You might not have pro angling aspirations, but there’s no reason you can’t follow their lead. And chances are, you’ve got a little time on your hands right now, so why not take the opportunity to get your gear squared ...
Ott DeFoe is always on the hunt for big bass.
On the Tennessee River last year in his hometown of Knoxville – site of the 2019 Bassmaster Classic – DeFoe’s three-day target was 15 quality bass. He caught three five-fish limits for an official weight of 49 pounds, 3 ounces to claim the 2019 Bassmaster Classic title.
Likewise, while competing on Major League Fishing’s 2019 Bass Pro Tour, DeFoe was always on the hunt for as many “scorable bass” as he could catch each day – a key difference from B.A.S.S. competition. DeFoe’s bass catching began each tournament morning and concluded eight hours later with stories of sheer numbers of quality fish being landed and released.
DeFoe, 34, has competed in B.A.S.S., FLW, and MLF events and was the 2011 B.A.S.S. Rookie of the Year. His career tournament earnings are in excess of $2.1 million.
These past few years, DeFoe is also on the hunt for “monster” bass as host of Outdoor Channel’s “The Hunt for Monster Bass.” The show debuted in 2018 to rave reviews by fishing fans, and production of Season Three of the series is currently wrapping up. Taping for the show takes place between tournament seasons during the fall and winter months.
The objective of the show is simple: One angler (DeFoe) sets out to catch the biggest bass in the lake, river, or reservoir, and the TV audience sees and hears all that goes into making that happen. The big bass states of Florida, Texas, Tennessee, Georgia and Minnesota have all played host to the show.
Yes, DeFoe recently recorded a smallmouth show in the “Land of 10,000 Lakes” on a Mississippi River tributary that DeFoe described only as “unlike any smallmouth show that’s ever aired.” He said he found that monster bass can indeed be found in the Gopher State . . . though he hasn’t revealed where that lake is located.
Recording enough footage to edit together shows for an entire season typically requires at least 10 dedicated trips, and the planning and research for those trips are a year-round pursuit.
“It seems that everybody has an opinion on where we should go film,” said DeFoe with a smile. “Sometimes, those suggestions are proven right, and sometimes I still have my doubts.”
Once a show destination has been determined, another pivotal decision must be made – choosing the boat and engine that will provide the best opportunity to find and catch monster bass. DeFoe runs two rigs for the show – a Nitro Z21 fiberglass powered by a Mercury V8 250hp Pro XS, and a Tracker Grizzly 1754 aluminum rigged with a Mercury 65hp FourStroke Jet outboard.
Choosing the most appropriate boat isn’t always simple. DeFoe’s “big boat” – his Nitro and 250 Pro XS – typically gets the call for open water shows. But Florida marshes with no legitimate boat ramps; Appalachian mountain lakes with tight, steep launches; and Mississippi River tributaries with super-shallow water are best navigated by his jet-powered boat.
“In tournaments, I have to be in the same boat all year, per the rules,” said DeFoe. “With the show, I’m able to use whatever boat is going to fit the situation best. Fishing can be really good in either of these scenarios, and it can be tough in either as well. Just because an area is hard to get to doesn’t mean it will be great, but at least you get to try.
“If you’re not able to get there, you don’t have that option.”
DeFoe chose his aluminum Tracker and Mercury 65hp Jet for the Minnesota show.
“The Minnesota trip up that tributary is shallow and rocky,” said DeFoe. “The water was six inches deep and full of boulders, and it was the best smallmouth fishing trip of my life! We spent three days there and will actually get multiple episodes to air from that trip.
“That trip would not have been possible without the jet-drive motor. We saw one other boat in the general area, and they couldn’t reach where you really needed to be.”
According to DeFoe, he and his crew not only reached those prime waters, the result was a hunt for monster smallmouth with epic results!
Catch new episodes of “The Hunt for Monster Bass” starting in April on Outdoor Channel, and stream the first two seasons on MyOutdoorTV.com.
Visit your local Mercury dealer to find the rig that will give you the best chance at the fish of a lifetime.