Who is the best overall bass angler on the pro tour today?

Kevin VanDam …93% Other anglers …7

Who is the most underrated pro angler?

Edwin Evers …18% Kelly Jordon …10 Steve Kennedy …6 John Murray …6 Other anglers …59

Who is the biggest come-from-behind threat?

Kevin VanDam …46% Denny Brauer …14 Greg Hackney …11 Mike Iaconelli …9 Other anglers …20

Who is the most obnoxious pro angler?

Mike Iaconelli …65% Other anglers …35

Who is the classiest pro angler?

Kevin VanDam …15% Denny Brauer …15 Rick Clunn …11 Guy Eaker Sr. …11 Shaw Grigsby …11 Davey Hite …5 Mike Wurm …5 Jay Yelas …5 Other anglers …22

Who is the funniest pro angler?

Gerald Swindle …58% Fish Fishburn …5 Jeff Kriet …5 Other anglers …32

Who is the nicest pro angler?

Shaw Grigsby …21% Brian Snowden …8 Other anglers …72

Who makes the best impression on TV?

Kevin VanDam …25% Denny Brauer …16 Gerald Swindle …11 Mike Iaconelli …11 Tim Horton …5 Skeet Reese …5 Other anglers …25

Who is the best female angler on the pro tour?

LUCY MIZE …39% Tammy Richardson …21 Dianna Clark …12 Pam Martin-Wells …12 Other anglers …15

What pro has the coolest graphics on their boat and tow vehicle?

Denny Brauer …16% Skeet Reese …16 Jason Quinn …14 Charlie Hartley …6 Mike Reynolds …6 Other anglers …42

Pro angler Kevin VanDam is one of the most decorated anglers in bass fishing history. He has won the Bassmaster Classic twice, the Elite 50 Championship, and several angler-of-the-year titles. He finishes in the money an astounding 78 percent of the time and is known both for his ability to adapt to conditions and as one of the greatest “power” anglers ever. VanDam basically kicked tail in the F&S survey of professional anglers as well. So we called him to find out why.

F&S: So, best overall, best come-from-behind, best on TV. Also tied for classiest. Why?

KVD: I don’t know, maybe because I win too often? Listen, that was a joke. Don’t print that. Really.

F&S: Okay. You have my word as a journalist.

KVD: Seriously, the biggest thing is to win, obviously. But if you can do it at the top level and earn the respect of the guys you compete against, that’s as good as it gets. The winner ought to be the guy who’s best at finding his own fish, adjusting to conditions, and executing. And that’s not always the guy who wins the tournament.

F&S: How so?

KVD: There are always shortcuts. There’ll be a local guide who plants brushpiles and hands somebody the GPS coordinates, for example. Overall, we do a pretty good job at stopping that stuff–you can’t fish the water or talk to anybody locally for 31 days before the tournament–but it’s always there.

F&S: What’s the dumbest fishing decision you ever made?

KVD: Oh, man, you don’t have time to hear about all those. Here’s one. In the ’90s, I had Slug-Gos in a bag on my boat for a year before I tied one on. It just didn’t look like it would work, you know? How could that thing have any action at all? Then I saw one in the water. Next tournament I fished, I took second, using Slug-Gos. So now I try every new thing that comes down the pike, no matter how dumb it looks. ‘Cause you never know what the hot new bait is going to be.

II. Lures & Tactics
What has been your overall best-performing lure in a tournament?

BLACK-AND-BLUE JIG, ¼ TO 1 OZ …24% Chartreuse or shad crankbait, ¼ to 5/8 oz …15 White and/or chartreuse spinnerbait, 3/8 to ½ oz. …11 Green pumpkin sinking worm (Senko, etc.), 5″ to 6″ …11 Black neon tube, 4″ to 5″ …9 Silver or red lipless crankbait (Rat-L-Trap, etc.), ¼ to ½ oz …7 Green pumpkin creature (Zoom Brush Hog, etc.), 4″ …7 Green pumpkin crawfish, 4″ …7 Other lures …9

What is currently the hottest lure on the pro bass circuit?

GREEN PUMPKIN FINESSE WORM ON A JIGHEAD, 5″ TO 6″ …24% Green pumpkin sinking worm, 5″ to 6″ …24 White or black-and-blue Rad Lures ChatterBait, 3/8 oz. …20 Black-and-blue or green pumpkin football jig, ½ to 1½ oz. …11 Frog or toad lure …7 Other lures …15

What is the most overrated lure for bass?

Rad Lures ChatterBait …39% Swimbait (Huddleston Deluxe Trout, etc.) …24 Infomercial lures (Helicopter Lure, etc.)…10 Spinnerbait …7 Other lures …20

What is your go-to lure for bass in weeds?

Jig …30% Creature …16 Spinnerbait …14 Frog …12 Tube …10 Lipless vibrating crankbait …10 Other lures …8

If you had to fish with soft plastics in only one color, what would you choose?

Green Pumpkin …73% Watermelon …15 Junebug …3 Other colors …8

What is your go-to lure for bass deeper than 15 feet?

Jig …43% Worm or soft jerkbait on drop-shot rig …19 Carolina-rigged lizard or worm …14 Crankbait …10 Texas-rigged worm …5 Other lures …9

What is your go-to lure for spawning bass?

Tube …47% Craw …26 Sinking worm …10 Creature …9 Other lures …9

What lure-and-tactic combination catches more fish than any other?

Shake a finesse worm …27% Hop, flip, or swim a jig …18 Fish a Texas-rigged worm in cover …16 Dead-stick a sinking worm …10 Drop-shot rig on structure …8 Bump a shallow crankbait off wood or rock …8 Other combinations …14

Have you ever witnessed cheating during a tournament?

No …71% Yes …29

The overwhelming majority of pros surveyed picked green pumpkin as their favorite color in soft-plastic baits. What makes it so popular and effective?

“Green pumpkin, a matte or dirty green color with black flakes, mimics a live crayfish,” says Tom Carroll of Yum Lures. “It’s been around for 20 years but continues to catch bass because it’s so subtle. It’s especially deadly in a bottom-bumping body configuration, such as a Texas-rigged creature or a finesse worm on a jighead.”

Chris Brown of Strike King Lures agrees. “Without question, it’s our most popular soft-bait color,” he says. “Just as bass eat crayfish regardless of the color of the water they’re in, they’ll hit a green pumpkin lure whether the lake or river is clear, stained, or muddy. Because it’s so unobtrusive, bass bite it in the toughest conditions, such as during cold fronts, and when they’ve been subjected to intense fishing pressure during tournaments.”

So called because it’s fished via an unorthodox technique known as shaking, a “shaky-head worm”–a finesse worm rigged on a jighead–was voted the lure that catches the most bass.

To fish it, rig a 4- to 6-inch straight-tail finesse worm on a 1/8 to ¼-ounce jighead, either weedless or with the hook point exposed depending on bottom conditions. The Bagley Shaky Head Jig (above, rigged with a pumpkin worm) is a great choice; it has a flat forward section so the hook rides high, and a collar on the hook shaft keeps the worm from slipping off after repeated casts. Cast the worm to submerged brushpiles, weed edges, and boat docks, and let it sink to the bottom. Then raise the rod to one o’clock and very gently move the tip up and down. Don’t overdo it. The idea is to impart a quivering action to the worm while it’s sitting in one spot. Hop the worm a few inches, then shake it again.

III. Habits & Preferences
What is your favorite body of water to fish in a tournament?

Lake Amistad, Texas …25% Lake Champlain, New York-Vermont …22 Sam Rayburn, Texas …9 Guntersville, Alabama …5 Other waters …38

What is your least favorite body of water to fish in a tournament?

Table Rock, Missouri …15% Potomac River, Maryland …10 Pickwick Lake, Alabama .. 7 Other waters …68

Which weather condition do you prefer when fishing a tournament?

Cloudy …41% Partly cloudy …31 Sunny and clear …11 Rainy …9 No preference …7

Have you ever kissed a fish?

YES …71% No …29

What’s the farthest you’ve traveled in your boat to reach a fishing spot during a tournament?

Over 100 miles …52% Up to 100 miles …25 Up to 75 miles …21 Up to 50 miles …2

What’s the farthest you’ve ever driven one way to fish a tournament?

Over 1,500 miles …87% Up to 1,500 miles …13

Would you approve of your daughter’s marrying a bass pro?

Yes …58% No …31 It depends …11

Do you have a tattoo?

No …95% YES …5

When was the last time you ate bass?

More than 5 years ago …36% Within the past year …32 More than a year ago …15 I’ve never eaten bass .. 17

Knowing what you know now, would you still have turned pro?

Yes …98% No …2

More than half of the pros surveyed have driven their boats 100 miles or more one way in a tournament to reach a preferred fishing spot. Why bother?

“You need to go where the bass are,” explains Tennessee pro Charlie Ingram. “In one tournament on the Mississippi River, most of the top finishers ran 130 miles to get to a series of oxbow lakes that had been inaccessible until rains preceding the event raised the water level. They were crawling with bass.”

Alabama pro Russ Lane says, “Sometimes you need to get away so you can focus on fishing. At a tournament at Kentucky Lake, we launched at the dam in Kentucky, then I ran nearly all the way to the Pickwick Dam in the southwest corner of Tennessee. I didn’t see a tournament boat in three days, and I had a good finish.”

More than two-thirds of pros admit to having kissed a fish. Although the average fisherman may find the practice unappealing, you might pucker up too if the 6-pound largemouth you’re holding could net you a half-million-dollar payout.

If any professional angler can tell you the best way to lip-lock a lunker, it’s Jimmy Houston. The bass pro and TV host has been bussing bass in public for 30 years. Here’s his four-step approach.

1 Unhook the bass. This is very important.

2 Put your thumb in its mouth with your other hand supporting its belly. “Make sure you’re kissing the correct (head) end of the bass,” says Houston.

3 Make eye contact. Then aim for the top lip. Don’t phantom kiss. Go for it!

4 Release the fish afterward. It’s the least you can do. And one more thing: “Never kiss and kill.”

Do you agree with BASS’s determination that Rick Clunn is the “Greatest Bass Angler of All Time”?

67% YES

33% NO

METHODOLOGY: Answers are based on results from a survey sent to more than 100 BASS and FLW anglers in January 2007. Not every respondent answered every question. Percentages may not total 100 due to rounding.