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Home Column - The Pick of the Products A Fishin' Machine That Thinks - pt. 2

A Fishin' Machine That Thinks - pt. 2

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By Stan Fagerstrom
Product Review Editor

June 7, 2012
*click here for part one

A couple of years ago the Strike King Lure Company added two new square billed crankbaits to its hard bait lineup.  They’re called the KVD 1.5 and 2.5.

The angler who designed these baits walked away with the prestigious Bass Anglers Society Angler of the Year award in 2011.  The year also saw him win the Bassmasters Classic for the fourth time. He’ll tell you one of the lures named above helped him do it.

fagerstrom-fishingmachine02cAs you probably already know and as the initials of those lures indicate, it was Kevin Van Dam, the “Fishin’ Machine” from Kalamazoo, Michigan who designed them.

The title of this column, “A Fishin’ Machine That Thinks,” helps tell the tale of how the new Strike King lures made it to market.  As the guy who designed them will tell you, it took a couple of years to get the job done to his satisfaction.

But there’s another twist to it I find even more interesting.  It’s the concept of lure performance he wanted to build into these baits.  At least in one singularly important aspect, one of the actions he was after flies right smack into the face of what’s been considered a necessity for crankbaits for forever and then some.

If you read Part 1 of this two column series you’ll recall I told about watching and listening years ago as a nationally known bass angler tried out a brand new crankbait.  The makers of this new lure had advertised that it would always run straight and true right out of the package.

It didn’t always do that and the guy I was with was unhappy about it.  He wound up taking it off.  I watched as he stuck it off in one corner of his tackle box and I heard him mutter as he did “And that’s where the damn thing’s gonna stay!”

What my friend had to say that morning wasn’t surprising.  He was simply stating what for the most part was conventional thinking among bass anglers at the time.

Machines perform the tasks they are designed to do.  A machine that “thinks” takes a different approach.  That difference in thinking is reflected in the action that Kevin Van Dam managed to build into the Strike King KVD 1.5 & 2.5 crankbaits.

While we’re accustomed to crankbaits that come back to us wiggling and wobbling in a straight line, that wasn’t what KVD was after.

fagerstrom-fishingmachine02bInstead he wanted these new baits to wander and to hunt around, to not always run in a straight line but to possess an action that was erratic and irregular---to have a movement that would trigger action when others wouldn’t.

Now you’d expect somebody who’d spent two years getting a new bait to do something exactly as he wanted to be pleased when it did.  KVD obviously is.  But I’ve read and heard others say the same thing.  They’re also finding it effective.

Anybody who wants to put more fish in the boat has to be interested in what KVD has to say.  It doesn’t make good sense not to.  Why?  For starters how many plug pitchers out there have managed to rack up records that even come close to what he’s accomplished over the past decade?

I’m wondering if KVD wasn’t taking something else into consideration in the design of his new baits.  Do you always endeavor to have your diving crankbait smack into underwater cover?  Experienced crankbait anglers know that having their diving baits carom off underwater stumps, rocks, piling, weeds or whatever the cover happens to be is a great way to go.

They’re aware it’s often an excellent way to trigger strikes.  The hits come when the lure suddenly jumps around with a sudden and different kind of movement.   It might head most anywhere for a heartbeat or two as its steady wiggling movement is interrupted by the impact.

Visualize this situation.  That potbellied bigmouthed gal down there in the cover she calls home has seen a whole bunch of baits since she selected her home base.  Chances are the spot she calls home is located around isolated cover in deeper water.  If it isn’t in deep water already, there’s likely an escape route to deep water close buy.

fagerstrom-fishingmachine02aThis cautious critter knows very well how nearly all of the lures that run by her hideout are going to move.  She tangled with a couple of them early on and she wants no more of it.

Then along comes one that does something different.  Its action isn’t what she’s used to seeing.  Its movement is erratic.  Could this be breakfast?   Her fins come up as she turns and watches.

Alert now and interested she moves into position.  She tenses as the lure starts wobbling off and then there’s that same unexpected movement again.  She can’t help herself.  In movements almost too fast for the eye to follow she bursts from her cover, engulfs the lure and heads down and away.  Fish on!

As I’ve mentioned, we know bumping a crankbait off cover is a good way to go.  Then why shouldn’t a lure that makes the same kind of quick and unexpected movement without having to hit something in the process be equally effective?  Besides, sometimes that underwater cover for us to bump our crankbaits off isn’t even there for us to use.

My guess is that idea was among the other thoughts playing tag with one another in KVD’s brain as he worked to refine the new Strike King baits.  If that’s true then from what I’ve heard and read he got the job done.

Van Dam has shared a number of other definite thoughts regarding his own use of the KVD 1.5 & 2.5 since they first came on the scene. Among other things, he says he especially like to use them when the fishing is tough.

In talking about the KVD 1.5, he says he often finds it effective to make sudden stops with the lure during his retrieve.  The hits usually come as the lure suddenly stops moving.

KVD always fishes the lures on fluorocarbon line.  He varies the size of the line depending on the depth he wants his lure to reach.  He may move all the way up to 20-pound test if he wants to fish shallow.  He may go all the way down to 6-pound if he’s after greater depth.

He often uses rod positioning to help control the depth his lure dives as he reels it back to the boat.  Keeping his rod tip up helps bring the bait closer to the surface.  Lowering his rod tip does the opposite.

I now have a dozen of these new baits KVD designed.  I’ve not yet had opportunity to spend time to work with them much as I’d like.  That’s one of the first things I’m going to remedy next time I’m on the water.

And while I’m at it, be assured I’ll closely follow the suggestions the award winning Fishin’ Machine from Kalamazoo has shared with us about them!

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Last Updated on Thursday, 07 June 2012 10:55