Tennessee pros David Walker, Brandon Card and Ott DeFoe won’t be just home-state anglers in the May 3-6 Douglas Lake Challenge; they’ll be local favorites.
Douglas Lake, just east of Knoxville, Tenn., is almost in the backyards of Walker and DeFoe. Walker lives in Sevierville, and DeFoe just outside Knoxville. Card, from up the road in Caryville, says his true home lake is Norris, but he knows Douglas well enough to claim local-angler status.
Competing on home water in a Bassmaster Elite Series event has its advantages, from a good night’s sleep in your own bed to knowing good spots. But there are disadvantages, too. One is falling into the trap of “fishing history” or “fishing the past” Walker said.
“You need to figure out what’s going on now, not what should be going on, what used to be going on, or what has been going on. To win, you need to know what is going on,” said Walker, a native of Michigan who first competed on Douglas in the early 1990s.
Walker values the confidence that a home-based venue lends to him. Confidence is particularly important for him now; he’s sitting in third place in the points standings for the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year crown.
“The rhythm, the timing is good to be going to a lake I know well. I’ve got momentum going into this one,” he said.
But as far as recent knowledge of Douglas goes, Walker doesn’t have it.
“Not having been on the lake lately might very well help me so I don’t fall into that trap of fishing history,” he said.
DeFoe grew up fishing Douglas. He spent time on Douglas last fall (just because he enjoys the lake) and ran the lake once this spring before the off-limits period kicked in for Elite Series pros.
“I’ve fished the lake since I was 9 or 10, and there’s hardly a place I haven’t caught a bass,” said DeFoe, 26. “I probably know every rock and have seen the lake in all stages.
“The downside is that I have that much knowledge. I will try to approach practice like I’ve never been on the lake before. I will have to work at that.”
As a local, DeFoe said, he feels added pressure.
“I don’t feel like I’m just fishing for myself,” said the second-year Elite Series pro. “I feel like I’m fishing for the whole town. They’ll support me however I fish, but I want to do well for them.”
Of the three Elite Series anglers from Tennessee, rookie Card, age 25, is the least experienced. Yet his Douglas history is strong.
“I‘ve been fishing Douglas since I was 14,” he said. “I have fished it probably about five times a year over each of the last 10 years.”
Card said he’s been thinking about this event for months, using his knowledge of the lake to form a game plan.
“I have tons of spots — probably 100 — that I want to check in practice,” he said. “But that could also be a disadvantage in that I might spread myself a little too thin. I have to keep that in mind and tell myself not to run all over the lake like a chicken with its head cut off.
“By tournament day, I need to have that narrowed down. Still, it’s easier to compete on a lake you know.”
Card sits in 11th place in points, a remarkable rookie accomplishment after three events. He isn’t letting the points race interrupt his concentration.
“If Douglas was the last tournament of the year, it might be different. I focus on each tournament. How it ends up at the end of the year will be what it will be,” he said.
The Elite Series has never stopped at Douglas, so the fishery will be new for many Elite pros. Fans are invited to come out and see how the pros fare in their quest to win $100,000 and an instant-in for the 2013 Bassmaster Classic.
The daily takeoffs and weigh-ins will be at The Point Marina, 122 Boatdock Drive, Dandridge, TN 37725. Pros will leave the dock at 6:30 a.m. CT. Weigh-ins will begin at 3:15 p.m. CT. Bush Hawg, a band that performed at the 2012 Bassmaster Classic, will perform after the May 5 weigh-in as part of the free Evan Williams Bourbon Concert Series. All fan activities are free and open to the public.
Bassmaster.com will provide extensive daily coverage, from the new War Room to the Hooked Up! shows to live, streaming video of the weigh-ins. Daily photo galleries, videos, results and standings will be available. Access is free to all Bassmaster.com pages and features.
ESPN2 will present the Douglas Challenge, 8-9 a.m. ET, May 13 on The Bassmasters. The show will air again the same day on ESPN Classic, 10-11 a.m. ET.
The local host of the Douglas Lake Challenge is Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce.