When it comes to fishing deep in the summer, Strike King pro Kevin VanDam says water clarity and baitfish determine which lures he’ll throw. But he has a variety tied on depending on what he sees and how the bass act.
“Shad are the focus,” he says. “I’m not saying bass don’t still eat a lot of crawfish because they do. But when I pull up to a ledge I’m looking for shad, and I want to pick a crankbait color based on the water clarity.
“You want to pick a color that’s going to be visible yet the most natural for the situation,” he says. If the water’s stained, he likes chartreuse sexy shad or chartreuse/powder blue back. If it’s clear, he likes to have a more natural color like Tennessee shad.
When it comes to baits, “you have to have the XD line of crankbaits,” he says, specifically the Strike King 5XD, 6XD and 10XD. “For the 6XD and 5XD, I like to have both the silent versions and rattling versions ready to throw,” he notes. “When a school quits biting, a lot of times you can get them fired up again by throwing the other version.”
“You also definitely have to have a Strike King Tour Grade Football Jig tied on, or a Denny Brauer Structure Jig, matched with a Rage Craw trailer,” Kevin says. “If the water’s clear, I’ll use green pumpkin. If it’s dirtier, I’ll use black/blue or Texas craw.
“I also like to have a big worm tied on,” he adds. “My favorite is the 10-inch Rage Tail Rage Thumper worm. I also like to have a Strike King Ribbon Tail worm too, but I really like the Thumper.”
Color-wise, if the water’s clear he’ll fish green pumpkin or watermelon/red flake. If the water’s dirty, he’ll fish plum, blue fleck, junebug or red shad.
“Other than that,” Kevin says, “I’m always going to have a 5-inch sexy shad Sexy Spoon tied on, and I’ll always have a Strike King Shadalicious [swimbait] rigged on a jighead. If I think the bass are targeting smaller shad, I’ll use the 4.5-inch size. If they’re bigger, then I’ll use 5.5-inch and even 6.5-inch.
“One other thing I’ll have tied on is a 1 3/8-oz Bottom Dweller spinnerbait. Strike King makes a 3/4-oz and 1-oz, but I like the heavy one because it allows me to fish the bait even faster.” His favorite colors are chartreuse/white if the water’s stained, and blue shad if it’s clear.
He doesn’t use a trailer on the spinnerbait.
“With all of these lures, one of the key things I’m going to do when fishing them is vary my [retrieve] speed,” Kevin says.
“With the crankbaits, I’ll speed up and slow down. With the jig, I’ll drag it along then snatch it. Changes in speed and direction really help generate strikes.
“Color-wise, a general rule is if I can see a bait down 3 feet or more, I start thinking about using more clear or natural colors. If it’s less than 3 feet, I’ll use brighter colors.”