By John Johnson
BassFan Senior Editor
Ott DeFoe struggled during the first period of the Group B Shotgun Round at the Table Rock Lake MLF Bass Pro Tour (Version II). The remainder of the day was another matter entirely.
Sitting in 33rd place in the 40-angler field after catching just 8 1/2 pounds in the first 2 1/2 hours, the reigning Bassmaster Classic champion went wild over the final two periods and topped the standings at the end of the day with 81-07 (53 fish). That was a far cry from the 129-14 Jacob Wheeler compiled in Group A the previous day, but it was seven pounds more than anyone else managed.
"I had a good practice and I felt like I'd have a pretty good first day," he said. "I didn't think it would just be steady all the time – I expected it to be the way it ended up, which was hitting them in little spurts. Whenever I'd catch one, it usually ended up being multiple fish."
Second-place Dustin Connell also weighed 53 bass, but a 2-pounder was his biggest specimen and he ended the day with 74-08. He spent the entire day near the top of the leaderboard after a 23-pound first period and caught 26 fish for 36 1/2-pounds in the evening stanza.
Todd Faircloth caught 30-04 and led for much of the day before being overtaken by DeFoe with about an hour and a half remaining. He had a relatively slow final period (10 fish for 16-13) and ended the day in 3rd with 73-08 on 45 fish.
The rest of the top 10 consisted of Brandon Palaniuk with 69-09 (41 fish), Scott Suggs with 67-06 (44), Mark Daniels Jr. with 59-00 (38), Kevin VanDam with 54-00 (33), Edwin Evers with 53-14 (34), Casey Ashley with 51-07 (29) and Anthony Gagliardi with 51-04 (30).
VanDam, Ashley and Gagliardi all made big moves in the third period after starting that portion of the day in 27th, 37th and 21st places, respectively.
Competing on a fair-weather Saturday in the Branson, Mo. area, the Group B anglers had to contend with more recreational traffic than their Group A counterparts did on the previous day. Also, some anglers believe all the fishing pressure (this is the second BPT event at Table Rock in the span of three weeks after flooding forced a move from Oklahoma's Grand Lake) might finally be affecting the lakes big population of largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass.
Group A will be back on the water for its Elimination Round on Sunday. Thunderstorms are in the forecast for the remaining four days of the tournament and the lack of sun could keep fish from congregating in big groups offshore.
DeFoe, whose haul was topped by a 4-11 largemouth, caught most of his fish on a crankbait, but also employed a worm and a swimbait. He didn't have to share his water with anybody.
Leader Ott DeFoe register 81 1/2 pounds despite a slow first period.
"The first period wasn't real good for me, but it wasn't great for anybody," he said. "I was surprised that I didn't catch them better than I did, but I wasn't discouraged because I knew the later it got, the better the bite would be.
"When I got on them I'd usually catch them pretty quick – first by cranking, then I'd have to switch up to keep catching them from the same kind of place. I never saw another competitor boat fishing the stuff I fished and I only saw two other competitor boats run by. I'm feeling pretty good about it, for sure.
He enjoyed still being on the water during the sunset portion of the day (the start/finish times for this event are noon and 8 p.m.).
"I love fishing in the evening, which is something we never get to do in big tournaments, and this is the right time of year to do it. You've really only got that first hour when they really bite in the morning and then they don't feed again until 4 or 5 o'clock. Taking advantage of the longest feeding period of the day is fun."
Connell was happy with his day even though it wasn't quite as good as he'd anticipated.
"I had a really good practice and I thought I could catch over 100 pounds," he said. "I had the bites to do it, but I didn't put enough of them in the boat.
"A lot of the schools are getting pressured and it's getting harder to get them to bite. I think I need the sun for what I was doing today, but I've got one spot where they bite their heads off when it's rainy or cloudy. I've got two deals going and if I can find one more really good place I think I can do really well toward the end of the tournament."
Faircloth said he learned a lot about offshore fishing at Table Rock en route to his Bassmaster Elite Series win on the venue in 2006.
"I'm not going to disclose exactly what it is right now, but it seems to be pretty spot-on," he said. "Basically, you can't stay on one place for too long."
His primary program was catching fish he could see on his electronics with a dropshot rig.
"I probably had the best practice I've had the whole year and I only fished two spots more than once today and that was just because I was running past them. The rest was all fresh water – to me, anyway – and I have quite a few places that I didn't hit."
> Ashley caught the day's biggest fish (5-02).
> Sat., June 1 – Partly Cloudy - 89°/64°
- Wind: From the WSW at 7 mph
> Sun., June 2 – P.M. Thunderstorms - 85°/64°
- Wind: From NNE at 4 mph
> Mon., June 3 – Scattered Thunderstorms - 75°/64°
- Wind: From the ESE at 8 mph
> Tue., June 4 – P.M. Thunderstorms - 86°/69°
- Wind: From the S at 7 mph
> Wed., June 5 – P.M. Thunderstorms - 80°/67°
- Wind: From the SE at 7 mph
Day 2 Standings (Group B Shotgun Round)
1. Ott DeFoe -- 53, 81-07
2. Dustin Connell -- 53, 74-08
3. Todd Faircloth -- 45, 73-08
4. Brandon Palaniuk -- 41, 69-09
5. Scott Suggs -- 44, 67-06
6. Mark Daniels, Jr. -- 38, 59-00
7. Kevin VanDam -- 33, 54-00
8. Edwin Evers -- 34, 53-14
9. Casey Ashley -- 29, 51-07
10. Anthony Gagliardi -- 30, 51-04
11. Josh Bertrand -- 31, 50-11
12. Bradley Roy -- 29, 49-01
13. Greg Vinson -- 34, 45-07
14. Michael Neal -- 30, 44-12
15. Gerald Swindle -- 30, 44-12
16. Brent Chapman -- 24, 44-03
17. Kelly Jordon -- 29, 43-11
18. Alton Jones Jr. -- 27, 43-01
19. Gerald Spohrer -- 25, 42-01
20. Brent Ehrler -- 24, 41-12
21. Mark Davis -- 26, 40-14
22. Roy Hawk -- 24, 40-07
23. Jesse Wiggins -- 29, 39-04
24. John Murray -- 22, 38-13
25. James Watson -- 23, 38-00
26. Boyd Duckett -- 22, 36-09
27. Gary Klein -- 23, 35-13
28. Greg Hackney -- 21, 35-06
29. Jeff Kriet -- 22, 33-15
30. Justin Atkins -- 22, 33-04
31. Paul Elias -- 16, 33-00
32. Brett Hite -- 19, 31-06
33. Alton Jones -- 18, 31-06
34. Mike Iaconelli -- 23, 30-14
35. Dave Lefebre -- 21, 30-12
36. Andy Montgomery -- 23, 29-14
37. Cliff Crochet -- 17, 25-11
38. Brandon Coulter -- 15, 23-15
39. Matt Lee -- 15, 22-02
40. Skeet Reese -- 10, 17-10