KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Along with the title of best angler, Ott DeFoe gets the “best dad” award.
The DeFoes’ youngest daughter said it on stage after daddy won the 2019 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Good two weeks ago.
“I wanted him to win because I think he’s the best daddy in the world,” Lizzie said to emcee Dave Mercer’s query.
The entire DeFoe family, which is one of strong faith, provided Ott the mental support needed to lead, fall and then get back up with the biggest bag on Championship Sunday. Possibly sleeping in his own bed and following his daily routine allowed him to bear the cross of the pressure-cooker.
His wife, Jennie, spoke of his work ethic and motivation. Despite that desire, bass fishing’s biggest stage didn’t stop him from taking care of his family. On the morning of Friday’s final practice, Ott went about business of being dad.
“He’s just so driven and committed,” she said. “It’s just fish, fish, fish. If he’s not fishing, he’s in his boat working. At the same time, when he’s not fishing, he’s an awesome dad – Bassmaster Classic home lake, and he was taking the kids to school on his way to practice.”
To school? On the morning of the first official practice?
Yes, she said. With the time change and later morning light, he was just a little late to launch. It was all good, apparently.
“He wanted to take them,” she said.
It's what real champions do – keep an eye on the prize while also attending to your flock. In the hubbub of the Champion’s Toast, the DeFoes’ oldest daughter gave her assessment of dad’s big victory.
“I think it’s insane,” Abbie said. “I’m just so proud of him. It’s unbelievable. He works super hard for everything.”
Ott was about her age when he attended his first Classic and the ember was lit. His fire was fueled further by witnessing winners in the eight more championships, which he attended with his parents and brother.
“Going to those Classics, watching those guys win, watching it change their lives, watch them live their dream of being a professional bass angler, that’s what made me have that dream and want to do this my whole entire life,” Ott said. “That’s what I worked hard for.”
During a walkthrough before this Classic, he even imagined his name being announced along with the words, “Bassmaster Classic champion.” Envision it, then it can happen.
Like so many other youths who dream big – like hitting the winning home run, basket or touchdown – Ott pretended he was fishing the Classic during the local tournaments in his youth.
“I had a vest,” he said. “We’d go to the Classic, and I’d get all the patches from every company that would give me one.
“I didn’t ever hold anything over my head. Probably (pretended) the blastoff as much as anything. That’s what I got to do fishing those local tournaments. But it wasn’t just a weekend tournament – it was the Classic.”
Fulfilling that vision, and having his name etched alongside the 38 others who’ve hoisted the trophy, left him searching for words, but the ones he found said it all.
“It’s extremely, extremely humbling, this dream come true,” he said. “I don’t know what else to say. I’ve been working this way my whole life. It’s all I ever dreamed of.”