VanDam Leads Elite Series Bass Fishing Tournament on Kissimmee Chain


LAKE WALES, Fla. -- While a strong wind frustrated the field Saturday, a familiar face leaped to the top of the leaderboard with three days of consistent fishing. Kevin VanDam, of Kalamazoo, Mich., has the advantage going into the final day of the Bassmaster Elite Series Citrus Slam bass fishing tournament at the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes with 49 pounds, 1 ounce overall after a five-fish limit on Day 3 weighing 13 pounds, 6 ounces.
   On Saturday, the three-time Bassmaster Angler of the Year changed strategies, as the wind made boat positioning difficult. He wasn't able to fish thoroughly in small spots of isolated offshore grass in 7-10 feet of water on Lake Tohopekaliga, as he had done Thursday and Friday.
   "I'm not a big believer in luck, but I've been very fortunate," said VanDam, who has 12 career BASS wins. "The first day it was real calm and slick. The second day was a little bit tougher. I did get a big bite, and I got a big bite today. Fortunately, I landed both of those fish, and that's why I'm in the position that I am right now."
   Scott Rook of Little Rock, Ark., stuck with fishing hydrilla in Lake Kissimmee in 2-3 feet of water, which proved successful enough to move him from fifth to second place, also with 13-6 Saturday for a total of 47 pounds, 0 ounces. Ray Sedgwick, of Cross, S.C., hauled himself from 20th place to third with a limit of 18-4 for an overall 46-4, and Bill Lowen of North Bend, Ohio, took fourth with 44-12.
   Day 2 leader Kelly Jordon of Mineola, Texas, came in Saturday without a bag, but his solid two-day total of 44-3 put him in fifth place, well within the cutoff of the top 12 anglers who will fish Sunday. Day 1 leader Byron Velvick of Del Rio, Texas, fell to 15th with 39-8.
   "I didn't have as many big bedders," Jordon said of his luck Saturday after bags weighing 22-14 and 21-5 the first two days, respectively. "I had one big one, and I never could see it because the waves were coming in on it because of the wind. So then I fished some other ways I had been catching them, and I didn't have a bite in an hour, and I thought, 'Man, I can run down to Kissimmee and catch a limit.' "
   Jordon said he ran from Lake Toho to Lake Kissimmee, fished for three hours and came up empty.
   Butch Tucker of Georgia went wire to wire to win the co-angler division and the top prize of $25,000 with a three-day total of 26 pounds, 10 ounces.
   With a victory Sunday, VanDam, the Elite Series' all-time money leader, would claim the $100,000 first-place prize, bringing his BASS career earnings to more than $2.7 million.
   Local favorite Bobby Lane of Lakeland, who has remained steady through three days, is 10th with 41-7. The 2008 Bassmaster Classic champion, Alton Jones, also made the cut, coming in ninth Saturday with an overall weight of 41-9, while 2007 Bassmaster Angler of the Year Skeet Reese wound up in 22nd for the tournament with 37-3.
   Elite pros are building points in the Bassmaster Angler of the Year race. The winner of the season long points competition will earn $250,000 and the standings will determine 36 qualifiers for the 2009 Bassmaster Classic.

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