For some anglers, the thought of getting out on the water and going fishing on the Fourth of July is … well, it's an idea rooted in insanity. That would seem to be especially true when the nation's birthday – number 238 and counting this year – falls around a weekend.
Why? Because that scenario often brings out extra boating enthusiasts who are looking to cash in an extra day or two of vacation from work to get an extended holiday at the lake.
With such a situation unfolding this weekend, it would seem all but certain that the nation's crowded lakes, reservoirs, rivers and tidal waterways will be swamped with the maximum crush of holiday boating enthusiasts.
Meaning that for most anglers, the opportunity to find some peace, solitude and good bass fishing is all but lost.
Not so fast says the king of bass fishing, Kevin VanDam of Kalamazoo, Mich.
In fact, KVD, the four-time Bassmaster Classic champ and winner of last year's Jack Link's Major League Fishing Summit Cup in Alpena, Mich., says that the Fourth of July is actually can't miss fishing for his family.
“We're an outdoors family and we're pretty much going to be out there every Fourth of July,” said VanDam earlier this week.
“It's one of those holidays where you can count on us being out there fishing somewhere. We're almost always out there for the Fourth and in fact, I can't remember the last time we were not on the water.”
And that fact isn't just because KVD's family loves the tradition of being on the water for the Fourth; VanDam says that there is actually some pretty good fishing to be found.
“Yeah, some of the best fishing up here in Michigan is when it's real busy and the water is real crowded on these holiday weekends,” said VanDam.
Why is that?
KVD, who has learned to catch fish despite the crush of spectator boats that often follows his every move at a tournament, says it's because holiday crowd or not, bass are ambush feeders.
And on a holiday weekend like this year's Independence Day celebration, bass have learned to utilize the existing conditions to their advantage.
“When you are on a shallow lake like those that we often have here in Michigan, the bass are going to be active in the shallow water where you find bottlenecks, funnels and that sort of thing,” said the seven-time B.A.S.S. Angler of the Year.
“The reason for that is because the water is going to be stirred up and often stained and the baitfish are going to be stirred up and on edge,” added KVD, the one-time FLW Tour Angler of the Year.
“And that means that the bass are going to be focused on the bait and keyed in on feeding.”
A similar scenario happened in Alpena last year when VanDam won his first Major League Fishing title on the Saturday of Labor Day weekend.
In that MLF Championship Round, KVD found plenty of active smallmouths despite the holiday weekend boat traffic. By day's end, he had crushed the bronzeback bass while blowing away the rest of the field and running away with his first ever MLF title.
The key in such situations is to target the spots that give bass a place to ambush baitfish in the shallow, stained water that is getting churned up by boating traffic.
“Some of the best days of fishing that we have up here are on these busy days where there is a lot of activity,” said KVD. “The bass are actually on the prowl in such situations because they have an advantage (over the baitfish).”
Where does the winner of 20 B.A.S.S. events and more than $5 million in career earnings specifically look on such days?
VanDam says that he will cover water looking for flatter, shallower areas, especially those spots that have some grass and vegetation.
“The shallow mouths of bays and canals, they can also be real hotspots when there is a lot of hustle and bustle out there,” he added.
What type of lures does VanDam throw in such situations?
“You've got to remember that the bass are focused on the bait, so I'm going to use more active presentations,” said KVD, widely known as the king of power fishing.
“I'm going to be throwing things like a spinnerbait, my Strike King KVD squarebill crankbaits and even a Strike King Red Eye Shad, which can be a really good choice sometimes.”
On southern impoundments where deeper water can lure a bass that grows weary of the constant drone of boat engines roaring around, VanDam says that the key to holiday fishing success is usually to be out on the water at the crack of dawn.
“You've got to fish real early in those situations,” said KVD.
“If you'll be out there, you can get some good fishing in before most people get up and get out on the water. You've got until 10 or 11 o'clock in the morning on most lakes before things get real busy.”
Late in the day can also be a good choice as the sun heads towards the horizon. As long as on-the-water fireworks shows aren't providing a temptation for boaters to remain on the H2O until after darkness falls, that is.
“Sometimes, that last hour of the day can be pretty magical, pretty darn good,” said VanDam.
If anyone should know, it would have to be KVD. Because when the king of bass fishing says it's a good time to be out on the water, you can take that star-spangled sentiment to the bank.
Even when Uncle Sam is busy celebrating America's annual red, white and blue birthday bash.