By Jonathan LePera
Special to BassFan
(Editor's Note: This is part 2 of a 3-part series highlighting how some pro bass anglers employ spoons and vertical presentations to trigger bass to bite during the summer and other times of the year. To read part 1 on JT Kenney's summertime tactics, click here. Also, in observation of the Independence Day holiday, a new First Cast article will not appear until Wednesday, July 5.)
Power-fishing is in Kevin VanDam’s DNA.
Whether he’s going down a bank with a jerkbait, spinnerbait or a square-bill crankbait, he’s a big fan of eliciting reaction strikes from largemouth. The same applies to scenarios when he’s fishing offshore.
Enter the Strike King Sexy Spoon.
“If you pull up on a ledge and you see bait up off the bottom and white bass and activity up off the bottom, I’m immediately thinking the spoon,” he said.
By using Humminbird Mega Imaging along with 360 imaging, he can easily see pods of bait. When fish suspend through the water column, he feels the spoon is the best way to fire those fish up.
He says Humminbird’s 360 Imaging is invaluable when working offshore because it takes much of the guesswork out of it.
“The 360 is good because you can see a stump on a ledge, or the pods of bait, and know the exact distance they are at,” he said. “It is critical. The guys that I know that use 360, when you are fishing structure, are always glued to it.”
Outside the Box
For VanDam, the spoon is a bait that can bat clean-up once pressured fish relating to offshore structure have seen their share of Carolina rigs, crankbaits and jigs.
Fall is one of those seasons when the spoon shines.
“It has a very erratic fluttering fall that is deadly when I have bass pinned down and know where they are at,” he said.
Summer is another time when the spoon can fire up fish that have lost interest in his crankbait.
“It’s really effective when bass suspend a lot in the summer or in the fall where they get up off the bottom around structure,” he added. “The presentation allows for you to fish it through the water column very efficiently and it has great triggering qualities.”
For VanDam, the spoon is a simple “chuck and wind” bait. He employs a couple of retrieves to get finicky largemouth to bite. Time and again he’s fished spots that went cold only to reignite the school with a spoon.
He’s marked fish on his electronics and dropped vertically on them, but primarily, he’ll cast the spoon. No surprise that he prefers to fish it forcefully.
“Most of the time I’m casting this to structure and I’m lifting and dropping it,” he said. “I’ve found that it seems to be more effective for me. I’m a little more aggressive with it. Instead of just a typical lift and drop, and active fish bite it just fine like that, I really snap it up pretty hard.”
While many BassFans are familiar with the yo-yo presentation of a spoon, VanDam often employs a seldom-mentioned retrieve that has yielded better quality bites.
He’ll burn the bait for a bit, then stop, letting it flutter back down to the bottom. He’s careful to not put tension on the line or let it fall on slack line either as doing the latter will make it tangle and there aren’t many bass that will hit a fouled lure.
VanDam uses a burn-and-kill retrieve to elicit strikes with a flutter spoon.
Keeping the proper line tension is pivotal to detecting the bite.
“I watch that line religiously,” he said. “You’ll see the line jump when they bite it. Sometimes they hit it really aggressively but a lot of times you don’t see a big jump in the line or anything like that but you will see a hesitation or a little tick.”
VanDam typically relies on the Strike King Sexy Spoon, which is available in 4- and 5 1/2-inch versions. He also upsizes the factory hooks to a 2/0 round-bend Mustad KVD Ultra Point treble. He’ll also add a small ball-bearing swivel on the split ring on the nose of the spoon.
“It’s tremendous to eliminate line twist,” he said. “I use a real small one so that it doesn’t hinder the fluttering action of the fall.”
VanDam opts for the larger spoon and always in the sexy shad pattern.
“I like to throw it on a big rod to get a lot of vertical coverage out of it during a presentation,” he said, adding that a 7-foot, 6-inch medium-heavy Quantum Tour KVD casting rod matched with a high-speed Quantum Smoke HD 200 casting reel is his preferred combo.
“A lot of times, when one bites it, they might bite it at the top of a rip and you need to catch up to them real quick,” he said.
He’ll throw 14- to 17-pound Bass Pro Shops XPS fluorocarbon line when targeting the 15- to 25-foot zone and 14-pound when fishing 12 to 17 feet. If the ledges are super shallow, he’ll bump up to 20-pound test.
“It’s a big-fish technique,” VanDam added. “It’s something that a lot of times you are fishing it around structure that has some cover on it. It might have some brush, some timber, and the 17-pound helps me not lose many baits.”