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Bass Angler Ott DeFoe Says Never Quit Day 5: Ott DeFoe Relearns Winning a Bass Tournament

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Editor’s Note: Bass fisherman Ott DeFoe, 38 years old from Blaine, Tennessee, and winner of the 2019 Bassmaster Classic and ranked 14th on bass fished from the time he was 9 years old at Lake Okeechobee, Florida. He immediately loved the sport and has earned $3 million bass fishing today. DeFoe and his father fished bass tournaments for the next couple of years but went two years before receiving a check. He learned then that you could win a bass tournament if you didn’t quit. Regardless of the odds against you, you can win. We’re revisiting a bass tournament he fished where he once again proved that adage.

On the last day of the tournament, all the weights returned to zero. The eight of us fishing to win in the Championship Round started the day with no weight. I knew I had to catch as many scorable basses as possible to win the day. So, I started in a different area than I had fished on Days 2 and 3 and caught a few bass. When the fishing slowed, and the catching became harder, I returned to the same area I’d fished on Days 2 and 3. Although I felt like plenty of bass still were holding in that place, getting that bass to bite was much more difficult than before. The bass there had already seen my best tricks. At the end of the first period, I had 13 pounds, and the leader had 27 pounds, making me about 14 pounds off the lead. Once again, I was in a deep hole with the tournament win, and it looked like it was slipping away from me.

Then, midway through the second period, I caught more bass than I had in the first period and the first half of the second period. I was fishing the same shoreline I’d fished for 2 other days, but I started fishing it from another direction. I discovered a small zone during the last 30 minutes of the second period, where I started catching bass quickly. I knew the other seven contestants weren’t catching bass as fast as I was. By the end of the second period, I’d moved into first place by about 1 1/2 pounds.

I was fishing 300 yards of a 5-6 miles long bank. I’d pull into a point, fish down the bank from left to right for about 300 yards, return to my starting point, and fish that same bank from the same direction. Once I reached where I normally would turn around and return to my starting point, I decided to fish about 20 yards past it. I made one more cast, caught a small bass, fished 10 more feet down the bank, and caught a scorable bass. I kept my trolling motor down and fished up the bank until I hit a sweet spot and caught several- more scorable bass.

At the beginning of the third period, I caught a good bass that increased my lead, and I quickly caught a second, scorable bass. That’s when I turned my boat around and returned down the bank from the opposite direction. But this time, I fished further away from the bank and made longer casts to the areas that had produced bass for me before. I switched from the swim bait to the Rapala OG Slim crankbait. I discovered a little spot where some Kissimmee grass cornered into a dock. I cast to that little pocket and caught a 2-pounder. Then, on the next cast, I caught a bass weighing 5 pounds, 12 ounces. Those two bass took my total weight of bass for the day from a 5-pound lead to a double-digit lead.

After I weighed and released the bass that weighed 5 pounds, 12 ounces, I felt like I could do no wrong. I’d pick up the swim jig and catch a bass. Then I’d change and fish the crankbait and catch another bass. With 20 minutes left in the tournament, I had a 20-pound lead over the other seven competitors. I felt like I had a good chance to win. However, in a bass tournament, you never know what will happen. Someone may have a fantastic last 20 minutes and beat you by a pound or even only a few ounces.

Hearing the referee announce, “Lines Out,” signifying the end of the tournament, followed by the words, “You Won,” is a feeling that never gets old. On the way back to receive my trophy and pick up my check for $100,000, I reflected on the first day when I’d had such a terrible finish and had to start again on the second day.

After that terrible first day, I had no expectations of winning this tournament. But at the end of the tournament, I relearned again that any time you fail, if you don’t quit, you’ll still have a chance to win. All hope of winning seemed to have passed me by at two different times in this tournament. However, I could snatch victory from defeat by keeping on because I didn’t give up mentally or physically.

Looking for more content? Check out our YouTube channel and watch “David Kilgore 2014 Bassmaster Classic Day 1” by John E. Phillips.

Expert Guidebooks on Bass Fishing: Best Sellers

If you want to become the best you can be, find someone who’s already become the best at what you want to do and follow his or her instructions. This is what I’ve done in my new book, Bass Pros’ Season by Season Tactics.

In this book, I’ve chosen some of the best bass fishermen to give you advice on how to find and catch bass during each period of a bass fish’s life, including professionals like Kevin VanDam, Denny Brauer, David Fritts, Rick Clunn, Larry Nixon, George Cochran, Mark Davis, Woo Daves, Gary Klein, Davy Hite, Michael Iaconelli, Skeet Reese, Mark Rose, and Shaw Grigsby.

My hope is that this book will help you find and catch more bass at every time of the year and each day you’re on the water. The men included in this book are some of the best mentors I know of for successful bass fishing anywhere in the nation.


How to Bass Fish Like a Pro
If you could sit down and interview some of the best pro bass fishermen in the world, what would you want them to tell you to help you improve your bass fishing skills?

In this book, How to Bass Fish Like a Pro, Kevin VanDam explains how he catches bass consistently, and how he fishes all 12 months of the year. In the bonus chapters, he will tell you how to fish for hot-weather bass.

Denny Brauer will tell you the ways he hates to fish, how he picks the best fishing lures for different water and weather conditions, and will give you his best fishing tips for hot weather. In Brauer’s bonus chapters, he’ll teach you when to flip a jig, a tube, or a creature bait and tell you his three tips for how to be a better fisherman.

Mark Davis, in Chapter 3 of the book, explains his five secrets to becoming a better bass fisherman, how to turn your bass fishing around to the positive side, and how to catch hot-weather bass. In the bonus chapter, you’ll get six different interviews with Davis, where he tells you: three tips for becoming a better bass fisherman; his three favorite bass lures; and how to keep a big bass on the line and get it to the boat.

James Niggemeyer tells you how to become a bass pro. He also tells you how to catch bass when the weather sizzles. In Niggemeyer’s bonus chapter, he explains how to move from being a bass-club fisherman up to being a pro.

Mark Rose will explain his five favorite go-to bass lures, and how to catch bass in the middle of the summer.

In this book, you’ll hear from top-performing pro fishermen about how they catch big bass consistently, and what they do to win millions of dollars as professional bass fishermen.


Catch the Biggest and Most Bass in Any Lake
If you were having open-heart surgery at the hospital, you’d want the best doctor with the most experience and the latest equipment and techniques that money could buy to do your operation. You’d study these doctors’ credentials to learn who was the best.

This is the same type of research that author John E. Phillips has done with the best bass fishermen in the nation to solve the problem of how to find and catch the biggest and the most bass in any body of water that he fishes.

This is the same type of research that author John E. Phillips has done with the best bass fishermen in the nation to solve the problem of how to find and catch the biggest and the most bass in any body of water that he fishes.

In this book, you’ll hear about the techniques, tips, baits, lures, and tackle that 18 of the nation’s best professional fishermen use to support their families by winning bass tournaments and catching the most and the biggest bass they can in every tournament they fish.

Most of these anglers are Bassmaster Classic winners, Megabucks winners, Angler-of-the-Year and FLW Tour winners – like Rick Clunn, Kevin VanDam, George Cochran, Mark Davis, Paul Elias, Skeet Reese, Larry Nixon, Hank Parker, Ken Cook, Denny Brauer, Alton Jones, and Jay Yelas.

Also, every serious bass fisherman should know Timmy Horton, Mark Rose, Randy Dearman, Harold Allen, Mike Wurm, and Shaw Grigsby, men whose tactics you’ll find in this book. To learn how to fish for bass and change your bass-fishing trips from fishing trips to catching trips, this book is a must-have.


Winning Strategies of the Bass Pros
I learned many years ago if you want to be the best you can be, then you need to learn from the best – particularly when you want to be the best bass fisherman possible. That’s why I’ve written Winning Strategies of the Bass Pros about 11 top bassers.

If you’re wondering at what age you can start learning about bass fishing, you’ll see in the first two chapters about two young men who have come up through the ranks of collegiate bass tournaments – Jordan Lee, who won the Bassmaster Classic in 2017, and Dustin Connell, who won $100,000 in a B.A.S.S. Elite Series tournament in Mississippi in 2017. Top-name pros on both the B.A.S.S. circuit and the FLW circuit are in this book, including Kevin VanDam, Jay Yelas, George Cochran, Rick Clunn, Larry Nixon, Woo Daves, Randy Howell, Scott Canterbury, and Gary Klein.


In How to Bass Fish Like a Pro, Volume II, you’ll learn tips and tactics from 21+ Bassmaster Classic winners, two Major League Fishing champions, and 20+ Bassmaster Anglers of the Year about some of the dramatic changes in bass fishing, like:

Depth Finders: You need the latest and greatest depth finders available, since they’re the brains of a bass boat with maps, GPS, side scanning, down scanning, and forward scanning features that enable you to see underwater structures and fish 100-feet away with a 360-degree view. Today’s competitive bass anglers may have four or five depth finders located on the consoles and the bows of their boats. 

Other Changes in Equipment: Power fishing for bass using heavy line and rods, big baits, and bait-casting reels that resemble winches have given way to finesse fishing and new techniques like fishing the Ned Rig, the Neko Rig, the Chicken Rig, and the Tokyo Rig on spinning tackle and line as small as 6-10 pounds. 

The Growth in Youth and College Competitions for Bass: A young person can begin competition fishing as early as the second grade and continue throughout high school. After that, if the competitor qualifies, he/she may win a scholarship to fish on a college team that eventually may lead them to a professional bass-fishing career. 

Changes in the Ways Anglers Bass Fish: Many of the most-consistent winners never pick-up their rods to fish during pre-fishing. Instead, they’ll idle across the water, dropping waypoints from their electronics in places where they’ve identified schools of bass holding. These contestants will have at least 50-250 locations, where they’ve pinpointed schools of bass before a tournament starts.


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