SANDUSKY, Ohio — Jonathon VanDam of Kalamazoo, Mich., hauled in 24 pounds, 8 ounces — the largest bag of the tournament — to claim his first BASS win Saturday in his first tournament on Lake Erie, the third and final 2009 Bassmaster Norther Open. His two-day total of 44 pounds, 14 ounces was nearly 3 pounds ahead of runner-up and Day 1 leader Pete Gluszek. The 21-year-old VanDam is the nephew of 2009 Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year Kevin VanDam, a five-time AOY.
"This has been my dream for a long time; I'm really pumped right now," Jonathon VanDam said. "I'm speechless. I've been close a couple times, and this is awesome."
VanDam had to change his approach to the lake Saturday as the lake was much calmer than it had been Thursday for Day 1 competition. He reverted to a pattern he found in practice, throwing a Strike King Series 5 crankbait in Sexy Shad color. He keyed on rock piles and sharp humps in the lake bottom near the bank.
"I tried drop-shotting in the morning, but it wasn't working too well, so I made a bit of a milk run to several places and started catching fish on the crankbait," he said. "The key was to cast beyond the rock pile or hump and have the bait bump into it on the retrieve. That's when they'd hit it."
After Friday's competition was cancelled due to high winds, Day 1 leader Pete Gluszek of Mount Laurel, N.J., could manage just 18-2 on Saturday to claim second place. Gluszek was drop-shotting rock piles, but he broke off several keeper fish, which kept him from his second BASS win.
With a third-place finish, Frank Scalish of Cleveland, Ohio, managed to win the Northern Open points race and earn a berth in the 2010 Bassmaster Classic as well as an invitation to fish the 2010 Bassmaster Elite Series.
As the top two pros in the Open division, Scalish and Elite Series pro Kotaro Kiriyama were awarded berths in the Classic, set for Feb. 19-21 on Lay Lake out of Birmingham, Ala., while the top seven competitors have been invited to fish the Elite Series.
"I really wanted to win this event, but I accomplished what I came here to do, get to the Classic and fish the Elites," Sclalish said.
He was forced to think on his feet after heavy rains wiped out a shallow bit he found on Day 1, so he headed to deeper ledges and dragged a YUM tube around them.
Dick Parker of Amherst, Ohio, took fourth with 40-4, and Garrett Green of Bracebridge, Ontario, Canada, was fifth with 39-9.
On the co-angler side, first-place finisher Terry Ford of Westerville, Ohio, took home a $32,000 Triton/ Mercury boat and motor package for his two-day total of 34-8. Ford usually fishes on the pro side, but he was recently forced to sell his boat to pay for a surgery his wife required.
"The only way we could get the money was to sell the boat, but that wasn't a very hard decision," he said. "I know there was someone watching out for me on this one. Next year I'll be back as a pro in a brand new boat. I'm pumped."
Ford drop-shotted through both days of competition, and was fishing within sight of eventual runner-up Gary Besmer of East Islip, N.Y.
Joshua Kolodzaike of Toledo, Ohio, took third place in the co-angler division with 33-13, Mike Hauer of Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada, took fourth with 32-2 and Mike Staebler was fifth with 32-0.
After zeroing on Day 1, co-angler Stephen Schneider of Selden, N.Y., shot up to 14th place with a 23-pound, 7-ounce bag anchored by the big bass of the tournament, a 7-pound, 1-ounce smallmouth.