In a wild ending, Mercury Pro Team angler Ott DeFoe of Blaine, Tennessee, caught two key fish late in the final day to overtake fellow Mercury Pro Team member Luke Clausen of Spokane, Washington, and win the 2021 Major League Fishing (MLF) Bass Pro Tour Stage One at Sam Rayburn Reservoir. DeFoe’s final-day total of 13 bass weighed 30 pounds, 2 ounces.
The wild nature of DeFoe’s win was set up by the secluded area where he caught his fish. DeFoe ran far up the Angelina River on the north end of Sam Rayburn. Cellular coverage was extremely spotty there, so when DeFoe boated back-to-back bass weighing 2-12 and 2-13 with about 20 minutes left in the event to overtake Clausen, those fish didn’t register on the MLF SCORETRACKER leaderboard until very near the end of competition. The first of those two bass – the 2-12 – tied DeFoe with Clausen, and the 2-13 earned him the victory by that margin.
“I just love fishing this time of year,” said DeFoe, who earned his second career Bass Pro Tour victory and fifth conquest overall with MLF. “The end of the day was a bit of a disaster due to the area that I was in. The service was bad, but the fishing was really good.”
While the other competitors might have been caught a bit off guard by the late entries to the SCORETRACKER, the fact that it was DeFoe making the catches wasn’t all that surprising. The Tennessee native is having great success of late, especially in Texas.
DeFoe has won the last three MLF events he has fished in the Lone Star State, including the 2020 Bass Pro Tour Stage Two on Lake Fork and Lake Athens, the 2021 Heritage Cup on Lake Whitney and other fisheries near Waco, and now Stage One of the 2021 Bass Pro Tour season at Sam Rayburn.
“Bass in Texas just act like bass should,” said DeFoe, as he reflected on the three wins. “Most Texas lakes have an abundance of cover that the bass use, the fish follow established seasonal patterns and the lakes have vegetation that the bass use.
“It’s funny, here in a couple of east Tennessee lakes I fish often, the bass act differently than most places. In Douglas and Cherokee, the bass have to adapt to significant water level drawdowns in the winter (by the Tennessee Valley Authority). A lot of times, the fish here live in much deeper water than other bass. There is also less cover for them to live around. They live around rock. For that reason, I really enjoy going to Texas to fish. We’ve filmed some of the best ‘The Hunt for Monster Bass’ (the TV show DeFoe hosts) episodes there, too.”
During the tournament, DeFoe not only found himself in comfortable waters. He also uncovered a pattern to his liking.
“The fish I weighed on Sam Rayburn were 90% postspawn and were grouping up together to feed on shad,” he said. “They were using current, which I love to fish, and that’s always something I look for. There was vegetation in the area as well. It was so much fun.”
Clausen lost an estimated 5- or 6-pounder in Period 1 that ended up being the difference-maker for him.
“I’ll be thinking about the one that I lost for a long time,” Clausen said. “I knew today (the final day) when it happened, that fish, if I didn’t win, it was going to hurt me pretty dang bad. And it did.”
For Clausen, the 2006 Bassmaster Classic champion, his runner-up finish is the best result to date on the Bass Pro Tour.
Mercury Pro Team members took three of the top four spots and six of the tournament's top 10 places at Sam Rayburn.
Thus far, Mercury Pro Team members have won both Bass Pro Tour events in 2021 (including Dustin Connell at REDCREST) and both 2021 MLF Cups (DeFoe and Edwin Evers).
DeFoe and 39 other of the top-performing Bass Pro Tour anglers are in action next in Raleigh, North Carolina, April 9-14 for the General Tire Heavy Hitters competition. The next time the full Bass Pro Tour field competes will be April 30–May 5, when DeFoe heads to Austin, Texas, to see if he can make it four Lone Star wins in a row at the Berkley Stage Two presented by Mercury on Lake Travis.
To see more from Ott DeFoe, follow him on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. You can also learn more about his show, “The Hunt for Monster Bass,” here.