MONTGOMERY, Ala. — After the results were announced from Lake Jordan, in the first week of the Bassmaster Toyota Tundra All-Star event, it became obvious how much respect Rookie of the Year Ott DeFoe had earned among his Elite Series peers this season.
Some of the comments, gathered a week before DeFoe won $100,000 on the Alabama River, proved to be prophetic.
“Right now I would say Ott is as good a shallow-water fisherman as there is on the tour,” said Jeff Kriet, who finished 24th in the Angler of the Year race and has fished the Elite Series since its beginning in 2006. “I pay attention to that stuff. For him to do what he did shallow this week (on Lake Jordan), that was just amazing.”
Keith Poche finished 10th in the AOY standings this year. He lives in Troy, Ala., a short distance from Montgomery, and attended most of the All-Star activities, including guiding one of the Hope for the Warriors anglers to an 8-pound, 7-ounce largemouth last Saturday. Poche picked DeFoe to win the All-Star final after he saw the results from Lake Jordan.
“Every time we go somewhere (on the Elite Series tour), he goes up a river,” Poche said. “He’s an awesome shallow-water fisherman. He can read the conditions really well.
“I was really surprised he did as well as he did on Jordan. The river is the place where he’s really going to shine. I think it’s going to be different all three days. Conditions are going to change. Ott is going to have a plan to do it for three days.”
DeFoe probably didn’t plan to catch only 8 pounds, 7 ounces on the final day, but that was enough to make Poche’s prediction come true.
Google Maps a key for DeFoe
Much has been said and written about the advantages the Internet provides for anglers preparing to fish a tournament. When a body of water goes off limits for fishing, the Internet continues to provide up-to-date information for an angler trying to form a game plan.
For a shallow-water specialist who always prefers to go “up river,” Google Maps has been especially helpful for Ott DeFoe.
That proved to be particularly true on the 80 miles of Alabama River that were open to the Elite Series All-Stars. Rather than taking valuable practice time to explore all the backwater areas of the river, the 25-year-old Knoxville, Tenn., angler was able to eliminate many of them on-line.
“It’s more efficient,” DeFoe said. “I use it a lot. You can see current, you can see everything on it. You can look at timelines on Google Maps and see when the water was down and when it was up. It really helps to look at all different types of scenarios.”
All rods on deck for Ike
While preparing for the change from Lake Jordan to the Alabama River, Mike Iaconelli sat in his boat the day before practice began, surrounded by a thicket of rod-and-reel combos.
Just how many rods-and-reels form a thicket? How about 32. Iaconelli looked like a porcupine flaring its quills.
“That’s the normal number,” Iaconelli said. “I’ve been carrying that many for about 10 years now. It’s about 60 percent casting and 40 percent spinning.
“A lot of guys will say you don’t need that many, and you really don’t. But I’ve always carried a lot of rods on the water even when I was fishing in smaller boats. I talk all the time about ‘fishing the moment.’ What that means is every day is fresh and every cast is a new cast.
“Sometimes you’ll be in a spot where all of the sudden you’ll think, ‘Gosh, that spot looks just right for a 1/8th-ounce buzzbait. You might be throwing a big chugger or something. If you don’t have that buzzbait tied on, you’re probably not going to take the time to do it in that situation.
“But if you’ve got 32 rods, you’re going to have that 1/8th-ounce buzzbait tied on. You’re able to respond to your instincts. It lets that thought process happen naturally, where it’s not interrupted. That’s important.”
All those rods didn’t make a difference for Iaconelli last week. But the system has definitely been successful for the 39-year-old Pittsgrove, N.J., pro, who has a Bassmaster Classic title (2003), a Toyota Tundra Angler of the Year title (2006) and over $1.8 million in B.A.S.S. tournament winnings.
Roommates remain friends
Gerald Swindle and Terry Scroggins have been friends for many years, but they didn’t start rooming together and sharing information on the Elite Series tour until this year.
The results of that pairing said it all: Scroggins contended for the AOY title before finishing sixth in AOY points; Swindle finished the season strong and slipped ahead of Scroggins into third place in AOY points.
When those two got paired in the first round of the Evan Williams Bourbon All-Star Championship’s match fishing format, they were both adamant that nothing would alter their bond that has strengthened as the season progressed.
Elite Series pros are allowed to exchange information among themselves. But it takes a certain chemistry to form a productive partnership. Personality type, fishing style and level of trust are key components.
“I’ve been working with him all year, and it’s been a fun year,” Scroggins said. “It helps us break down a body of water a whole lot quicker. It has worked out well.”
It seemed to work well on the first day of match-play, as Swindle (12 pounds, 5 ounces) and Scroggins (12-4) had the second- and third-biggest bags on Day One at the Alabama River. Unfortunately for Scroggins, in this format that one-ounce margin was all it took to eliminate him from the tournament. But it did nothing to alter their friendship.
“Terry and I fish a lot alike,” Swindle said. “I’ve known him for years, but I’d never worked with him. It has been great. We put Britt Myers in the mix, too.
“When you take three guys that are willing to come to the table every night after practice and be totally honest, it shortens the practice days. When you can trust somebody, and they say they’re not biting off-shore, that means I don’t have to waste my time there.”