Don’t Follow DeFoe at Douglas

Monday, September 17, 2018

Don’t Follow DeFoe at Douglas

Biggest bites typically down lake

By Pete Robbins

On the heels of his third Bassmaster Open victory on Douglas Lake, you might think that Knoxville pro Ott DeFoe’s performance would provide a road map for the competitors for the upcoming Big Bass Tour tournament on that same fishery. When the contestants set out on September 29th and 30th, though, Ott thinks they’d be better off doing something else if they’re looking to win a boat.

He’s become known for fishing far upstream, particularly in the French Broad River, in places where most anglers won’t take their precious fiberglass boats. That may be the way to win a three-day tournament, but he believes that the biggest fish in the lake don’t live up there.

“After fishing up there all week, the biggest bass I caught was about 4 pounds,” he said. “And they were skinnier than I’ve seen them in a long time. I caught one largemouth that was 21 ½ inches and might’ve weighed 3 ½ pounds.”

If he was looking for a single big fish he’d focus elsewhere, in the direction of the dam, because “even though it’s a tough time of year, you can still catch a big one down there.” His key zone would be from Shady Grove to the interstate bridge, and he’d spend valuable practice time idling and graphing, looking for “any sort of drop with rock on it.” He’d subsequently ply those areas with bottom bouncing baits like a football jig and a deep-diving crankbait. For the latter, he’d choose a ¾ ounce Terminator jig with a bulky trailer like a Bass Pro Shops River Bug or Bull Hog. For the latter, he’d turn first to a Rapala DT16 or DT20, probably in the Disco Shad pattern. For “video game” fishing, he might use a jigging spoon as well.

That’s the consistent bite, but for the angler willing to risk it all with a “go big or go home” mentality, a topwater would be his primary choice. Not just any topwater – at this time of year he wants a big walking bait to replicate the shad, and the larger size Storm Arashi Top Walker (5 1/8” and 1 1/8 oz). The Ghost Pearl Shad is a fantastic starting point. Normally at this time of year that would be a low-light-only choice but given the recent rains it might be an all-day affair.

The lake had been falling steadily, which was part of the reason that the river was so consistent during the Bassmaster Open – it stayed comparatively stable -- but the rain is bringing an influx of fresh water into the backs of some pockets. That’s where he’d focus with the topwater, perhaps cycling in a Terminator Spinnerbait in excessively off-colored water.

Noting that he’s “not a camper,” DeFoe asserted that the key will be to cover water and rotate through prime areas.

The biggest fish caught during the Open was 6 pounds 6 ounces, and that’s about par for the course this time of year. DeFoe’s biggest Douglas Lake fish pushed the scale to approximately 7 pounds, and he’s not sure that he’s caught one over 6 pounds in the fall. Through three past BBT tournaments on Douglas, it has historically taken a 7 pounder to win the grand prize, but only once has there been more than one fish over 7 pounds weighed in. Typically it has taken a little bit over 5 pounds to squeak into the top 10 overall.

Of course, the flip side of the big fish pursuit – and the part of this event that will require substantial strategy – is figuring out how and when to claim some of the other hourly prizes. In the three past events, numerous fish below 2 pounds have earned checks, with some under 1 ¼ taking home prizes. If that’s what you’re after, and you can time it right, the Ott’s river territory may still be in play.

“It’s not the place to win the boat, but if you want to get paid multiple hours with fish up to about 3 ½ pounds, it’s an option,” he said. “I’d go with the same topwater, a spinnerbait and a flipping jig.” He didn’t mention it, but he also let the world in on his upriver frogging secret this past weekend, so pack a few of those for the run up as well.