The very interesting rookie year of Ott DeFoe
"First" things you may not know about Bassmaster Elite Series rookie Ott DeFoe: He fished his first tournament at the age of 9; now age 25, he entered his first FLW event at 16; he aspired to the Elite Series and made it on his first try; his first name is Arthur (but don't call him that).
Another first: He and his wife are expecting twins in June. Multiple births don't run in either of their families, so the news of twins was a surprise. But, as DeFoe explains it, he would have expected twins if only he had listened to his 3 1/2-year-old. "Our daughter had been telling us for about a year that she was going to have a brother and a sister," DeFoe related. "We always said, 'Maybe one day you'll have one or the other.' She said, 'Nope, a brother and a sister.'"
For now, the twins' gender is unconfirmed. The June arrival date, though, is a fact that promises to add drama to DeFoe's rookie Elite Series season. June was already the busiest time on his 2011 tournament calendar: back-to-back Elite events in Arkansas and Alabama, plus the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Southern Open season finale in Tennessee.
DeFoe declared that just before the Open, which is slated for a lake close to home, is when the big event will happen. That's pure optimism at this stage of the game. But who could doubt that all will work out for DeFoe? He's been successful since age 16 in various FLW circuits. He went out for the Elite Series through the 2010 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Southern Open trail and made it, first try.
This season, he's already on a roll with a fourth-place finish at last week's Southern Open, a $12,000 check and a personal-best bass of 10 pounds, 9 ounces. "I've never caught anything even close to that big — and I caught it on the last cast," DeFoe said on stage on Day 2 as the bass was weighed. Helping DeFoe launch his first Elite year is an impressive list of sponsors.
His Nitro boat is wrapped by Bass Pro Shops, and the retail giant's name is prominent on his tournament jersey. Other sponsors include Berkley PowerBait, Berkley Trilene, Abu Garcia Revo reels, Tabu Tackle, Reins Tungsten and Citrus Sticks. On Monday, already back home in Knoxville, Tenn., DeFoe took time to explain that the name Ott is a family nickname — origin unknown — bestowed on him at an early age by an aunt and uncle.
Mainly, though, he talked about his goals as an Elite rookie. The top target is a Bassmaster Classic qualification. It's a dream that took hold when his father first took him and his brother to see a Classic in 1996, just before his 11th birthday.
They took the trip every year as their summer vacation through the 2004 Classic. Then the pulls of adult life kept him away. "I've always told myself that the next time I got to a Classic, I'd be on the other side of the stage," he said.
Elite Series pros scout first fisheries
In Florida this month for other events, several Bassmaster Elite Series pros have been checking out the first two stops on this year's schedule. The Elite Series season will kick off with back-to-back events: the March 10-13 Sunshine Showdown on the Harris Chain out of Tavares, Fla., and the March 17-20 Citrus Slam on the St. Johns River out of Palatka, Fla.
One scout was Charlie Hartley of Grove City, Ohio. On the St. Johns on Monday morning, he planned to also hit the Harris Chain. A veteran of competitions on both fisheries, Hartley was looking for one thing: change. "Florida lakes change quicker than any other lake because of the grass that grows in them, so I use these trips to scout, to learn the waterway again. It's too far ahead of time to actually learn what the fish will be doing,"
Hartley said. Elite Series rookie Ott DeFoe of Knoxville, Tenn., took a look because the St. Johns and Harris Chain will be new competition water for him. "I knew they were both big bodies of water, very spread out, and that you could spend a lot of time running them — in the wrong direction," said DeFoe, who scouted the Elite Series fisheries before the Southern Open. "The fishing itself will be entirely different by the time I come back."
Big bass stories — Charlie Hartley's 10-10
Charlie Hartley began with a laugh and a teaser: "I can't do anything the easy way." Then he told the story of how he boated a 10-pound, 10-ounce lunker on Jan. 21 during the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Southern Open on Florida's Lake Tohopekaliga. His personal best in a tournament, the catch was also the largest bass of Day 2.
The action began in a small bunch of lily pads, Hartley said. Water depth was about 18 inches, and he was targeting spawners. He tossed a topwater. A small bass jumped and flipped over the bait. "A lot of times that's how bed fish will act," Hartley said. "So I reeled in the topwater and threw a Venom Salty Slingipede in there. All the lily pads suddenly came together in a big wad and they shook and they shook. And then I thought my line broke." But it was the snap of a lily pad stem he felt, a fact he confirmed as his line disappeared under his boat and into hydrilla. "I was just praying the line didn't break," he continued.
"I brought her out from under the boat, and my co-angler netted it and lifted it up. When we saw its size, we both screamed." His co-angler was Kathy Freehling of Interlachen, Fla., who scooped the behemoth into the mesh without a hitch, Hartley said. That line that did not, after all, break? It was 15-pound Berkley Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon.
The Venom lure was a 6-inch soft stickbait with centipede legs, watermelon with red flake. It was Texas rigged on a 5/0 hook with a 1/64-ounce weight.
Combs debuts wrap
Bassmaster Elite Series rookie and 2011 Bassmaster Classic qualifier Keith Combs of Del Rio, Texas, introduced his 2011 wrap this week.
The wrap on his Ranger/Yamaha bass rig features PowerLine Service, a transmission line company out of west Texas. Two other sponsors, Power Tackle and Tournament Saver Pro, are also featured.
Crochet adds sponsors
Second-year Bassmaster Elite Series pro Cliff Crochet of Pierre Part, La., has three more sponsors behind him: Rat-L-Trap (Bill Lewis Lures); Falcon Rods; and Reins Tungsten, a Japanese company that recently brought its lures and weights to U.S. markets.
The new sponsors are in addition to those from his rookie year, which include Skeeter, Synergy Technologies, Humdinger Spinnerbaits and Onyx Outdoor. Get more Pro News now.
"That's actually the third 9-pounder I've caught this week." — Pro Trevor Fitzgerald after weighing a 9-5 on Jan. 22, Day 3 of the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Southern Open on Florida's Lake Tohopekaliga