Kevin VanDam secured a Knockout Round win over Jordan Lee and the rest of the field Tuesday on Lake Chickamauga. Photo by Phoenix Moore
MASON PRINCE • BASS PRO TOUR
DAYTON, Tenn. – A local legend, ledge-fishing masters, the greatest professional angler of all time, and a couple of guys trying to be the next GOAT—the Championship Round of the B&W Trailer Hitches Stage Four Presented by ATG x Wrangler has plenty of reasons to tune in Wednesday.
Kevin VanDam took the top spot in the Knockout Round with 18 bass for 46-6, and seven other pros will join him in the Championship Round for a date with Shin Fukae and Jason Lambert.
KVD Feeling Comfortable on Chickamauga
Much like Tiger Woods or Michael Jordan, when Kevin VanDam is in the field with a shot at a championship, there’s an added “it” factor that’s hard to explain. The Michigan angler’s career resume is what makes him unarguably the most successful bass fisherman of all time, and he’s looking to add something to it: his first Bass Pro Tour trophy.
VanDam has three MLF Cup wins to his credit—the most of anyone—but he hasn’t yet made his mark on the Bass Pro Tour. Wednesday on Lake Chickamauga might be his best shot to do so. VanDam says he has a spot he thinks can give him the bites to outlast the other ledge specialists, so it’s all about if the area can hold on for one more day.
“I really like what I’m doing right now and I have a lot of confidence in it,” VanDam said shortly after his Knockout Round win. “I love ledge fishing and I’ve had a lot of success up and down the Tennessee River in the past. It’s pretty hit or miss out there, and today I hit. I’m going to give it everything I’ve got tomorrow.”
Lee Looking for Bass Pro Tour Win No. 3
Only two anglers have three Bass Pro Tour wins—Jacob Wheeler and Ott DeFoe. Both of those pros got their third Bass Pro Tour victories during the 2021 season, and Jordan Lee has a chance to join them if he can pull off a win tomorrow.
Lee finished the day in second place to VanDam with 14 bass for 45-12. Lee says he was able to get enough bites together to come away with a good day, but tomorrow could be a different story.
“It’s really crowded out there because a lot of guys that are doing well are fishing the same areas,” Lee said. “That’s why it’s really important to pull up on the right spot at the right time, and I was lucky enough to do that today. There’s some big-time ledge sticks in the group tomorrow, so it’s going to be tough but I’m ready to try and beat them. Maybe with less people on the water tomorrow, it might be easier to find some more productive areas and move around.”
Neal Hoping Local Knowledge Can Lead to First MLF Win
A lot of anglers have had to re-stock their bait supplies this week on Lake Chickamauga at Michael Neal’s bait shop right on the Dayton Boat Ramp. Neal, the hometown kid, is in a Championship Round on Lake Chickamauga for the second time in his Bass Pro Tour career. He finished 10th back in 2019 while the other hometown pro, Andy Morgan, came away with the win.
This time around, Neal is the only Daytonian on the water for the Championship Round. He’s hoping that with fewer boats on the water, it’ll be easier to fish the more crowded areas. If those areas are beaten up from a week of pressure, Neal says that he hopes his years of experience of fishing Lake Chickamauga will pay off in a big way.
“This is where local knowledge can really help instead of hurt, I think. This time of the year when ledge fishing is what everyone’s doing, if you have an idea of a couple of places that aren’t common knowledge where you can catch a few, that can be the difference between winning and losing. That’s what happened today and what got me here, so I’m hoping I can do it tomorrow.”
Top Marks and Notes from Knockout Round
Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit angler Matt Becker earned $1,000 for catching the Berkley Big Bass of the day—an 8-12.
Anthony Gagliardi moved from 32nd to seventh place in the final period to advance to the Championship Round.
Casey Ashley caught three bass for 8-13 in the final hour to claim the final spot in the top eight.
Brent Ehrler entered Stage Four fifth in the Angler of the Year race and is now the only angler in the top five in points still in contention.
Tennessee pro Jacob Wheeler has a chance to win his fourth Bass Pro Tour championship, which would break a tie with Ott DeFoe for the most in Bass Pro Tour history.
The Championship Round of the B&W Trailer Hitches Stage Four Presented by ATG x Wrangler comes to a close with the Championship Round on Wednesday. Weights will once again reset to zero as the 10 competing pros will try to become the sole angler at the top of SCORETRACKER® after three periods of fishing.
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