before,” VanDam said. “You couple that with it being spring, a time of constant change and movement for bass, I wanted to be prepared for just about anything when I got to Lay Lake.”

While this may be the final championship event for the consensus greatest tournament bass angler of all time, VanDam approached REDCREST practice the same way he has throughout his entire storied career. His goal was to eliminate unproductive water and narrow down his set ups to ideally just a few techniques or patterns he believes can win this tournament.

This sounds simple enough, but how exactly does KVD do this in just three days of official practice with over 12,000 acres of water to breakdown? VanDam said he had a solid practice and has dialed in his approach for day one, but the conditions are lining up in such a way he knows he needs to keep his options open.

“Water clarity, water temperature, current schedule, and the weather forecast are some of the very first things I considered when I launched my boat on Sunday,” VanDam explained. “Factoring in these details immediately starts to point me in the right direction of how I need to fish REDCREST. Each piece of the puzzle helps narrow my approach and will hopefully help put me into a position to win this weekend.

“There are lots of other clues like where and what baitfish are doing or what types of cover the bass are setting up around. I also still inspect every fish I catch this time of year, too. Looking at the color of the fish to help me decide if they are coming or going, checking inside their mouths looking for signs of what they’ve been eating. It’s a little old school, but each subtlety provides more information that could make all the difference.”

While he saw plenty of fish still staging in deeper water, VanDam believes a large population of the bass in Lay Lake are starting to think about the spawn and wanting to push shallow. For this reason, KVD said he didn’t quite whittle his fifty rods down to just a few, because he believes the fish will continue to change each day of competition. But he’s narrowed down his offerings enough to be confident heading into day one of the Qualifying Round.

VanDam and his team announced the next chapter of his career today, The VanDam Experience, a TV show that will air on the Outdoor Channel in 2025, but don’t think for a second he is calling it in or cutting any corners. The same competitive fire that propelled KVD throughout his legendary 33-years as a tournament angler burns hot for REDCREST 2024.

Just like he did with his rod and reel combos, VanDam intends to be among the few anglers remaining from the full field of fifty when the Championship Round starts on Sunday.