Kevin Vandam’s Three Favorite Prespawn Search BaitsKevin Vandam’s Three Favorite Prespawn Search Baits Here is a look at VanDam’s top three search bait picks for prespawn bass.
By John Neporadny Jr.
Bass are on the move during the prespawn, so it’s crucial to use a lure that covers water quickly to find these fish.
Whether he is fishing the grass lakes of the south or the rocky reservoirs of the Midwest, bass fishing superstar Kevin VanDam relies on search baits to find prespawn bass transitioning from the deep to the shallows. His lure choices for intercepting prespawn bass en route to the spawning banks depend on water clarity, cover and depth he will be fishing.
Here is a look at VanDam’s top three search bait picks for prespawn bass.
“A jerkbait is my bait of choice when I am faced with a clear-water scenario,” VanDam says. “It’s a very efficient bait that I can parallel edges whether it is a weedline or a channel swing or a bluff point, those staging areas where prespawn bass are pulling up and getting ready to move into spawning flats.”
The Major League Fishing star relies on this lure in the spring because he knows it will draw bass from a long distance in clear water and it is considered a big bass bait. He typically uses a Strike King Deep Diving KVD Jerkbait in a clear highland impoundment such as Bull Shoals or Table Rock where he wants the lure to dive deeper when he is fishing over 20 to 30 feet of water. On shallower grass reservoirs such as Guntersville or natural lakes in his home state of Michigan he relies more on the Strike King KVD Jerkbait that dives to 5 or 6 feet.
His jerkbait color choices are based on water clarity. If the water has a light stain he opts for brighter colors. In crystal clear water he picks natural colors such as Pro Blue or Crystal Shad.
Water temperature and the stage of prespawn bass determine how VanDam retrieves his jerkbait. In colder water, he employs a slower retrieve toning down his twitching cadence and using longer pauses. “As it gets warmer and closer to the spawn I am going to pick up the pace with my retrieve which will allow me to fish a little bit faster,” he says. The key to his retrieve is twitching the lure with slack in the line to create an erratic side-to-side action on the bait. He works the jerkbait on a 6-foot, 10-inch medium-heavy Quantum Tour KVD Casting Rod and a high-speed baitcast reel filled with 10- to 12-pound fluorocarbon line.
“A lipless is great for covering a lot of flats,” VanDam says. “If I am on a lake with lots of vegetation, for sure it is a go-to during the prespawn. The flat sides on it and the rattle make it well known as being very efficient for catching prespawn bass.” He notes even in lakes without grass it can be effective when the fish are moving out of the deep water towards the spawning flats because the lure allows him to cover “a ton of water very efficiently” and it effectively fishes a depth zone from zero to 8 feet.
The Michigan pro favors the Strike King Red Eyed Shad for his lipless crankbait presentations. He frequently fishes the 1/2-ounce model and the Tungsten 2-Tap version because it is slightly heavier than the original Red Eyed Shad so he can run it deeper. He also likes the unique sound of the 2-Tap model. If he wants to fish deeper than 8 feet, VanDam switches to the 3/4-ounce Red Eyed Shad.
VanDam notes red is a legendary lipless crankbait color to throw in the spring but he also likes to try crawfish and bream patterns during the prespawn. If the water is dirty he will use a chartreuse model. Gold is a favorite color of VanDam’s for slightly stained to clear water.
The Red Eyed Shad is ideal for the pull-and-drop retrieve VanDam employs because the lure has a shimmy action on the fall. During his retrieve, VanDam pulls his rod to the side rather than lifting it straight up so the lure remains close to the bottom. “It is very important to make sure the bait is down on the bottom,” he says. “If you are reeling it and you are not hitting anything, you need to stop and let the bait fall.”
His lipless crankbait gear consists of a 7-foot Quantum Tour KVD Crankin Rod and a 5.3:1 gear ratio baitcast reel. When he is fishing shallow flats and grass, VanDam runs his Red Eyed Shad on 17-pound fluorocarbon, but he scales down to 10-pound test when fishing in deeper water.
VanDam lists the spinnerbait as an “incredible bait because I can control its depth.”
Lake levels frequently rise in the spring and flood shoreline bushes so VanDam favors a spinnerbait in this situation to slow roll around the bushes. He can also pitch the blade bait around docks and run it through grass. The lure is also a proven big bass catcher.
The four-time Bassmaster Classic champion relies on a 3/8-ounce spinnerbait with double Colorado blades for targeting shallow flooded cover. He opts for 1/2- or 3/4-ounce models with a Colorado and willowleaf blade combination for fishing transition banks near deep water. When fishing grass in clear water he slow rolls a double willowleaf spinnerbait but switches to a double Colorado model in dirtier water.
VanDam’s preferred spinnerbait skirt colors for prespawn bass are white, white-and-chartreuse and shad patterns. He also selects bluegill pattern skirts for fishing in gin clear water. His blade color choices include a silver-and-gold combination most of the time, although he will use two silver blades for clear water and gold or white blades for dirty water.
A slow to medium speed retrieve produces best for VanDam’s spinnerbait tactics. “I slow roll a spinnerbait a lot,” he says. “Even if I am fishing in 2 feet of water I just use a lighter bait with a double Colorado and keep it closer to the targets longer, but if I am fishing deeper grass it’s pretty much a slow roll.”
The key to his retrieve is to run the lure slightly above the cover whether it’s the tops of grass or limbs of a laydown log. “It is all about keeping that bait just above the bass’ line of sight or the depth you think they are,” he says. VanDam retrieves his spinnerbait on 20-pound fluorocarbon with a 7-4 heavy action Quantum Tour KVD Casting Rod and a 6.6:1 gear ratio baitcast reel.
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