“I was just outside of the Classic cut, so I was really needing two good tournaments,” he said. “I don’t have the Classic wrapped up, but if I can just get a check (50th place and above) at St. Clair, I should be fine. But obviously I want to win that one. It’s at home. My whole family will be there, and my friends.”
Another pro with points on his mind is Ott DeFoe of Knoxville, Tenn. He found his smallmouth footing slowly in the Evan Williams Bourbon Showdown: After ending the first round in 29th place, he climbed to finish at third place. That strong finish put DeFoe in 16th place in points heading into the Championship Chase.
His first goal at the Chase is to amass enough points to stay within the Top 29 in Elite points to secure his third consecutive Classic berth. But a postseason qualification may be out of his reach.
“I’m about 50 points out for that,” he said. “I doubt it is doable for me. I don’t see any other guys fishing badly enough to fall out. My doable goal is to stay up there and make the Classic.”
DeFoe is safer than it appears. The instant-ins that Bassmaster event champs are awarded create double qualifiers. When all Bassmaster circuits wrap up their seasons, the Classic cutoff will extend from 29th down several more places.
Like most of the field, DeFoe doesn’t have the caliber of experience on the Chase fisheries that the VanDams can claim.
“I’ve fished a handful of tournaments there — five or six — and never had a great tournament there,” DeFoe said. “Still, I’m relatively comfortable with the fisheries. I know the lay of the land fairly well.”
Hailing from Tennessee, DeFoe is a smallmouth expert. But his smallie experience is deceiving, he pointed out.
“Our smallmouth and northern smallmouth are almost like two different species. Our smallmouth in the South bite well when it’s windy and cloudy. Up North, the sunnier and the slicker, the better, at least in my experience,” DeFoe said.
He didn’t pre-practice for the Chase, but he is strategizing from shore. Like all Elite pros, he needs to narrow down his choices. With the geographical spread of the fisheries, anglers may do best if they put all their eggs in one basket.
“I have one fishery in mind, but I’m probably not going to spend my first practice day there,” DeFoe said. “I have a couple of places to check first.”
He predicted a tight spread of hefty weights. “I don’t see anybody running off with this one. I’m going to say it will take between 82 and 84 pounds to win,” he said.
Elite Series pros will launch their boats each morning from Lake St. Clair Metropark at 6:30 a.m. ET. They’ll bring their catches back to the park for a 3:15 p.m. ET weigh-in. The address of the Metropark is 31300 Metro Parkway, Harrison Township, MI 48045.
At the park on Saturday and Sunday beginning at noon, the Bassmaster Elite Series Expo will showcase sponsors’ products. Two free concerts also are on tap: The Sun Messengers, the official band of the Detroit Pistons, will take the stage Saturday. On Sunday, the band Purdy Good will perform.
Bassmaster.com will provide extensive, daily coverage of the competition.
There’s no admission to Bassmaster events. Access to online features is also free.
The local sponsors are the Detroit Sports Commission and the Lake St. Clair Metropark.
ESPN2 will air The Bassmasters coverage of the Plano Championship Chase Aug. 31, 7-8 a.m. ET. Fans can catch the same show again that day on ESPN Classic at 9-10 a.m. ET.
The show will reair Sept. 14 on ESPN2 at 6-7 a.m. ET, and Sept. 15 on ESPN Classic at 8-9 a.m. ET.