DANDRIDGE, Tenn.— One consolation for the majority of the pros fishing the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Southern Open on Douglas Reservoir might be these prophetic words from local favorite Ott Defoe.
“The lake is as high as it’s been in about five years,” said the Knoxville, Tenn., native who also leads the Bassmaster Elite Series Rookie of the Year race. “There are some shallow fish to be caught and that’s unusual.”
“This time of year we’re already well underway into a deep, offshore bite,” he confirmed. “Catching fish shallow usually isn’t an option.”
“Deep” on Douglas ranges from 15 to 50 feet of water on this sharply contoured impoundment nestled in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains. Defoe’s offshore knowledge comes from years spent as a guide on the east Tennessee impoundments sharing the same topography.
At 25, his years on the tour have been short but Defoe is also on a hot streak. The Tennessean currently stands in seventh place in the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year race, meaning he’s on target for an appearance in the 2012 Bassmaster Classic. The most sought-after prize in this tournament is the Classic berth for the winner.
“You can catch them either way but we’re well into a post-spawn situation and they are much easier to pattern in the deeper areas,” he continued.
Defoe’s deep-water prophecy is on target for another key seasonal scenario common here in late spring. The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) is dropping the water level to summer pool. In turn, the bass remaining in shallow water are gradually being drawn out into the lake.
Depending on deep-water savvy and practice time spent by the tournament field, the shallow water bite could be short lived. Either way, Defoe recognizes the talent involved in the competition.
Early reports from pros probing the shallows indicated some bass caught on buzzbaits and topwater frogs up the French Broad River into its reservoir entry point. Even so, the skinny water is a narrow commodity and could come with a limitation of time, among other factors.
“Shallow or deep, the bite will be at its best in the morning,” he added.
With a 6 a.m. launch time and weigh-in beginning at 2 p.m. that adds up to being game-on early in the day, a decidedly clear advantage held by Defoe.