Pro Ott DeFoe Moves off the Bank to Cash in at Lake Athens
Mar 25th, 2020 by Keith Worrall
Modified Mar 25th, 2020 at 12:10 PM
Humminbird® and Minn Kota® Pro Ott DeFoe Moves off the Bank to Cash in at Lake Athens in Bass Pro Tour Stage Three Win
Despite entering the final round 19 pounds behind the leader, Humminbird® and Minn Kota® pro, Ott DeFoe came from behind to check off his first win on the Bass Pro Tour in exciting fashion last week in Texas. The Stage Three victory came down to impressive numbers in the last hour of the Major League Fishing Tournament. DeFoe, the 2019 Bassmaster Classic champion put on a fish-catching clinic in an impressive and unprecedented run on Lake Athens during the championship day. DeFoe recorded 18 scoreable bass in just over an hour for a total weight of 57 pounds, 4 ounces for his first Bass Pro Tour Stage Championship Trophy.
The first rounds of the third stage of the Bass Pro Tour found the field of anglers hunting for big bass on Lake Fork before moving 75 miles south to Lake Athens for the championship round. On Lake Fork, DeFoe had success sight fishing and connecting with shallow fish during the qualification and knockout rounds, utilizing his Minn Kota Talon anchors and Ultrex™ trolling motor to pick apart pockets of spawning bass in the early days of the tournament to stay alive.
“In the beginning, Lake Fork was all about sight fishing and looking for fish on beds,” noted DeFoe. “I was trying to get a pre-spawn bite working in the shallows and I could see the fish I wanted to target. I would Talondown in the soft bottom mode to not spook them off of their beds to make the casts I needed to. I was also able to mark and add waypoints for fish I’d see and come back to them and ease into casting range using this technique, and it was working.”
With a solid qualification round already behind him, DeFoe was able to take advantage of an off day and pre-fish Lake Athens during the week to prepare for the chance to return later in the championship round. He started off with the same approach there as at Lake Fork but wasn’t seeing anything except smaller males on beds and knew he was going to have to change tactics to put fish on the scale.
Using his Humminbird MEGA 360 Imaging™ and MEGA Side Imaging®, he noticed the fish had moved out of the shallows and were schooling in 6-12 feet of water, a classic post-spawn movement. This is where he planned to focus his efforts going into the final day.
“It honestly seemed like a different climate at Lake Athens. I noticed even the trees seemed to be greener and knew right away we were working with a totally different lake than we had been fishing previously. It was only 75 miles south, but you could tell everything was farther along in the year compared to where we were. I started off with the same approach as Lake Fork and wasn’t seeing the fish on beds like I had been and knew then I had to move off the bank and use the HELIX 12 with MEGA Side Imaging to help find the fish I was looking for.”
Moving out of the shallows allowed DeFoe to put the Humminbird electronics to work and spend time locating fish and looking for different areas during the practice round that he would try to come back to later.
“I came out around a point during practice at Lake Athens and noticed a couple fish bust at the surface and as I got closer, I realized it was a group schooling in about 8 feet of water above a hard bottom. I cast into them a couple times and caught a smaller one and then a four-pounder and could see on my MEGA 360 that it was a big group. I continued to idle around and mark these similar areas that would top out around six feet, and it was unbelievable how many fish I could see on Side Imaging in those areas all in six to twelve feet of water with a rise and a hard bottom. I wasn’t seeing as many fish on beds and I could tell that a few that I was catching were post spawn. At that point, I was committed to continuing this method and with the few hours I had left, I planned to study what I was seeing on Side Imaging while marking waypoints and graphing as much of the 1,800-acre lake as I could.”
During the final day the ten top scoring anglers made the move to Lake Athens to decide the champion. With only 12 pounds 8 ounces on the SCORETRACKER going into the final period, Ott knew he had work to do. But he was confident in the areas he was able to mark during practice. Each time he stopped during the practice round he was able to catch scoreable fish and felt he had located a few solid spots that would be productive on the final day. Little did he know that the fish that would score him the win would not come from those locations.
“I had seen a few fish on this spot under a bridge and right at the ramp during practice but didn’t catch much at that time. I had also passed it up during the tournament three times that day and on my fourth pass by I saw a group on my MEGA Side Imaging as I was going under the bridge. I told my camera man, they are right there. I just need to get them to bite.” DeFoe commented.
“I hit Spot-Lock on the Ultrex and worked from the back of the boat with the nose upwind so I could make the cast I needed to. I threw a crankbait first and could feel the bait bouncing off fish there were so many of them. I knew then this was it. On my 4th cast I caught one and then they went crazy and it blew up from that point.”
Ott scored the biggest fish on the SCORETRACKER during the championship round with a 9 pound 6 ounce largemouth and finished the day with a margin of 28 pounds 3 ounces over 2nd place. He soared to the top of the leaderboard in record time with 23 fish for 69 pounds 12 ounces on the final day of the tournament.
“Humminbird MEGA Side Imaging was a crucial tool on my boat that helped locate and confidently fish areas that I had passed up several times before. Being able to pick apart unfamiliar water is key to finding these big fish. Learning their movements helps to understand and adapt in changing conditions. The One-Boat Network™ allows me to have complete control from anywhere in the boat and make real time decisions that play a big part in my success” Added DeFoe.
It’s not the first time Ott DeFoe has celebrated a victory in March. It was almost exactly one year ago that he found himself on the Bassmaster stage hoisting the trophy for the 2019 Bassmaster Classic Championship celebration and now he is celebrating again with this MLF win in 2020. Quite the coincidence but no matter the date on the calendar, with the Minn Kota and Humminbird One-Boat Network on his side, Ott DeFoe will continue to be a force to be reckoned with.