Mercury pro Ott DeFoe put on an epic final-period performance Wednesday to win Stage Three of the Bass Pro Tour on Lake Athens in east Texas. Mercury-sponsored anglers also claimed the next seven places in the standings, just 10 days after Mercury anglers finished in the top eight places of the 2020 Bassmaster Classic.
DeFoe of Blaine, Tennessee, opened the final period on Lake Athens in fourth place, trailing leader Mark Daniels by nearly 19 pounds. Bass Pro Tour rules allow anglers to tally every bass they catch that weighs at least two pounds, so every angler in the field was conceivably within striking distance of the leader.
DeFoe was fishing the Highway 2495 bridge Wednesday, just a short idle from the event’s takeoff site on Lake Athens. He put on a clinic in the final 75 minutes of competition as fans on a flotilla of bass boats, kayaks and pontoon boats enjoyed front-row seats to one of the best anglers in the world dominating the competition.
DeFoe finished the day with 23 bass for a total weight of 69 pounds, 12 ounces to win the tournament by more than 28 pounds.
At one point early in the fish-catching melee, a boat idled under the bridge and “that got the school fired up” in DeFoe’s opinion. He caught fish consistently the next few minutes before the action began slowed. DeFoe waved another boat through the bridge, which seemed to again ignite the fish.
As spectator boat traffic grew and no one else seemed willing to idle through the area, DeFoe took it upon himself to stir up some action. Wearing his life jacket, DeFoe fired up his 250 Pro XS and did a hot lap around the area. He then turned around and cast back into the prop wash. It paid off, and he caught fish again.
“My motor truly helped me win today out here on Lake Athens,” DeFoe said back at the ramp.
DeFoe caught fish every few casts late Wednesday until the competition closed at 6 p.m. His day ended with a big fish in his hands that he couldn’t count in his daily total. Bass Pro Tour rules require a fish to be over the side of the boat’s gunwale before time expires. DeFoe played what looked to be a five-pounder to the side of the boat as his onboard boat official counted down from 10. He was two seconds late returning the fish, but it was a fitting way to end the flurry.
“I could have tried to flip that fish in,” laughed DeFoe, “but I didn’t want to lose my lure!” He returned the fish to the water and raised a fist in victory.
DeFoe, 34, caught bass on a variety of baits, including a jerk bait, topwater and bucktail jig, but the crankbait bite sealed the deal.
Fishing a Rapala DT 10 in a soon-to-be-released color called “Bigg’s Shad,” DeFoe landed the lion’s share of his quality bass – including the day’s biggest, a 9-pound, 6-ounce Lake Athens giant.
“That last hour was one of the more special hours that I have ever had in all my time bass fishing,” DeFoe said.
He discovered his honey hole by watching his electronics, specifically side imaging.
“I was idling through the bridge and could see the shadows of the fish on the graph,” he said. “I started casting to them and could feel the bait bumping off of the fish because there were so many there. It took me a few casts to get one to bite, but once you get them fired up, they usually start biting.”
Jones Jr. Finishes Second
Waco, Texas’ Alton Jones Jr., another Mercury pro, also put together a nice rally during Period Three. It wasn’t as furious as DeFoe’s, but it was enough to boost him into second place.
“It was a blessed day, and I thought I might have a chance to pull out the win. I have to say congrats to Ott for blowing us all away,” Jones said. “Second place is still great and gave me some great points for the Cup and REDCREST.”
He ended the day with 13 bass for 41 pounds, 9 ounces.
MDJ Finishes Third
Mercury Pro Mark Daniels from Tuskegee, Alabama, took control early in the day with several nice catches, including a 6-pound, 14-ounce bass during Period 1. He remained in the lead for much of the day before Jones and DeFoe passed him in the final frame.
Daniels finished up with 13 bass for 39 pounds, 2 ounces.
“It was a great day, but I expected us to catch more fish here based on the practice I had. But I can’t complain whatsoever,” said Daniels. “I would have liked to have won, obviously, but when guys finish the day like Ott did, there’s nothing you can do.”
Another Top-Eight Sweep for Team Mercury
Like the recent 50th Bassmaster Classic in Alabama, Mercury pros held the top eight Bass Pro Tour spots this week in Texas.