By John Johnson
BassFan Senior Editor
Ott DeFoe posted Top-12 finishes in four of the five Bass Pro Tour regular-season events in 2020 and ended up 2nd on the points list to Jordan Lee. The lone outlier was the Heavy Hitters Derby at the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes, where he ended up 44th.
In practice, he visited the moving-water locale that was exploited by Skeet Reese, Zack Birge and Adrian Avena – the respective 5th-, 6th- and 8th-place finishers. Somehow, he saw nothing there to lead him to believe that it would be productive.
"I missed the most obvious thing and the way I really like to catch them – in current," he said. "I didn't get a bite and I didn't see a fish feed; it looked completely dead. It must've just been a thing where my timing was off."
To complicate matters, the offshore fish that he'd caught on reaction baits from hydrilla and brush lost a lot of their enthusiasm for those presentations once competition got under way.
"I'd been catching them on a spinnerbait and a swimjig and a few on a square-bill. Guys still caught them out there, but it was on slower, finesse stuff. Mark Rose (3rd) fished some of that same area, but he fished a lot slower and a few guys caught them on moving baits, but not really in that area."
Four Good Ones
DeFoe's quartet of strong finishes included a win at Lake Fork/Lake Athens and a 3rd at Lake Eufaula. When all was said and done, he finished 19 points behind Lee.
"I had the win and another Top 10 and then a couple more that I just barely missed," he said. "If I'd beaten Jordan, I'd have given the season a 10 (on a scale of 10). As it turned out, it was maybe a 9.1 or a 9.5 or something like that."
He's ready to take another shot at a points crown this year – a title he badly wants to round out his list of career achievements.
"I don't think about it a lot at this time of year, but I do during the season – it's a major focus. I've won the Classic and I've won regular-season tournaments, but even my son Parker, who's 9, tells me that it's the one thing I'm missing. I want to complete that trifecta."
Unlike at Heavy Hitters, a determination to stay away from the banks paid handsomely en route to his victory in Texas. During the final period, he boated 17 fish that averaged well over 3 pounds each, including a 9-06 monster that was 2 1/2 pounds heavier than any other fish caught that day. He finished more than 28 pounds ahead of runner-up Alton Jones Jr.
"I was fully committed from when we took off until lines-out that I was going to fish offshore," he said. "I thought I was going to catch them from the start, but it ended up not really happening until the last hour and a half.
"That 90 minutes was about as special as anything I've ever experienced in fishing."
Set to Return
Next month, DeFoe will be back in the vicinity of where that glorious afternoon occurred. The Redcrest Championship will take place at Lake Palestine, which sits just 10 miles from Athens.
He won't be making a pre-practice trip.
"I don't do that kind of thing anymore; it's just not how I operate," he said. "I really don't know anything about the lake other than I heard that it's stumpy and it can be hard to get around, but it's not particularly large (about 25,000 acres). If it was the size of Rayburn and I needed to figure out how to get around, that would be different, but it's small enough that I can figure things out when I get there.
"I just hate going anywhere with a thought in my mind before it really matters," he concluded. "I like to have a totally blank slate. That's why I haven't looked at this year's (regular-season) schedule a whole lot because I don't want to think too much about doing this here or that there. I just take it as it comes."