Climbing the ladder: DeFoe reaches another bass fishing pinnacle

Racine, Wis. - At just 30 years old, Ott DeFoe had a long list of pro fishing accomplishments. Bassmaster Rookie of the Year. FLW Series winner. Bassmaster Open champion. Yet, despite amassing over $1 million in prize earnings, DeFoe had yet to take down a Bassmaster Elite title - something he’d dreamed about since childhood.

That all changed in Wisconsin two weeks ago, as DeFoe beat the nation’s best, claiming the champion’s trophy at the Plano Bassmaster Elite Series event on the Mississippi River. With the win, DeFoe placed himself solidly within the Angler of the Year Championship event and high in the Bassmaster Classic hunt.

Many considered DeFoe long overdue for the win, but he didn’t discount the difficulty in accomplishing such a feat. “To beat 106 of the world’s best bass fishermen is something I don’t take lightly,” DeFoe emphasized.

As in most Elite Series’ events, numerous competitors brought stellar catches to the weigh-in stage. But it was a few special spots, combined with intricate attention to lure choice that gave DeFoe the upper hand.

For the win, DeFoe concentrated his efforts in two locations, utilizing two very different fishing patterns. The majority of his fish were caught in swift current below the Lake Onalaska Dam, where DeFoe employed a unique method of fishing a swimbait.

“I didn’t want the bait to swim,” he ironically mentioned. “The bait had to tumble in the current.” DeFoe theorized that, by allowing the bait to sweep and fall in the roiling waters, it closely matched a disoriented baitfish and triggered the area’s largemouth population.

Just as important to the retrieve of the lure was making the correct cast. As often the case when fishing current, DeFoe’s found it necessary to make repeated casts to what seemed like the same spot. Then, even after multiple attempts, his lure would eventually tumble correctly and trigger a bite. DeFoe stated that he could only accomplish such exact presentations through the use of the Spot Lock feature on his Minn Kota Ultrex trolling motor. With water too deep and turbulent for the use of a shallow-water anchor, DeFoe accomplished exact anchoring through Spot-Lock, allowing him to make dozens of presentations, hook and land fish without ever moving the boat.

Each day, DeFoe supplemented his tailrace catch with heavy largemouths caught flipping matted vegetation. Here, again, finding the perfect spot was everything. While numerous areas offered thick duckweed mats, DeFoe’s key area had slightly deeper water and a harder bottom than similar looking grass beds.

“In practice, I was fishing around, and noticed a small depression on my LakeMaster map.” DeFoe investigated the contour change and the rest, as they say, is history. 

Likely due to the slight depth change, the area featured coontail as well as a “long, stringy grass”, rather than eelgrass, as in surrounding waters. This vegetative combo exhibited more caverns and holes within the mats, attracting big bass, which DeFoe quickly exploited with an ounce-and-a-half tungsten weight and creature bait. It’s not the first time LakeMaster mapping has paid off for DeFoe and adds to a growing list of titles credited to Humminbird’s break-through cartography.

With final-day competitors consisting of the Bassmaster Angler of the Year leader, a local ace and a half-dozen Bassmaster Classic champs, the Mississippi win proved that DeFoe is a truly a force to be reckoned with. Of course, his fans and fellow competitors knew that all along.