By John Johnson
BassFan Senior Editor
What was shaping up to be a dream season for Ott DeFoe has been derailed by the coronavirus pandemic. However, as his nature dictates, he's not stressing too heavily over it.
He's used some of the off time brought on by tournament postponements to sharpen his skills in an outdoor pursuit that's still new to him – turkey hunting.
"When you're fishing good, what you want to do more than anything is fish," he said. "It is weird to have been on such a good little streak and then not only have to put it in park, but also set the emergency brake and turn the engine off because we're going to be here for a while.
"But this thing is a lot bigger than me or my season, whatever's going to come of that."
He won the third event of the MLF Bass Pro Tour campaign (the last to take place prior to the shutdown) almost four weeks ago at Lake Fork in Texas (the final round was contested at nearby Lake Athens). That came after finishes of 3rd at Lake Eufaula and 12th at Lake Okeechobee, and he holds an 18-point lead over Brent Chapman in the Angler of the Year race as he pursues his first career tour-level points title.
The Call of the Woods
The lack of tournaments this spring has allowed DeFoe to take a deep dive into turkey hunting – something he experienced for the first time last year with a friend in Kentucky. He has a couple of buddies who own gobbler-laden property within a 10-minute drive of his home in Blaine, Tenn. and he recently went out four mornings in a row, but has yet to bag his first tom.
"I'm not very good at it right now, but it's a lot of fun," he said. "From what little I know about it at this point, I can relate it to trying to catch a fish on a bed that's not an easy one. You know where it's at, but maybe the water's dirty or you get a breeze or you glimpse it once and it swims off. It might even take a long look at your bait or pick it up and then spit it out.
"The last morning that (8-year-old son) Parker went out with me, we had two toms walk up within 17 yards, but they came up from behind and caught me off guard. Parker was asleep and I tried to nudge him awake, and if they'd come into the decoys I'd have shot and scared the crap out of him. They wouldn't come in, though; I don't know what the problem was."
He's had several opportunities to take shots at the 55- to 60-yard range, but has passed on them.
"That's a shot that's possible and I'm a decent shooter, but I'm an inexperienced hunter. I just didn't feel comfortable with that."
A .500 Record
DeFoe has also fished quite a bit since returning from Lake Fork. He's had two matches with Parker in which every fish weighing a pound or more was counted and he's gone 1-1 in those. He said Parker rallied at the end of the day to win the first duel.
He and fellow Tennessee resident/BPT competitor Jacob Wheeler planned to stage a similar contest on Thursday on a body of water he wouldn't identify ("It's a small lake with big fish and I don't want anybody to know about it."). They were set to fish from their own boats, but each would record the entire session on a Go-Pro camera for posting to their respective YouTube channels today.
Other than that, he's just trying to follow the COVID-19 guidelines and stay away from people. He's been to Lowe's a couple of times to purchase home-improvement stuff and made a run to Bass Pro Shops for shotgun shells and turkey calls, but otherwise has avoided public places.
"I'm trying to do all I can to be part of the solution and not the problem," he said. "(Wife) Jennie has it tougher than me because she's now a home-school teacher on top of everything else.
"I haven't dabbled in that yet, probably for the (betterment) of everyone. They say I'm a distraction, so I try to not be around when the kids are doing school stuff."