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Bass Pro Has “Best Day” in 33-Year Career on Cayuga Lake

June 6, 2023 • Joel Shangle • Bass Pro Tour

UNION SPRINGS, N.Y. – Even before the first baits went into the water on Day 1 of Favorite Fishing Stage Five Presented by ATG by Wrangler, you got the feeling that Cayuga Lake was a simmering powderkeg, waiting for the spark to set off the explosion.

Kaboom. Just over 14 minutes into the day, Michigan pro Kevin VanDam connected with his first smallmouth of the morning (a 4-pound, 10-ouncer). Within two hours of that first bite – before the first period was even over – VanDam had stacked five smallmouth onto SCORETRACKER® for 25-8. The winningest bass angler of all time would eventually finish the day with a smallmouth haul of 28-1.

VanDam’s five biggest fish weighed 6-8, 5-11, 5-9, 5-3 and 5-2, and he culled four fish that weighed between 4-7 and 4-13. According to VanDam, it was the best smallmouth tournament day of his 33-year career.

“This is just a tremendous fishery,” VanDam said. “It showed out last year when we were here in August – it surprised me a little then, that offshore bite. I missed that a little. But I (know) the Northern spawn in the spring, I’ve been fishing it my whole life. I know these Northern-tier regions and what phase these fish are in.”

The phase that VanDam parlayed was the smallmouth spawn, dedicating his morning to working on bedding fish with a mix of techniques and Strike King baits that included a Baby Z-Too, Dream Shot and Half Shell. It’s a recipe that VanDam had high hopes for coming into Stage Five, and one that he plans to stick with as conditions progress throughout the remaining five days of the tournament.

Knowledge of the north helped VanDam earn the lead on Day 1. Photo by Garrick Dixon

“They spawn all of June up here,” VanDam said. “There’s a lot going on (in the fishery), but it should get better as the week goes on. Sight-fishing for smallmouth, I love to do it. I had to mix it up today, though, every fish is an individual and you have to figure out what will make each one fire. But I’m off to a good start, hopefully I can do the same (on Thursday).”

Although VanDam’s flurry was the most prolific of the day, the Group A field trailing him is littered with heavy five-fish limits: Cliff Pace (25-15), Jacob Wheeler (25-10), Edwin Evers (25-3) and Mark Davis (24-11) filled out the top five, followed by Dustin Connell (24-6) and Luke Clausen (24-3) in the 24-pound club. It took 22-15 to make the Top 10 and 20-plus pounds to squeeze above the Toro Cut Line, into the Top 20.

Pace diversified with a mixed bag of largemouth and smallmouth, most of it on a wacky-rigged V&M Baits Chopstick. Wheeler caught most of his fish sight-fishing, while Evers and Davis spent much of their time fishing wacky rigs around and under docks (with a Berkley PowerBait The General for Evers and a Strike King Ocho for Davis).


Action continues at Cayuga Lake on Wednesday with the first day of qualifying for the 40 anglers in Group B. Led by Angler of the Year leader Ott DeFoe, Group B will take off from Frontenac Park in Unions Springs at 7:30 a.m. ET. The MLFNOW! live stream begins at 7:45 a.m. ET, competition begins at 8 a.m. You can follow the action and get live-scoring updates at MajorLeagueFishing.com

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