B.A.S.S. superstar Kevin VanDam knows that anything he can do to be more efficient on the water will turn into more casts for him and increase his chances of winning a tournament.
So organizing his boat becomes a key factor for VanDam to optimize his time on the water. “The most important thing is to know exactly where everything is at, whether it’s a spare trolling motor sheer pin or your favorite plastic worm,” VanDam says. “I have watched guys scrambling around their boat looking for a certain plastic color and unsure whether it is in the front or the back. So I stay consistent with how I (organize the boat) for that reason. I could go right to it immediately if you ask me to get a 3/8-ounce chartreuse-and-white Strike King KVD spinnerbait with double gold Colorado blades.”
VanDam adheres to the Boy Scout motto of being prepared, so he has his Nitro Z9 bass boat loaded with plenty of lures, extra tackle, tools, spare parts, and even a spare trolling motor. He would probably carry a spare outboard motor if he had room for it. “I try to have a backup for every piece of equipment on the boat,” he says.
A tour of the storage compartments of VanDam’s Z9 reveals his system for organizing lures, tackle, and equipment for a tournament.
On the front deck, the Nitro has a large center storage box right behind the pedestal seat in which VanDam stores Plano 3700 boxes filled with lures that he probably won’t use much throughout the day. Bulkier items such as soft plastics in small pouches are also stored in this box. The pouches contain individual bags of soft plastics divided into various lure styles such as rodents, finesse worms, etc.
The Z9 also features two split storage boxes behind the large center box. “I will rotate stuff around from the front box to the rear box based on what I plan fishing that day,” VanDam says. “So the stuff I focus on the most for that day will be in those two split boxes.”
The four-time Bassmaster Classic champ fills the split compartments with Plano utility boxes and soft tackle bags loaded with lures, hooks, sinkers, and other terminal tackle he might need throughout the day. He also keeps a box with spinnerbait blades and components in this storage area. “The great thing that makes it very easy for me is that Plano has the widest choices of tackle organization boxes,” VanDam says. “They have a solution that will fit any storage compartment in any size and shape for whatever kind of tackle you have.”
VanDam mainly uses his starboard rod locker as a storage area for extra equipment, including a spare trolling motor. “I keep the trolling motor padded in extra life jackets too, and I keep my rain suit in there,” VanDam says. The Michigan pro also stores some backup rods in this compartment.
The rest of his rod-and-reel combos are stored in the port-side rod locker. “I always have a minimum of 15 rods in there, and most of the time, I will keep 25 to start the day.” Since the compartment doesn’t have enough rod tubes to store 25 rods, VanDam wraps each rod in a rod glove. This allows him to insert more rods into each tube without the rod tips tangling up in the tube.
The Z9 has pullout bins on both consoles that VanDam fills with a variety of smaller items. “In one, I keep extra spools of fishing line, and in the other one, I keep my phone, sunglasses, wallet, and stuff like that,” he says. There are also cubbyholes on the front deck where VanDam stores his pliers, clippers, scissors, line conditioner, and scents.
The rear starboard compartment behind the driver’s seat is used for storing VanDam’s Plano satchels full of bulk soft plastics. “Depending on the size and shape of the soft plastic, I will put them in different sizes of satchels (capable of holding 40 to 50 single bags of soft plastics),” VanDam says. He believes storing the bags in the larger satchels prevents the baits from getting squished, which helps keep the integrity of the shapes of the soft plastics.
The rear port side compartment holds a flare kit, ski goggles, prop wrench, extra tools, and spare parts. He keeps the compartment half-filled if he has a partner who needs to store some gear.
VanDam also uses the battery compartment on the rear deck for storage. He notes the Z9 has two removable trays on top of the compartment where the tournament competitor stores spare trolling motor props (two-and three-blade models), ropes, marker buoys, a spare trolling motor rope, spare nuts, and more tools.
“Everybody’s boat is a little bit different, so you want to customize your tackle organization to match that,” VanDam says. “It amazes me that anybody would not know where every piece of tackle is in their boat.”
When you are on the clock, knowing where that bag of watermelon/red flaked finesse worms is in the boat could give you those extra casts needed to finish your limit and earn a check.