To be held Feb. 24-26, 2006, at Lake Tohopekaliga in Kissimmee, Fla., the CITGO Bassmaster Classic is moving to an earlier time of year and to a lake VanDam believes will offer close competition for anglers and exciting viewing for spectators.
“I think it’s going to be a great Classic,” said the Kalamazoo, Mich., angler. “It’s such a hotbed for bass fishing in the area anyway, and we all know that Toho is one of the best lakes in the country.”
In 2001, CITGO Bassmaster Elite Series angler Dean Rojas set the BASS tournament record for heaviest single-day catch by boating 45 pounds, two ounces of bass on Lake Toho. He also set the BASS four-day tournament record for heaviest weight with 108-12.
But like all successful pro BASS anglers, VanDam studies patterns and trends of lakes and regions and knows a late February Bassmaster Classic in Florida presents prime fishing conditions. “By that time of year, hopefully the majority of the spawn will be done, and those big fish will be feeding up and getting ready for summer, and be in big schools,” said VanDam.
At the 2005 Classic in Pittsburgh, anglers struggled to catch largemouth bass, but VanDam staged a dramatic win. “Last year was an extremely tough tournament,” he said. “The bite was really tough and it was hard to catch a keeper. At Toho, it’s going to be the exact opposite. Catching fish isn’t going to be the problem, it’s going to be catching big fish.”
VanDam scored his first CITGO Bassmaster Classic win in 2001, but then hit a dry spell in BASS events. He broke it with two consecutive wins prior to the Pittsburgh win in 2005. He said he knows where his accomplishments in the Classic rank among other career successes.
“Without a doubt the second one means a lot more to me,” he said. “After winning one and going through everything, I know the magnitude of what winning the Classic is. So the second time, I truly appreciated all of those things and what it meant to me personally.”
BASS is the worldwide authority on bass fishing, sanctioning more than 20,000 events through the BASS Federation annually. Guided by its mission to serve all fishing fans, BASS sets the standard for credibility, professionalism, sportsmanship and conservation, as it has for nearly 40 years.
BASS stages bass fishing tournaments for every skill level and culminates with the CITGO Bassmaster Classic. Through its clubs, youth programs, aquatic resource advocacy, magazine publishing and multimedia platforms, BASS offers the industry’s widest array of services and support to its nearly 550,000 members. The organization is headquartered in Celebration, Fla.
For more information, call BASS Communications at 407-566-2208. To join BASS, visit www.bassmaster.com or call 1-800-BASS-USA.