It’s hard to imagine that there was a time when a Kevin VanDam top-10 finish was anything other than a routine occurrence, but if you head back to 1991, the 22 year-old Michigan pro was just getting started and not quite yet a household name. Fishing his 8th B.A.S.S. event that February on Florida’s St. Johns River, Van Dam finished second to veteran Guido Hibdon, and just ahead of another legend, Roland Martin.
The 1991 Florida Invitational on the St. Johns marked VanDam’s best B.A.S.S. finish to that point, besting the 3rd-place finish he’d earned the prior September on New York’s St. Lawrence River, a tournament in which he also fell one place behind Hibdon in the final standings. He “finally” earned his first bass victory in December of 1991 at Lake Lanier where he outlasted six former and future Classic winners in the top 10, including Denny Brauer (2nd), Rick Clunn (3rd), David Fritts (4th), Bob Hamilton Jr. (6th), Mark Davis (10th) and – you guessed it – Hibdon (7th).
Getting back to the St. Johns in 1991, it wasn’t Hibdon’s first win by any stretch. He’d already won four B.A.S.S. tournaments at three different venues (including Lake of the Ozarks twice), most notably his 1988 Classic victory on Virginia’s James River. In the nearly 24 years since his St. Johns win, however, he has yet to win again with B.A.S.S.
Fittingly, the 1991 victory came sight fishing and Hibdon used two lures that were intimately associated with his career to get the job done – a Lucky Strike G-4 tube (melon pepper) and a Guido Bug crawfish fished Texas style using a Shaw Grigsby HP (“High Performance”) hook.
It wouldn’t be a Florida tournament without a cold front and a doozy hit the north Florida region during practice, with freezing temperatures and heavy winds, but Hibdon, referred to by Tim Tucker as “perhaps the best finesse sight fisherman in America,” still made his chosen technique work. After a meager four-fish catch that weighed 5 pounds 11 ounces on Day One, he caught seven for 22-12 on Day Two to move into third place. Martin caught an even bigger string – 23-13 – to vault out of 46th place into the lead. On Day Three, a lengthy fog delay shortened the day, but Hibdon boated another limit for 14-09 to keep VanDam from claiming his first B.A.S.S. win – for at least a few more months.
To win this week’s trivia contest, be the first person to answer the following three questions correctly:
- What lure did VanDam rely upon for his catch that week at the St. Johns?
- How many anglers in the field caught a seven-bass limit all three days?
- What part of the river system did Hibdon fish?
The answer and winner will be announced Thursday, Christmas day. Good Luck!