While Minn Kota Stage Seven at Saginaw Bay may have been the last regular-season event of Kevin VanDam’s unparalleled bass fishing career, the 33-year tournament veteran still experienced a couple firsts during his swan song last month. VanDam won his first $3,000 bonus from Costa’s popular Compete + Conserve contingency program and was the first angler to wear Costa’s brand-new, award-winning King Tide sunglasses at Saginaw Bay.
VanDam was the highest-finishing angler wearing Costa Sunglasses with his second-place effort, which awarded him the Compete + Conserve prize and allowed him to choose a conservation partner to receive an additional $500 donation. The money that’s donated to one of five program cause partners directly benefits the freshwater ecosystems we all enjoy. He made his donation to The Bass Fishing Hall of Fame.
Anglers of all levels can take advantage of this contingency program by owning and wearing a pair of Costas, registering online for free and competing in one of the over 300 supported events including high school, college, team trails or professional tournaments. Of course, the opportunity to win bonus money is appealing, too, but the included conservation payout is what really gets VanDam excited about Compete + Conserve.
“Throughout my career, I’ve always placed a lot of value in partnering with brands who support conservation,” he said. “Costa is the ultimate example of that. They champion myriad efforts like Kick Plastic, #OneCoast and the Untangled Series, to name a few, and they’ve done something really special with Compete + Conserve for us bass fishermen. They don’t just talk the talk; they walk the walk.”
Stage Seven also served as the coming out party for Costa’s new King Tide Sunglasses. The king of tournament bass fishing for the past three decades was honored to be among the first to wear these sunglasses in competition. Two kings rode together on Saginaw Bay.
VanDam first got his hands on the frames at ICAST in July. After trying out a pair during a round of golf, VanDam was so impressed that he immediately struck up a conversation with one of Costa’s engineers and talked him out of a pair of the King Tide 8s with Sunrise Silver Mirror glass lenses.
“Even though I figured we’d be well past the spawn at Stage Seven, sight fishing is always key to the way I like to fish in Michigan,” VanDam said. “The new King Tides (size 8) fit my face like a glove with the full wrap and added side shields to block out light. I knew they would give me an advantage on the water. They only had one or two pairs with the Sunrise Silver lens at ICAST and I just had to have one. I’m glad I did… they are amazing.”
VanDam’s intuition proved spot on, as his primary pattern on Saginaw Bay was power-fishing flats for smallmouth with a Strike King Thunder Cricket and a KVD Spinnerbait. His best areas were too shallow to find structure using only electronics, so he relied on his eyes in practice to find isolated rock veins and weed clumps holding fish.
In fact, VanDam insists that his eyes and new King Tides were crucial in finding the specific spot that produced more than 20 pounds of smallmouth at the start of the Knockout Round.
“I was driving my boat across a big flat and I saw one small, prime-looking weed clump,” he said. “I marked the spot on my Humminbirds and started on that waypoint in the Knockout Round. I ended up catching like 17 fish in 19 casts or something crazy like that. It was magic, and exactly the kind of thing that can happen if you keep your eyes open.”
The Team Toyota pro has produced a lot of magic over the course of his legendary career and certainly has more in his future during what promises to be an active retirement. The King Tides are officially available on Costa’s website, www.costadelmar.com, and for information on the Compete + Conserve website follow this link www.costacompeteandconserve.com/.