By Todd Ceisner
Ott DeFoe hasn’t had a bunch of time to get all caught up in the chatter surrounding the Toyota Tundra B.A.S.S. Angler of the Year (AOY) title that’s been brewing since he emerged from the Lake Michigan Elite Series trailing only Brent Chapman in the standings.
Shortly after Lake Michigan, where he finished 5th, he was off to Orlando, Fla., for ICAST and his first up-close look at the sport fishing industry’s trade show where he worked booths for his sponsors.
Upon returning home from there, his wife put him to work on rebuilding a deck at their Knoxville, Tenn., home.
“It’s something all the time,” he said. “We’ve got twins who are a little over a year old so we don’t get a lot of down time.”
When he’s been able to focus solely on fishing, few have been better at the craft over the past two seasons. In his first 17 Elite Series events, he’s amassed 13 Top-30 finishes, including a win at last year’s Elite Series All-Star event. He has five Top-12 showings and has missed the 50-cut just once (last year at the Arkansas River).
In a few weeks at Oneida Lake, site of the season’s eighth and final full-field Elite event, he’ll have a chance to add a signature accomplishment to his bio sheet. He currently trails Chapman by 13 points, which should make for some compelling theater at the New York State Fair (day 3 and 4 weigh-ins will take place on the fairgrounds in Syracuse) considering Chapman’s been on a wicked hot streak himself since the start of this year.
“It would be a dream come true. It really would be,” DeFoe said about winning AOY. “The first Classic I went to I was 9 years old. I’ve watched it from about that time, all the tournaments and just following (the sport).”
Oneida Will Be New
Like most anglers, DeFoe has a routine when it comes to tournament prep. He’s not one to get all wrapped up in advanced scouting trips prior to the off-limits period, though.
He’s not about to waver from his routine now despite never having fished Oneida.
“I could’ve made arrangements and gone up there,” he said. “I only did it once last year and I haven’t done it all this year other than Douglas [his home lake].”
He’ll scour the Internet for past tournament data from Oneida and study his maps to pinpoint areas he thinks might be worth a few casts during practice.
“It’s supposed to be a really fun place to fish where you catch a lot of fish just like a lot of places we’ve been this year,” he added. “I love going to new places. If you see something that looks good, you don’t mind going over to fish it whereas if I’d have been there before I might say, ‘I tried that last time and it isn’t any good.’ We all do it. It doesn’t matter who you are. If something doesn’t produce, we all remember that, good, bad or indifferent.”
DeFoe admits he couldn’t have scripted his first 2 seasons in the Elite Series any better. He’s elevated himself to 5th in the latest BassFan World Rankings and is assured of qualifying for his second Classic. It’s looking more and more like his decision to fish the Elites in 2011 after four seasons fishing the FLW Tour was a stroke of genius.
“It’s something I’ve been really blessed with the last 2 years,” he said of his consistency.
After his breakthrough “rookie” season a year ago, he felt it was important to back up his 2011 performance with another string of strong finishes. He’s more than exceeded his goal and even threw in a 7th-place showing at Douglas Lake, his home water in Tennessee.
“To some point to show that last year wasn’t a fluke deal,” he said. “Things just happened to fall into place and that’s the way it was (last year). To back it up and even if I finish 50th (at Oneida), it’ll still be a stellar year. I think it was pretty important to do that and I’m glad it’s worked out this way.”
He attributes his success, even at lakes where he’s had little or no previous experience, to his ability to avoid second-guessing his decisions on the water.
“I have the best support system in this industry with my family being number one and my sponsors,” he said. “It seems like there’s a time during every day of every tournament that I’ve had to make a choice and I feel like the Lord’s blessed me with being able to see through it and to see which one would work most every time. Not every time, but more often than not, it’s worked.”
> Even BassFans think the race for AOY is essentially a two-horse race. According to the results from the poll currently running on BassFan.com that asks who’s the pick to walk away with the AOY title at Oneida, Chapman had garnered 250 of 702 votes (35 percent) as of yesterday morning while DeFoe had received 214 votes (30 percent).