Tuesday, January 31st, 2023
Tuesday, January 31st, 2023

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VanDam finds success in New York bass fishing hotspot, too

Waddington, N.Y. — In a fishing hole generally regarded as one of the finest bass hotspots in the country, perhaps it’s only fitting the man who’s arguably the greatest bass angler of all time won the Bassmaster Elite Series event last month on the St. Lawrence River.

And while Kevin VanDam obliterated the field with a four-day weight total of 90 pounds, 3 ounces, a New York angler continued to make his mark during his rookie season on the Elite circuit.

Jamie Hartman of Newport, N.Y., moved from 11th place into seventh on the final day with a solid five-fish limit of 18 pounds, 9 ounces. His four-day total of 78-12 earned him $13,000 and marked his fourth top 12 finish this season.

He heads to the next stop – on Lake Champlain, another water he knows intimately – brimming with confidence.

But it was VanDam’s dominating performance that had everyone talking. He finished eight full pounds ahead of runner-up Brock Mosley of Mississippi, and he did it all with smallmouth bass.

VanDam took the lead with a hefty 23-pound, 12-ounce limit and never looked back, walking off with the $100,000 top prize and a few thousand more in special awards, including the big bass of the week, a 6-pound, 5-ounce smallmouth.

His four-day total of just over 90 pounds is the highest ever recorded by an angler weighing in only smallmouths, and the cash prizes from the St. Lawrence event pushed his career B.A.S.S. winnings to over $6.2 million.

“I fished my very first B.A.S.S. tournament here on the St. Lawrence River in 1987,” said VanDam, who earned his B.A.S.S.-record 24th victory. “Someone told me today that this is my 300th tournament with B.A.S.S., and I had no idea. So, all of that makes this really special.”

VanDam boated his smallmouths using a variety of lures, but his main technique was drop-shotting with a chartreuse Strike King Dream Shot in strong current.

“I was fishing it just as fast as I could,” he said. “I’d bomb it out there, let it hit the bottom, shake it once and one would just load up on it. That’s how I caught that 24 pounds the first day. But I had to mix it up every day.”

On the tournament’s final day, VanDam used a “spybait” when the winds were blowing and it was difficult to fish a bait on the bottom.

Maybe the VanDam victory shouldn’t have been a surprise: he also recorded victories in B.A.S.S. events on the St. Lawrence River in 1995 and 1999.

With the victory, VanDam moved into third place in the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings. Idaho pro Brandon Palaniuk took the lead with 621 points and received a $1,000 contingency award from Toyota as the current leader.

He is followed in the Angler of the Year standings by South Carolina pro Casey Ashley with 613 and VanDam with 604.

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