Elite Series pro Ott DeFoe proved there is no place like home on the first day of the Douglas Lake Bassmaster Northern Open in Tennessee.
DeFoe won the May 2014 Northern Open at Douglas. Today, he set himself up for another win on his home waters by catching a 17-05 bag to take the early lead.
“It was kind of a struggle in some ways today,” DeFoe said. “This time of year this lake is so tough. It is an amazing lake about 10 months of the year, but a couple of months of the year the fishing just gets harder.”
When the fishing gets tough in the fall, DeFoe heads upriver and runs his prop-driven aluminum tunnel-hull boat over the shallow shoals.
The Knoxville, Tenn., pro relied on his extensive knowledge of his home lake rather than practice for the Open. “I went last Friday to kind of boat ride and look around,” he said. He also wanted to test-drive his boat to see if he could run the shoals.
DeFoe discovered he could run as shallow as 7 to 8 inches to reach some of the same waters he fished when he won the Open in 2014.
The three-time B.A.S.S. winner noticed three other competitors in the same section of the river he was fishing. He said conditions are changing rapidly in the river with clear and dirty water mixing and the water level falling. “I am okay with that because it will make me readjust. I feel like that’s the best way for us not to ‘beat up’ the fish. If the conditions were very stable, the fish would stay right there, but with the water changing it makes them move around.”
Boat-builder Mike Watson relied on one of his own custom-built jet-drive aluminum boats to navigate the shallows of the river and grab 2nd place with a 16-09 stringer. “I just got real fortunate when I got on one hole, caught my fish and then bailed out of there by 11:30,” he said. “I was concerned this morning because the flow had doubled from yesterday to today.”
The Bluff City, Tenn., angler left his spot after catching his limit and idled downriver to prevent running into any shoals. "I felt like in this tournament, if you catch 15 pounds, you need to get out of a spot,” Watson said. “It was a long day after I left there.”
Here's a look at the initial top 12:
1. Ott DeFoe: 17-05
2. Mike Watson: 16-09
3. Wil Hardy: 15-07
4. Brian Latimer: 14-14
5. Drew Benton: 14-09
6. David Williams: 14-07
7. Hunter Shryock: 14-04
8. Bryant Ailor: 13-11
9. Steven Redmond: 13-06
10. (tie) Allen Brooks: 13-02
10. (tie) Mike Huff: 13-02
12. (tie) Shane Lineberger: 12-09
12. (tie) Toshinari Namiki: 12-09