Kevin VanDam dominated the 2000s with three Bass Masters Classic wins. Photo

So far in this series we’ve covered Bass Masters Classics 1 to 10, Bass Masters Classics 11 to 20, and Bass Masters Classics 21 to 30. Today we continue Classic Week with the Bass Masters Classics 31 to 40. In this decade of competitive bass fishing, a new reign took over the trail.

Prior to the 2000s, Kevin VanDam had made himself known as a solid and consistent angler amongst his peers. He’d made the last 10 consecutive Classics, finishing in the top-10 five times and the top-20 nine times. But in the 10-year stretch that covered from 2001 to 2010, he would become a different angler. The dominant angler on the trail, much like Rick Clunn, Roland Martin and Bill Dance had dominated earlier decades. Maybe more so.

But the lead-in decade of the 21st century wasn’t a cake walk for VanDam. The competition was stiff thanks to a new crop of anglers like Aaron Martens, Skeet Reese, Takahiro Omori, and Michael Iaconelli. Old guards like Mark Davis, Davy Hite, Gerald Swindle, and Jay Yelas kept VanDam constantly looking over his shoulder. Still, in the end, not only did he win three Bass Masters Classics, he won the AOY not just three times but three times in a row, 2008, 2009, and 2010.

Let’s dive a little deeper into each event.


2001: Bass Masters Classic XXXI – Louisiana Delta, LA

The venue for Classic XXXI would be a familiar site with the Super Bowl of bass fishing returning to the Louisiana Delta. The early August event, though, would not live up to its 1999 predecessor for a couple of reasons.

First, a severe drought had hit the area, lowering the water level. Low water coupled with high summer temperatures gave the fish a case of lock jaw and those that did seem willing to bite were small. Prognosticators and anglers alike felt that if anyone brought in an average of 10 pounds per day, they’d have a chance to win.

Then, in early July during official practice, a month prior to the event, tropical storm Allison deluged the area with 25 inches of rain. To compound that, at the start of the event in August, another tropical storm, Barry, hit the area making navigation along the thousands of miles of canals and the river difficult. The recent flooding also put the fish in even more of a funk.

But if it’s tough, it’s tough for everyone.

The first day saw David Walker in first place with 12-04 and Harold Allen in second with 11-13. Both of them had braved the wind an went to Venice. It’s reported that Walker was fishing openings in the roseau cane with a Gambler jig, while Allen had found a couple small canals that held fish willing to bite.

KVD took his first win of the decade at the 2001 Bass Masters Classic. Photo Bassmaster Magazine.

Kevin VanDam ended day 1 in third place with 11-05 but not after having to bail on his main area due to it having been sprayed for weeds. VanDam switched his game plan 180 degree and instead of fishing weeds went to hard cover. He was fishing the Bayou Black area of the Delta.

Robert Lee of California sat in the 4th spot with 11-01. Lee had been fishing the Bayou Des Allemands area using crankbaits and spinnerbaits.

Day two would be more of the same, tough conditions and fish unwilling to bite. But VanDam found 10-02-worth of largemouths (21-07 total) to succumb to his jig by the end of the day.

Scott Rook took over the second spot with 10-13 giving him a total of 20-13 after two days. Rook was also fishing in the Bayou Black area but using a 4-inch Mizmo tube instead of a jig. David Walker fell to 3rd place after weighing only three fish for the day. His weight, 8-02, gave him a total of 20-06 for two days.

Robert Lee maintained 4th place with a total of 18-01 and Gerald Swindle moved up to the 5th spot. With a little over 3 pounds separating the top four, it was still anyone’s game.

The final day of competition saw tropical storm Barry moving in wreaking havoc on the water. VanDam’s water, instead of being low due to the suction of the storm offshore, was now higher than it had been all week from storm surge. Yet, by the end of the day he’d filled out a limit for 10-14, bringing his total to 32-05. Enough for his first Bass Masters Classic win.

Rook also caught a small limit but had to rely on a small shallow-running Bandit crankbait to get bit. He weighed 10-07 for a 3-day total of 31-04 and 2nd place.

Third-place David Walker struggled all day with storm-force winds but was able to weigh 10-07 for a total of 31-03. Harold Allen landed in 4th place with 27-10, while Gerald Swindle and Todd Faircloth tied for the 5th spot with 26-11.


2002:  Bass Masters Classic XXXII – Lay Lake, AL

Classic XXXII would bring the Classic contenders back to Lay Lake in Birmingham, AL after six years. The field would be stacked with seven previous Classic winners and a slew of other stellar anglers, 52 in all.

Lay Lake has been known as an offshore structure lake where ledges are the mainstay in the summer months, But George Cochran had blown that paradigm out of the water six years earlier when he won the summer event in the shallows. So, it was anyone’s guess how it would be won this year.

On the first day of the event, Jay Yelas went to his area below the dam that he’d found in pre-practice. By the end of the day, he’d put 18-09 worth of bass in his livewell and a hefty 5-plus-pound lead over Aaron Martens. Yelas’ pattern consisted of fishing moving water against the shoreline with a jig while Martens was fishing main-river shoals. Martens weighed 14-01 the first day.

The second day Yelas started again on the shoals and caught four small bass. When the water started moving, he moved back onto his 200-yard stretch of shoreline and started to upgrade. By the end of the day he’d added a 3-00, 3-08, and 6-04 to his limit. His total for the day was 16-09, which gave him a 2-day total of 35-02.

Jay Yelas won the Bass Masters Classic in 2002. Photo Bassmaster Magazine.

Martens, on the other hand, weighed in another limit for 11-02 but fell to 3rd place with 25-03. David Walker rallied on day 2 with a 16-05 limit and jumped from 13th place and into 2nd place with 25-14. Walker by this time had abandoned his upper-river area, went to Cedar Creek and flipped a Lake Fork Tackle jig for his fish.

Filling out the top 5 was Ken Christ and Gary Yamamoto.

The final day of the 2002 Classic started a new era in the event. It was the first time in the history of the Classic where the cut was implemented. In order to fish the final day, you had to be in the top 25. This was to reduce the time for the final weigh in and make it more amenable for TV. Out of the cut were VanDam, Rook, and Kota Kiriyama.

The last day would be another rollercoaster ride. Yelas wouldn’t get his first fish in the boat until after 10:00 am and Walker and Martens already had fish in the well. But when the water started moving, Yelas’ fish started to eat. He ended the day with only four fish, but they were the right ones. He weighed 10-11 for the day bringing his total to 45-13 and the win.

Martens and Walker dueled it out for the second spot with Martens winning the bid. He weighed the day’s biggest limit of fish, 14-06, and strode past Walker for second place with 39-09. Walker finished with 9-15 for a total of 35-13. It would be Martens’ first of four second place finishes in his career.

Rounding out the top 5 was OT Fears with 31-06 and Larry Nixon with 31-03.


2003:  Bass Masters Classic XXXIII – Louisiana Delta, LA

For the third time the Louisiana Delta would be the site for the biggest show in bass fishing. And like in the previous event, it would prove daunting for the anglers, 61 in all. For this event, it seemed that there were no fish cooperating within 100 miles of the launch. And that wasn’t even guaranteed. Mid-summer was proving to be the worst time to fish The Delta and this early August event would prove that right.

The first day of the event temporarily put the naysayers in their seats when Mark Menendez weighed in a 16-10 limit anchored by a 6-02 brute. After Menendez, Michael Iaconelli weighed in a limit for 15-06 and Gary Klein put 13-15 on the scales for 3rd place. Maybe the field had been sand bagging their practices. All three anglers were making the long run to Venice.

Menendez and Klein were flipping while Iaconelli was fishing a small pond swimming jigs and plastics.

On day two Iaconelli went back to his secluded pond but on the way, his big motor stopped. It took 40 minutes talking with Yamaha techs to get him back up and running. Still, he finished the day with a 11-10 bag and jumped into first place with 27-00. All of his fish the second day came on the Mann’s Swim Worm and Finesse Worm.

Michael Iaconelli won the 2003 Bass Masters Classic at the Louisiana Delta. Photo Bassmaster Magazine.

Menendez wasn’t as lucky and only caught two fish for 4-03 and dropped to 7th place. Davy Hite brought in a 13-14 limit and secured second place with 24-05. Gary Klein maintained his third-place status with a 10-05 limit and a total of 24-04 for two days. Harold Allen sat in fourth with 22-05.

On the third day the field was cut, and the top 25 anglers headed out for the final day of competition. Iaconelli found the fish he’d been targeting had moved. No longer relating to the canal cuts that fed the pond, they’d moved to flat covered with milfoil. It wasn’t until the last ten minutes of his day that he finished out his limit with a 3-3/4-pounder. The fish that would vault him to Classic Champion.

Klein’s day was just as eventful, but in the wrong way. As he was heading to one of his spots, he motored past a dock where a man stood with a shotgun in his hands. As Klein passed, the man shot over Klein’s boat. All the while an ESPN cameraman is in his boat.

After that unfortunate experience, Klein managed to put a limit in the livewell that tipped the scales to 11-14. With a total weight of 36-02, Klein would finish in second place.

Harold Allen would end up bringing 11-14 to weigh on the final day lifting his total to 34-03, good enough for third place. Roland Martin jumped from 12th place to fourth with his 11-14 bag for a total of 31-09. Curt Lytle finished out the top 5 with 31-03.


2004:  Bass Masters Classic XXXIV – Lake Wylie, NC

North Carolina had been a favorite state to hold the Bass Masters Classic over time, venturing to the Currituck Sound in 1975 and High Rock in 1994, 95 and 98. But this time around it would be Lake Wylie’s turn to host the biggest show on earth.

Again, the event would be held in the middle of the summer, July 30 through August 1, but at least it wasn’t the heat of Louisiana. The weather was typical of North Carolina in the summer; torrential rains at times and lots of dirty, moving water.

Takahiro Omori liked what he saw and on the first day of the event went upriver and boated a limit of bass flipping ZOOM and Yamamoto creature baits at wood in two feet of water. By the end of the day he had 16-02.

Michael Iaconelli held down the second spot with a 15-15 limit anchored by a 7-04 pig. Iaconelli said he was fishing both shallow and deep. Dean Rojas, fishing his signature frog pattern, was in third place with 15-08, Denny Brauer was in fourth with 15-07, and Tommy Biffle rounded out the top 5 with 15-02.

in 2004, Takahiro Omori cranks a Bagley's BBII to victory in the last minutes to win. Photo Bassmaster Magazine.

Aaron Martens would finish the first day with 13-03, after two dead fish penalties, but stated at the weigh in he’d had around a hundred bites that day. Martens had found suspended fish on the Highway 49 bridge and was fishing a Horseyhead underspin. It would be the first time that the world would see the unorthodox brain of Aaron in action.

Day two turned out bad for Omori as he lost two fish in the five-pound class due to breakoffs.  He weighed in 9-08 for the day. Martens weighed in a limit of 10-09 but also lost a four-pounder at the boat.

Dean Rojas continued his onslaught with the frog and brought a limit of fish into the weigh in that pulled the scales down to 10-02. It was good enough for the lead going into the final day with 26-04. Omori’s 25-10 dropped him to second place and local favorite, Jason Quinn, moved up to third with 24-01 for two days. Martens’ limit got him to 23-12 and into the fourth spot.

The third day opened with Martens limiting by 9:00 am. Omori and Rojas were struggling up the river. Although the water was rising where Martens was, it was falling upriver. Rojas and Omori had to make a change if they were going to stop Martens.

And change they did. Rojas turned to a Luhr Jensen Speed Trap and boated a 9-01 limit, but it wouldn’t be enough. Omori had a different experience.

Feeling with the water dropping, Omori tied on a Bagley’s BBII in chartreuse black back and started fishing the outer edges of the timber he’d been fishing. Within 30 minutes he’d boated nearly 10 pounds of bass, filling out his limit to 13-08. His overall total ended up being 39-02.

Martens finished in the second spot with 36-06 and gained the respect of many as one of the premier anglers in the sport. It was his second 2nd-place finish in three years. Kevin VanDam, who’d been scratching up the leader board each day, finished in third place with 35-11 and Dean Rojas finished in fourth with 35-05. Kelly Jordon filled the fifth spot with 34-07.


2005:  Bass Masters Classic XXXV – Three Rivers, PA

Classic 35 was doomed from the start. If you know anything about the Three Rivers area, you know that one of those rivers is the Ohio, record holder for the two lowest winning weights in Bassmaster history. You’d think that BASS (without the periods) would avoid venues that had proved to be tough over the years. But as Ray Scott put it at the inaugural Bass Masters Classic in 1971, “we won’t have the best anglers fishing the world championship at a fish hatchery.”

Whether BASS wanted another tough fishery or not, Classic 35 would turn out to be the toughest Classic on record. Victory would befall Kevin VanDam with his second Classic win and Aaron Martens, for the third time in as many years, would again be bridesmaid.

VanDam was on a roll at this time having won two Elite 50s just weeks earlier. His momentum going into the Classic was unprecedented.

On the first day, Jimmy Mize brought in five fish for 6-02 and took the early lead. Mize was fishing a grass bed with a spinnerbait, had his fish in no time, and left. Aaron Martens and Stacey King were tied for second place with 5-01, wile Preston Clark weighed in 4-14 for fourth place. VanDam was back in fifth place with 4-11.

KVD would make it two in 2005 at the Three Rivers Classic Narrowly beating Aaron Martens for the second time. Photo Bassmaster Magazine.

On the second day, Martens would bring in four fish and increase his combined weight to 9-01 and take the lead. Martens had caught a fifth fish, but it was too close to take a chance and he released it. Martens had been catching 20 to 30 bass a day drop shotting and figured it was the safe bet to release the line burner.

Michael Iaconelli moved into the second spot with a total of 8-03 for two days. He’d been throwing a small rank and a prototype tube bait. VanDam moved from fourth place into third, while Jeff Reynolds held down the fourth spot with a total of 8-01. Scott Rook rounded out the top 5 with 7-15.

The final day saw the leaderboard change hands a number of times between Swindle and VanDam. Martens was struggling and only ended up weighing three fish. VanDam weighed five. When it was all said and done, VanDam’s total was 12-15, six ounces more than Martens.

VanDam won the event on a discontinued Smithwick Rogue, an RB1200, ripping it as hard as he could on 8-pound mono. It wasn’t soon after that PRADCO re-released the jerkbait.

2005 would mark the end of the summer Classics with the 2006 Classic taking place in February the following year.


2006:  Bass Masters Classic XXXVI – Lake Toho, FL

The 2006 Classic on Toho was a memorable one for sure. First, it was the first time the Classic started off the year as it was moved from the summer to February.  Most important, though, there were several records broken, one involving the biggest meltdown in the history of professional bass fishing. got an angler DQd from the Classic for the second time in three years.

First, the fish records.

27-year-old Luke Clausen from Washington State started of the event destroying the single-day record with a 29-06 bag of fish. Next, Preston Clark broke the 30-year-old Classic big fish record not once but twice, first with a 9-pounder and then with an 11-10.

The first day Clausen leapt into the lead with the record bag. Preston Clark also had a record-breaking day with a 29-01 limit for second. Edwin Evers was in third place with 23-10 and Kevin Wirth sat in fourth place with 22-05.

The first day also brought another record, but one no one likes to see. Michael Iaconelli was DQd for unsportsmanlike conduct when he ripped his light pole out of its socket, American flag still attached, bent it over his knee and threw it in the water. It was his second DQ from a Classic in three years – the record.

Luke Clausen's 2006 victory on Toho gave him his second top level championship. Photo Bassmaster Magazine.

After numerous seven to 10-pound fish were weighed on the first day, it was assumed day two would be more of the same. That wasn’t the case. Clausen was only able to bring in a 14-15 limit to the scales (44-05 total), but it increased his lead to over four pounds. Ron Shuffield (21-00) and Terry Scroggins (28-06) passed up Clark after he only weighed 10-02 for the day.

Day four would bring another twist, this time in the way of torrential rains, thunder and wind. Clausen maintained his lead by bringing in a limit weighing 11-13 to total 56-02. Clausen had won the Classic. What made this win even more amazing was he’d won the FLW Cup just 18 months prior and with his Classic win had amassed $1,000,000 in championship winnings.

Rick Morris placed second in the vent with 51-00, third was Ron Shuffield with 47-14, Terry Scroggins took fourth with 46-15 and Kevin VanDam filled out the top five with 44-08.

Clausen caught his fish drop shotting a Mann’s Hardhead worm in Kissimmee by fishing a single 300-yard stretch that had isolated cover.


2007:  Bass Masters Classic XXXVII – Lay Lake, AL

The 2007 Classic would find its way back to lay lake for a third time in its history. The 48-mile riverine fishery on the Coosa River was known for fishing small. But for this event, it seemed every angler was spread far and wide along its 12,000 acres.

Cold weather had most anglers believing the fish would be in their prespawn haunts getting ready to make the move shallow. Boyd Duckett was banking on a warming weather pattern to push the fish up on grass flats.

On the first day Duckett put a decent limit in the boat by 9:30 am throwing a Rattle Trap on secondary points. He then picked up his flipping rod with a Chigger Craw and commenced fishing sparce grass. By 1:30 pm he’d added an 8-02 and 4-pounder to his livewell. He led the first day with 19-14.

Randy Howell, fishing a Lunker Lure Jig, bagged a 17-15 limit that put him in second place, while Skeet Reese banged a limit for 17-08. Timmy Horton and Terry Scroggins filled out the top 5 with 17-05 and 16-11 respectively.

Boyd Duckett would break the Locals Jinx and take the 2007 Classic on Lay Lake. Photo Bassmaster Magazine,.

Day two would bring along a leaderboard change, to the tune of Kevin VanDam. VanDam came to the scales with a 19-14 limit fishing his new Red Eye Shad. Skeet Reese jumped into second place and Scroggins moved into third. Duckett dropped to fourth and Horton filled out the top five.

The final day it looked like it was going to be Skeet Reese’s day to shine. He caught a 15-13 limit of spots that brought his total to 48-04 and was sitting in the hot seat. Unfortunately Duckett brought in a limit bookended by a 3-1/2-pounder and a 6-09. Duckett beat Reese by six ounces for the win.


2008:  Bass Masters Classic XXXVIII – Lake Hartwell, SC

For the first time in Classic history the field would be heading to Lake Hartwell in South Carolina. The February event was greeted with cold, wintery conditions coupled with cold water temperatures. Compounding those conditions was the low lake level – some 12 feet lower than full pool.

But bad weather conditions or not, someone always catches them. And it seemed Charley Hartley’s destiny was about to get defined after his first day lead.

Hartley fished a combination of deep and shallow water with a 5/16-ounce Venom jig to wrestle a 20-01 bag to take the early lead. Scott Rook weighed in another stellar limit of 20-13 and sat in the second spot. Kevin VanDam held down third with 20-03 and Terry Scroggins weighed 19-03 for fourth.

On the second day, movement amongst the leaderboard was the norm. Alton Jones, who sat in 10th place on day one, brought in a 18-11 bag and took the lead. On the first day he was throwing a spoon in deep flooded timber but changed up to a jig on the second day. His two-day total was 36-00.

Alton Jones's 2008 win on Hartwell would place him forever on the Classic trophy. Photo Bassmaster Magazine.

Hartley’s fish seemed to have disappeared and he only brought in 13-12. But he still maintained second place with 34-13, within striking distance of Jones. Cliff Pace moved up the leaderboard with a 14-11 catch, while VanDam dropped one place into fourth. Jeff Kriet moved into the fifth spot with the day’s biggest limit of 18-12.

The last day would see Hartley’s fish completely abandon him as he only weighed to for 3-05. But Jones was able to fill out his limit and weighed 13-07 to bring his total to 49-07 and the win. Cliff pace placed second with 44-05 and Kevin VanDam placed third with 43-08. Bobby Lane and Greg Hackney rounded out the top 5 with 42-07 and 41-07 respectively.


2009:  Bass Masters Classic XXXIX – Red River, LA

Two years in a row the Bass Masters Classic would be held on a new body of water for the event. This time Shreveport, LA and the Red River were in the spotlight for the world’s biggest event in bass fishing.

The Red River would prove to be a formidable challenge for nearly half the field. The weather was to blame as the weather in practice had pushed the fish up. But Mother Nature had other thoughts.

Anglers woke up the morning of the first day to cold southerly wind that had dropped the water temperature by 10 degrees. But Boyd Duckett figured something out and brought 20-03 to the scales. Jami Fralick followed suit and bagged 19-03 for second place and Fred Roumbanis took third spot with 18-04.

Day two saw a leaderboard change, this time Fralick taking over the number-one spot with a 19-06 sack and 38-09 total. But it was Skeet Reese who wowed the crowd with his 22-09 bag that vaulted him to second place with 38-01. Edwin Evers moved up to the third spot with 19-03 (36-03 total).

In 2009 Skeet Reese would finally get his turn on the Red River. Photo Bassmaster Magazine.

The final day saw Reese come in with a 16-12 limit that gave him 54-13. Michael Iaconelli, who’d weighed in consistent bags the prior two days, brough in a limit that weighed 20-03. But it wasn’t enough to overtake Reese. Iaconelli’s three-day weight was 54-02.

Brian Snowden filled out the top three with 52-14. Fralick ended up in eighth place with 49-02 and Duckett finished in 12th with 47-08.

Reese reported catching his fish on spinnerbaits and a jig fished in shallow water with stumps and vegetation.


2010:  Bass Masters Classic XL – Lay Lake, AL

For a fourth time in Classic history Lay Lake in Alabama would host the big show. The end-of-the-decade tournament would bring tough weather conditions to the field of anglers but as usual, a few would figure out the tight-lipped bass. The angler who figured it out best, though, was Kevin VanDam who book-ended the decade with Classic wins, with one in the middle for good measure.

The water temperature during practice was in the low 40s, and the three frigid practice days kept the water cold. Most of the field reported a tough bite, only catching a couple fish a day, if that.

In VanDam style, though, he zigged when everyone else zagged. Fishing a shallow flat in Beeswax Creek, he amassed 19-07 for the lead. VanDam had found a 5-foot-deep flat with coontail moss that was stacked with fish.

Kevin VanDam dominated the 2000s with three Bass Masters Classic wins. Photo

Todd Faircloth, who was also in Beeswax, was able to put together 18-02 for second and Jeff Kriet, also in Beeswax, caught 16-07 for third. Each angler was concentrating on coontail and throwing a vibration bait.

The night prior to the second day Alabama Power pulled a fast one and dropped the lake a foot. The cold, dropping water affected everyone’s bite. VanDam was only able to muster 12-07 for the day, giving him a total of 31-15. Jeff Kriet saw a glimmer of hope and took the lead, based on his 15-10 limit, which gave him 32-01. Todd Faircloth stayed in third place with a total of 31-14. Only three ounces separated the top 3.

The third day dawned to a field cut to 25 and a mad KVD. In typical fashion, VanDam went back to his flat and proceeded to put on a cold water vibrationbait clinic. At the end of the day, he had another 19-07 limit giving him 51-06. Kriet’s and Faircloth’s fish finally had succumbed to the pressure and they were only able to bring in 14-05 and 12-05 respectively. Kriet ended up with 46-06 and Faircloth 44-03.


Tomorrow we’ll finish the look back at the first 50 years of the Bass Masters Classic with Classics XLI through L. We hope to see you then.

Click on the following links if you’d like to read the first three parts of this series:

Bass Masters Classics 1 to 10

Bass Masters Classics 11 to 20

Bass Masters Classics 21 to 30