VanDam Wins Bassmaster Classic Bass Fishing Tournament On The Louisiana Delta
Michigan Pro Captures 31st BASS Masters Classic
NEW ORLEANS, La. (August 4, 2001) - Three-time B.A.S.S. Angler of the Year Kevin VanDam will no longer be known as the best professional bass fisherman never to win a major after Saturday when he held on to win the prestigious BASS Masters Classic bass fishing tournament on the Louisiana Delta in New Orleans.
Bass fishing welcomed its newest king on a day when the sport ushered in a new era with unprecedented same-day coverage by media giant ESPN. Never before had the Classic been brought into millions of homes of fishing fans with the dynamic look and feel of a Sunday afternoon NFL game.
The Michigan pro brought five bass weighing 10 pounds, 14 ounces to the weigh-in stage in the Louisiana Superdome Saturday before more than 22,000 spectators. His three-day total of 32-5 proved to be 1 pound and 1 ounce better than the effort of Arkansas' Scott Rook.
An elated VanDam took home the biggest title in competitive fishing, $100,000, and the opportunity to milk his latest heroics for as much as $1 million in residual earnings as the sport's champion for the next year.
"This is so awesome," said VanDam, 33, who broke though in his 11th consecutive Classic appearance. "Except for when my kids were born, this is probably the happiest moment of my life.
"I have been so close in this tournament, and I've been let down so many times. I've had trouble getting the job done. I was so wound up today, and determined to make this one happen."
VanDam's success came on two lures made by Strike King: 1/2-ounce black, blue and purple Strike King Premier Elite jig (with a Zoom Super Chunk trailer; and a Wild Thing soft-plastic creature-type bait. Both were tied to 25-pound test Bass Pro Shops XPS Fluorocarbon line.
"Today was a really tough day for me," VanDam said. "It was probably the most mentally draining day I can remember. But I just worked as hard as I could and covered a lot of water."
Rook, a 40-year-old tackle store manager from Little Rock, finished second in just his second Classic appearance with 31-04. He shared the same area with VanDam, but scored on a Mizmo tubejig on 20-pound test Berkley Big Game line.
"I'm happy, but I'm also disappointed, " Rook said. "Coming in second is a long way from being the Classic champion."
First-round leader David Walker of Kentucky finished third with 31-03 on the strength of a 3/4-ounce Gambler Ninja jig teamed with a Flex Chunk trailer on 25-pound Stren monofilament. Walker gambled on a 125-mile run to the Venice area each day, where he fished the wind-blown mouth of the Mississippi River at the Gulf of Mexico.
"(Tropical Storm) Barry just totally messed up my area and even made it hard to fish," Walker said. "But it was a good area that was worth gambling on."
Veteran Texas pro Harold Allen finished fourth with 27-10, followed by fellow Texan Todd Faircloth and Gerald Swindle of Alabama both with 26-11.
Mississippi's Paul Elias took Saturday's big-bass honors with a 4-pound, 7-ounce largemouth.
The Classic contenders fished for a $100,000 top prize and the most important title in the sport. Winning the Classic is the high-water mark in professional fishing and an accomplishment that has rewarded past winners with as much as $1 million in residual earnings. The Classic is the championship event of the Tournament Trail.