DeFoe Would Ditch his Normal River Playground at Douglas

Saturday, August 31, 2019

As the Big Bass Tour heads back to perennial favorite Douglas Lake from September 27-29 for an early fall slugfest, reigning Bassmaster Classic champion Ott DeFoe is resting from long season of fishing, but he also knows that Autumn can be prime time in East Tennessee. As the weather and the water cool down, the fishing heats up. If he was fishing his signature Big Bass Classic Presented by Jefferson County you might presume you’d find him up in the river section of the lake, where he’s won tens of thousands of dollars at all levels of competition over the years.

Wrong!

DeFoe loves running the skinny water of the river, and it’s been good to him in tournaments, but if he was fishing for one monster bass he’d focus on mid-lake and down. “The numbers aren’t as good, but that’s where the biggest fish live,” he explained.

He still might go up the river to cash in on some hourly bonuses, but not if he was in search of the big bass of the event. Three of the past four years it has taken a fish over 7 pounds to get the job done, and multiple anglers who’ve weighed in six-plus pounders have left disappointed that they didn’t claim the top price. While sixes and sevens are comparatively rare, this tournament always has a large number of fives and heavy fours, and that makes strategy critical. Pay attention to the live leaderboard or you’re likely to waste a quality fish.

His first weapon of choice would be a Size 13 Storm Arashi Top Walker, a hulking 5 1/8-inch topwater. “If you’re just looking for one fish, you might as well go big,” he explained. He’d likely start with one of several shad colors, like Ghost Pearl Shad or Pro Blue. He’d key in on areas where he found a little bit of brush, big chunk rock, and especially when he located – either visually or with his Humminbird graphs – the presence of big gizzard shad.

“The other option would be to fish deep,” he explained. “Not real deep for Douglas. Maybe 10 to 15 feet, no deeper than 25. It would be one of three things: a deep-diving crankbait, something like a DT10 through a DT20; a football jig; or hopping a big spoon.”

While he looks for comparatively steep drops in the heart of the summer, by this time of year he’d focus on “stuff that’s a little bit flatter, even offshore.”

DeFoe would likely make a milk run of high-percentage spots, moving frequently throughout the day in search of active fish. “That’s the way I like to fish,” he said. Nevertheless, he recommended that anglers who identify transition areas where fish move in and out over the course of the day might want to hit Spot Lock and camp out for longer periods of time. “If a big fish is showing itself, even on the graph, it’s the right thing to do in this format. There will be little windows that open up where those fish will bite.”

And if all else fails, he’d go back up the river, which might not be a winning strategy, but provides the very real possibility of taking home some Big Bass Tour bucks.

“There are lots of 3 ½- to 4 ½-pounders up there,” he said. “The chances are it’s going to take a 6 or a 7 to win, but there’s nothing wrong with trying to do something different and win an hourly prize or two.”