June 19, 2005

VanDam does it again at Wissota E-50

e50054-4.jpg2005 Bassmaster Elite 50 Series - Chippewa Falls, Wis.

Chippewa Falls, Wis. - When you say Elite 50 champion, only one name comes to mind: Kevin VanDam of Kalamazoo, Mich. VanDam's final round tally of 3 bass weighing 6 pounds, 5 ounces gave him a total of 14 pounds, 12 ounces - more than 2 pounds better than his close friend and tournament trail roommate Davy Hite of Prosperity, S.C. The Elite 50 points championship was VanDam's second in the trail's two-year history.

The Kalamazoo Kid was already guaranteed a berth in the CITGO Bassmaster Classic in Pittsburgh, July 29-31, but Hite's strong performance in the Elite 50s this season was necessary to send the 1999 Classic winner back to the world championship of bass fishing. The top 10 pros in the Elite 50 points standings will all earn trips to both the 2005 Classic in Pittsburgh and the 2006 Classic at a site to be announced on BassCenter on Sunday, June 19, at 6:30 p.m. ET on ESPN.

"This tournament was the most mentally draining I've been in for some time," VanDam said. "I used the skills I learned growing up as a boy in Michigan. The fish are mostly feeding on insects after the spawn, and we don't have a lot of things that look like what they're feeding on. Keeping a bait in the strike zone for as long as possible will generate a reaction strike, and that's what I was doing - casting a Strike King Zero (Cyberflex jerkbait) and making precise casts."

VanDam's final round catch included the Purolator Big Bass of the day, a three-pound, three-ounce bass that struck his Zero.

For his efforts, VanDam earned a $100,000 payday, his second consecutive Elite 50 points title and automatic berths in the 2005 and 2006 Classics. It was also his second consecutive Elite 50 tournament win. Earlier this month, VanDam won the Elite 50 event at Lewisville Lake in Texas in convincing fashion.

While VanDam further established his stature at the hottest BASS pro on the circuit, Hite rode his final round Busch Heavyweight catch of 8-12 into second place at Wissota and credited VanDam with much of his success.

"Kevin told me to fish really close to the cover near the shoreline and to slow my presentation way down for the largemouths," Hite said. "The smallmouths would hit a fast retrieve, but the largemouths had to be enticed. I'm glad I listened to him because those fish were there and took my floating worm worked in and around the weeds."

The rest of the field found the fishing too tough for their liking. Texas' Zell Rowland finished third with 8-11, 2004 Classic champ Takahiro Omori and Florida pro Shaw Grigsby tied for fourth with 6-13, and 2002 Classic champ Jay Yelas finished sixth with 5-5. Both Omori and Yelas zeroed in the final round.

The Elite 50 series represents the final opportunity for BASS pros to qualify for the Bassmaster Classic. Significantly, Hite (3rd in Elite 50 points), Rowland (4th), Illinois' Chad Morgenthaler (tied for 7th), Texas' Dean Rojas (tied for 7th) and Arkansas' Larry Nixon (tied for 9th) all earned their tickets to Pittsburgh after the Wissota tournament.

Since VanDam (1st in Elite 50 points), 2003 Classic champ Michael Iaconelli (2nd), 2004 CITGO Bassmaster Angler of the Year Gerald Swindle (5th), 2005 Angler of the Year Aaron Martens (6th), and four-time Classic winner Rick Clunn (tied for 9th) were already otherwise qualified for the 2005 Classic, five additional BASS pros from the CITGO Bassmaster Tour will earn Classic berths.

The five are Missouri's Brian Snowden and Stacey D. King, Arkansas' Jimmy Mize, Washington's Luke Clausen and California's Greg Gutierrez.

Left out of the Classic by the slimmest of margins was 22-time qualifier Gary Klein of Texas. Klein was just six points out of the top 10 in the Elite 50 series less than the weight of a single good bass.

In the CastingKids competition, Ben Menches of La Valley, Wis., won the 7-10 age bracket with a score of 100, while Conner Hentz of Pardeeville, Wis., took top honors in the 11-14 group with a score of 90.

BASS Communications -June. 18, 2005

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Posted by DODGE at June 19, 2005 05:09 PM in Tournament (BASS)