Open: DeFoe vs. Watson


Craig Lamb

Today’s weigh-in will determine whether or not this tournament will be a two-horse race. My guess is it will and here is why. 

Ott DeFoe and Mike Watson are fishing from aluminum boats retrofitted with tunnel hulls, both fabricated and tweaked by Watson. The boats can run in inches of water. What Watson has on speed, DeFoe gains on distance. 

Watson’s homemade rig is 21 feet with a massive beam spanning 6 feet. The boat is powered by a 250 h.p. Mercury Pro XS. Top speed is about 50 mph. It is made of heavy gauge aluminum and can withstand some pretty serious dings in the rocks. Call it a tank. 

DeFoe’s Tracker/Grizzly 1754 SC is powered by a 60 h.p. Mercury FourStroke. The boat is about 18 feet and weighs much lighter than Watson’s rig. It is nimble and can maneuver in water like no other boat. 

So, Watson passed DeFoe on the way up the French Broad River. Then DeFoe passed him in route to the farthest reaches of the lake. 

Both anglers told me yesterday the water was notably dirtier on Day 1 than the previous day’s practice. 

Tonight it will get clearer and only get better after that,” Watson told me on Day 1. 

The swift current and generation schedule will pull that mud out and into the lake. The TVA plans to operate “2 or more” generators according to its website. 

So the turning point comes with the improving water clarity. Will it trigger the fish to bite even more? Probably. River fish, be those largemouth or smallmouth, like clear and swift water. 

We shall see if all of the above comes true. It’ll either be a boom or bust day up there. But considering how slow the fishing is in the lake it’s a risk worth taking. 

And here is a teaser photo of a tunnel hull boat bling gallery to come soon on It’s DeFoe’s rig on the day prior to the tournament. 

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