VanDam, the 2009 Bass Angler of the Year, won the Bassmasters Classic on Alabama's Lay Lake by five pounds after posting the biggest weight on Sunday's third and final day of competition.
"I knew the creek would warm-up with the weather, and when it did I knew the bass would turn-on," he said. "I was fishing a Red Eye Shad in the gold color and the Sexy Shad color. The bait would fall and swim down toward the bottom. As it hung-up on grass and stumps, I would jerk it off. That's when the bass would attack."
VanDam, who also had the biggest first-day weight, had his 5-fish limit by 9:30 a.m. and wound up with 19 pounds, seven ounces, for a 3-day total of 51-6. His third Classic win was worth $500,000.
Oklahoma's Jeff Kriet, the second-round leader, managed a 14-5 limit on Sunday and finished second with 46-6, winning $45,000. Texan Todd Faircloth finished third with 44-3 after a 12-5 final round, winning $40,000.
Rounding uout the top five were Alabama's Russ Lane at 43-12 for fourth and $30,000 and Brent Chapman of Kansas with 37-14 for $25,000 and fifth place.
Lane had an 18-1 bag on Sunday, including the day's big fish a 6-2 lunker.
The only fisherman from South Carolina who made the cut and fished in Sunday's final round was Jason Quinn of York, who weighed in his best catch of the tournament, 11-7, to finish 17th with 27 pounds. He won $12,900.