DANDRIDGE, Tenn. — Consistency has put Ott DeFoe in position to win his first Bassmaster event on his home waters of Douglas Lake.
“Every big tournament we have had here I have done well but I have yet to win one,” said DeFoe, a Bassmaster Elite Series pro from Knoxville, Tenn. “I have made the Top 12 in every one of them . . . so I want to close the dang deal one time. This lake is very hard to be real consistent on. A couple of those 4 1/2-, 5- or 5 1/2-pound bites are what makes you have a 20- to 21-pound day. So it is hard to be consistent here with all 4-pounders."
After catching a 19-pound, 3-ounce limit Thursday, DeFoe backed up that catch with a 19-1 bag Friday to take over the lead in the pro division of the Bass Pro Shops Northern Open. “Yesterday I said I was a little frustrated, although I was thankful for what I had. It was exactly the opposite today, I was so blessed,” said Defoe, who moved into the lead with 38-4.
The local pro has noticed the lake is fishing tougher than usual. “The deep bite is the way to win here but it is not the way it should be,” DeFoe said. “There should be a lot more fish out there and there should be bigger bags caught. The lake is doing well but it is not where it should be.”
Since he is so familiar with the lake, DeFoe spent only about 10 hours practicing for the Open. “I really didn’t fish that much,” he said. “I just kind of rode and looked at stuff just wanting to see the conditions. “
The first day he caught his fish early, but by 10 o’clock Friday he had a limit weighing about 11 pounds. DeFoe decided to try some spots he never touched the previous day and the move paid off with his three biggest fish of the day.
Local angler Ricky Shepherd moved into second place by catching the heaviest limit (20-10) of the day. “These fish have changed on the lake this week because of the traffic and they have positioned themselves to where they are easier for me to catch,” said the 52-year-old Shepherd who has a two-day catch of 35-14. The warehouse manager said he threw a swimbait Thrusday but changed his strategy for Day 2, hitting about 25 spots to catch his hefty limit.
Rounding out the top five in the pro division are Todd Schmitz, Goshen, Ind., third, 35-3; Dewayne Wilson, La Follette, Tenn., fourth, 34-14; and Brent Ehrler, Redlands, Calif., fifth, 34-9.
Fishing shallow helped Mandel Pettus of Sound Beach, N.Y., move into the lead in the co-angler division with 20-5. “I got to fish my strengths today,” said the 40-year-old Dick’s Sporting Goods employee. Pettus was paired with Day 1 leader DeWayne Wilson, who had been catching fish deep the previous day. The fishing pressure Friday caused Wilson and Pettus to move to the shallows where they caught three quality fish.
The Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce is hosting this event. Saturday's launch will be held at The Point Marina at 122 Boatdock Drive. The weigh-in will move to the Bass Pro Shops at 3629 Outdoor Sportsman’s Place in Kodak, Tenn., and will start at 3 p.m. EDST.