VanDam’s Favorite Lure for Florida

May 20, 2024
Major League Fishing (MLF)

It was a 19-hour drive in his Toyota Tundra from Kalamazoo to the highly familiar waters of Florida’s Kissimmee Chain, but Kevin VanDam is feeling very much at home this week as he takes a tiny break from his pro tournament retirement to sit in second place after Day 1 of the MLF General Tire Heavy Hitters event, a special stand-alone event he qualified for last season.

“I’ve probably competed in about 30 events in Florida throughout my pro career. I’ve always enjoyed this state because the lakes are expansive and full of so much vegetation,” says VanDam. 

He actually notched one of his 29 mind-boggling career victories on Kissimmee’s Lake Toho in March of 2008 by ripping a Red Eye Shad from the submerged vegetation he treasures, and the submerged salad was certainly in play during Sunday’s opening round of the competition when a Strike King Thunder Cricket vibrating jig helped him land 13 bass totaling 40 pounds to sit second behind Jordan Lee. 

However, when asked to name his all-time favorite lure over thirty years of fishing in Florida, “KVD” chose a swim jig. 

“It doesn’t matter where you go in Florida, from Okeechobee to the St. Johns River and the Kissimmee and Harris Chains in between, a swim jig has proven to be my all-time best lure for covering a ton of water and catching above-average-sized fish in this state,” says VanDam. 

Sure, a soft stick bait like a Senko or Strike King Ocho catches thousands of Florida bass each year, but VanDam says it’s the snag-free speed and efficiency a swim jig offers that makes him call it his all-time favorite lure for Florida.

White, along with black-blue, are the two swim jig colors he leans on most, with green pumpkin sunfish serving as a backup option. If he’s trying to keep the jig super shallow around lily pads or Kissimmee grass, he uses a lighter 1/4 -ounce, but if he wants it to hunt slightly deeper over submerged eel grass, he’ll tie on a 3/8 ounce. 

A Strike King Rage Craw matched to the color of the jig skirt is always his trailer. He spools up with 50-pound braid, on a somewhat speedy 7.5:1 Lew’s reel and 7’ 4” medium-heavy action rod. 

“I can’t say a swim jig will be my primary lure this week on Kissimmee, but you can bet I’ll have a couple ready to go on the front deck. It’s truly a lure that works in every season of the year in Florida. I’m definitely going to miss competing in Florida now that I’m retried. This state’s been special to me,” concludes VanDam.

It sure would be wildly special if “The GOAT” found a way to win this – his final ever pro-level event – in a state that’s been as much a treasure to his unparalleled career as the swim jigs he’s often counted on to carry the load in the Sunshine State.