KEVIN VANDAM: REDCREST Review - Major League Fishing


Kevin VanDam reviews his REDCREST 2021 performance in Eufaula. Photo by Phoenix Moore
March 10, 2021 • Kevin VanDam • Bass Pro Tour

Alabama’s Lake Eufaula has become a sort of “heartbreak hotel” for me over the last year. I’ve fished Eufaula quite a bit over the years, had a lot of success there and I really like the fishery. But lately, that lake has hurt my feelings.

Last year, the Bass Pro Tour season kicked off at Eufaula and I missed making the Championship Round by 4 pounds. When I heard we were going to Eufaula in lieu of Palestine for REDCREST, I was bound and determined to get some redemption on that pond. But I got locked out of the Championship Round again, this time by just one spot – that hurts worse than last February! Especially since I had the bites to advance.

Looking back on it, there’s not a lot I would have changed about my approach at REDCREST.

Banking on the 10-Day Forecast

With just one day of practice, I set myself up with a plan to fish the places the bass were going to. I bought in on the 10-day forecast, which had daytime temperatures hitting 70 degrees and nighttime temperatures falling only to 50 degrees by midweek.

I estimated the water temperature would rise by about 10 degrees over the week, which it did. Given that forecast, combined with a growing moon to be full by the Championship Round, and I was all in on the bank game.

One of the first places I sampled on the practice day was the area around Lakepoint State Park. Those huge flats around the mouth of Cowikee are usually bass magnets in the spring. But with water temps in the upper 40s and water the color of mud, it wasn’t happening in that area. Due to the conditions, that popular area of the lake was getting zero pressure.

At that point, my game plan was to bide my time down the lake while the Cowikee area stabilized. I figured by the Knockout Round or the Championship Round that part of the lake would be on fire.

For the first two rounds, I chose to fish in some of Eufaula’s bigger creeks down the lake. I anticipated a big push of fish to the bank in those major creeks. What caught me a little off guard was the lack of shallow grass in the lake compared to the same time last year. Apparently, Eufaula had been drawn down 5 or 6 feet during the summer and a lot of the willow grass lining the bank had thinned out considerably. This left very little cover for fish moving shallow. As a result, I had to improvise for shallow cover in the form of docks, laydown wood I could see on my Humminbird Mega 360 and a couple of creek channel turns in the bank that had a bit of rock on them.

All went well the first Qualifying Day; I caught 6 bass for 20 pounds, 10 ounces and ended the day in 6th place. I caught most of those fish, including a 5-pounder, on 3/8-ounce Strike King Thunder Cricket with a Rage Menace trailer. I had one rod rigged with a green pumpkin Cricket and the other was solid white. I alternated the two depending on water color.

VanDam spent much of his event fishing the banks of Eufaula, but the water levels of the lake and yoyoing effect kept many of the bass at bay. Photo by Phoenix Moore

On the second Qualifying Day, I caught just three scorable bass for about 8 pounds. It was enough to get to the Knockout Round, but I was a little worried about the number of bites dwindling on some key stretches and pieces of cover. The fish had made an initial push to shallow bank cover, but there should have been more fish replenishing on those key stretches given the drastically improving conditions. I became concerned that the water level might be keeping the first big wave of bass at bay. It looked like during the day the lake was falling a few inches and at night it was filling back up. Sometimes that yoyoing can make bass leery about being on the bank.

By the Knockout Round, I was hoping the State Park area would be getting right. I ran my stuff down the lake first and caught a nice 5-pounder right off the bat. I had a couple more good bites that morning that came off.  I saved the State Park for the latter part of the day when water temperatures would be highest. Again, the gamble here was to intercept that first big wave as they moved up onto those Cowikee flats. The water temperature had come up quite a bit, but the water color was still pretty turbid. At that point, it became apparent that gamble was not going to pay off, leaving me short of the Championship Round again. When I watched the coverage of the final day to see how the leaders were catching them, it seemed brushpiles connected to the bank were a big factor in their week. It made sense: with so little natural cover and vegetation in the lake, shallower brushpiles were prime real estate. Plus, I knew from history that Eufaula is brushpile kind of lake. That’s one of Eufaula’s unique quirks, bass there really like brushpiles at all times of the year. Locals there know how to strategically place them to sweeten up classic near-shore staging contours and guys who dedicated their practice time to finding a handful of those sweet spots prevailed.