KEVIN VANDAM: Ready for some Louisiana fishing fun at Heavy Hitters - Major League Fishing

KEVIN VANDAM: Ready for some Louisiana fishing fun at Heavy Hitters

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Mercury pro Kevin VanDam is looking forward to working on some classic Louisiana cover at Heavy Hitters.
April 23, 2023 • Kevin VanDam • Bass Pro Tour

This week, I’m super excited to be competing in General Tire Heavy Hitters Presented by Bass Pro Shops, which has become one of my favorite events to fish. Qualifying for Heavy Hitters is on my mind all season long as we fish regular seasons events. You’ll often hear pros talk about catching a “Heavy Hitters fish” during Bass Pro Tour competition because they just helped their Heavy Hitters average to gain a coveted spot in this big-money event.

Heavy Hitters is sort of like the Home Run Derby of professional bass fishing where big bass are the home runs. Only 30 pros qualify for Heavy Hitters each season, so it’s a special event. During the week, all emphasis is put on catching the biggest bass possible. There are no Angler of the Year points involved here – this is all about the large sums of money that get paid out for the biggest bass caught in each round.

The pro who catches the biggest bass during the Qualifying Round wins $25,000. The pro who catches the biggest bass during the Knockout Round gets $50,000. And the pro who catches the biggest bass on the final day in the Championship Round wins $100,000 – that’s $100,000 for a single cast! Plus, there is a winning purse of $100,000 for the pro who wins the event overall. That means on the final day, a pro could literally win $100,000 for the biggest bass of the Championship Round and then another $100,000 if he wins the event overall – that’s a $200,000 payday!

That’s what makes Heavy Hitters so unique; there’s nothing else like it in professional bass fishing.

Chunky largemouth like this one caught on Caney Creek at Stage One last year should be plentiful for Heavy Hitters.

Anticipating Caney Creek, Bussey Brake

To add to the excitement, Heavy Hitters will be held across a couple of incredible fisheries this week, Caney Creek Reservoir and Bussy Brake in Northwest Louisiana. The Bass Pro Tour got a taste of these two lakes last year in the season opener and they were spectacular. Both lakes hold big bass, especially Bussey Brake for it’s size. This year, there have been a couple of bass in the 14- to 15-pound range weighed in from Bussey. The first five days of the event – the Qualifying and Knockout Rounds – will be held on Caney Creek. Then, the final Championship Day will be held on Bussey Brake.

I want to make it to the finals on Bussey, bad. Not only are the stakes the highest on the final day, but there is a rare opportunity at a legitimate chance to catch a teener on live during the last day.

Both lakes are relatively small, but we’re only fishing 15 anglers per day at Caney Creek and 10 on the final day at Bussey, so there should be plenty of room. The two lakes are very different, which also throws a twist into it.

Caney Creek reminds me of a northern natural lake with clear water and some decent depth, down to 20 feet. The lake has a lot of bank grass, offshore vegetation and midrange flats with scattered cover and brushpiles from 5 to 15 feet. Bass will be in all phases of the spawn and there will be a lot of different ways to catch them.

Bussey Brake is like a flooded field of willows; it reminds me of the farm lakes in Florida, like the Stickmarsh or Kenansville, or even Grosse Savanne in Louisiana. The final day should be an all-out shallow-water slugfest for the win.

In terms of winning the overall tournament, Heavy Hitters will be an every-fish-counts event – not a five-fish limit format. The minimum weight on Caney Creek will be 2 pounds and it will be 3 pounds at Bussey. So, qualifying weight totals and the winning weight totals are likely to be very high.

I’m looking forward to visiting the West Monroe area again for some fantastic Louisiana fishing. They gave us one of the warmest receptions we had on the Bass Pro Tour last season. A lot of fishing fans showed up at both Caney and Bussey to help make it a fun and exciting event and I’m ready to do it again.