It’s been an impressive tournament for VanDam. Yesterday’s limit of 24 pounds, two ounces included the new lake record largemouth bass, a behemoth that tipped the scales at 11 pounds, 13 ounces. Today’s limit was paltry in comparison at 15 pounds, 14 ounces, but it was still the best catch of the day and also included the day’s biggest bass, a five pound, 10 ounce largemouth.
If there’s a silver lining to starting over from scratch, it’s that VanDam, as the leader going into the third round, is entitled to pick which “hole” on the six-hole course he’ll start the day.
“Tomorrow will be totally different,” VanDam said. “The key out there will be adaptation. I’m glad to be leading this tournament because I get to pick which hole to start in.
VanDam caught his fish early today, which gave him the luxury of spending time in the area where the top 12 anglers will be fishing tomorrow.
“I must have spent half my fishing time running through the course today,” VanDam said. “We all know the format, and by being the leader, I definitely gain an advantage.”
It’s been a year of close calls for VanDam as he has yet to break through with a tournament win. The Elite 50 format has been particularly frustrating in that regard. Dating back to 2004 and the inception of the tournament series, VanDam has made the cut to 12 in all seven Elite 50s, but has yet to win.
“I’ve been close a few times,” VanDam said. “I really want to win against this competition because it’s the best in the business.”
By having the day’s best catch, VanDam earned Busch Heavyweight honors for the second day in a row. The same is true of Purolator Big Bass honors. For his efforts, VanDam earned an extra $1,000 for each today, giving him a two-day total of $4,000 in bonus money..
Though he’s been catching some big bass and is best known for his power fishing tactics, VanDam has been finesse fishing at Lewisville. His primary bait has been a six-inch Strike King 3X finesse worm on a 3/16-oz. jighead. He’s throwing the rig on eight-pound test Bass Pro Shops fluorocarbon line and spinning tackle.
“I’m fishing it excruciatingly slowly,” said VanDam, who is known for fishing very fast. “The Cyberflex worm is so buoyant that the tail dances every time I twitch the jighead. I’m just tempting and teasing them until they bite.”
Trailing VanDam is 2003 CITGO Bassmaster Classic Champ Michael Iaconelli who found himself in VanDam’s shoes at the last Elite 50 event on Arkansas’ Lake Dardanelle. Like VanDam, Ike had the best catches on both of the first two days, but after weights were zeroed for the third round, he stumbled just enough to drop out of the top spot and finished second.
“This format is as close to pure fishing as we have,” Iaconelli said. “It all evens out in the end. Last week I lost my lead after two days, but this week I’m tied for first.”
Iaconelli’s Day Two limit weighed 12 pounds, giving him a two-day total of 27-6. He caught all of his fish using finesse tactics. Unlike VanDam, who had the luxury of checking out the course during fishing hours, Iaconelli had to rush out after the weigh in to take a look.
In third place behind Iaconelli is Oklahoma’s Edwin Evers with 27-1. Evers took his fish pitching and flipping a white 3 1/2-inch Bass Pro Shops flipping tube to bass that were suspended under boat docks. Much like VanDam, Evers spent a good deal of his day scoping out the six-hole course.
“The course has some good fish in it, but not a lot of boat docks like I’ve been fishing” Evers said. “I caught some big fish early, so I had the luxury of checking it out. I’m excited about the fresh start tomorrow.”
Rounding out the top 12 and qualifying for the third round are Oklahoma’s Kenyon Hill (26-3), 2005 CITGO Angler of the Year Aaron Martens (26-1), 2004 CITGO Angler of the Year Gerald Swindle (25-10), North Carolina’s Dustin Wilks (25-7), Alabama’s Randy Howell (25-4), Kentucky’s Kevin Wirth (25-2), Washington’s Luke Clausen (24-12), Missouri’s Brian Snowden (24-10) and 1983 CITGO Bassmaster Classic champ Larry Nixon (24-5).
No Texans made the cut to 12, though Emory’s Takahiro Omori and Mineola’s Kelly Jordan were 13th and 14th respectively.
The 12 qualifiers will start on an even playing field as they fish the six-hole course tomorrow. Anglers will spend an hour and ten minutes in each hole and an additional “happy hour” fishing the hole of their choice.
Regardless of where any of the anglers finish in the standings, they all earn a check in the Elite 50 events. First place will receive $100,000. From there, the prize money gradually scales back until even the 50th place angler gets $5,000.
The anglers will launch at 10:00 a.m. at Sneaky Pete’s for the two remaining days of the tournament. Weigh-ins will be held at 7:00 p.m. at Lake Lewisville Park.
Part one of the Bassmaster Elite 50 Series event on Lake Lewisville will be telecast on The CITGO Bassmasters on Saturday, June 11 at 10:00 a.m. ET on ESPN2. Part two will air on Saturday June 18 at 10:00 a.m. ET on ESPN2.
BASS is the world's largest fishing organization, sanctioning more than 20,000 tournaments worldwide through its Federation. The CITGO Bassmaster Tournament Trail, which includes the Bassmaster Elite 50 series, is the oldest and most prestigious pro bass fishing tournament circuit and continues to set the standard for credibility, professionalism and sportsmanship as it has since 1968.
Sponsors of the Bassmaster Elite 50 Series include CITGO Petroleum Corp., Toyota, Busch Beer, Purolator, Triton Boats, Mercury Marine, Berkley, Lowrance Electronics, MotorGuide, Bass Pro Shops and Cialis (tadalafil).
Local Sponsors include the Lewisville Visitors Bureau.
For more information, contact BASS Communications at (407) 566-2208 or visit www.bassmaster.com.