Weather can be an on the water game changer. Ott talks about the Bassmaster Classic and going in to the event fishing on his home waters of the Tennessee River. In most cases, there would be a sort of advantage as anglers have a greater understanding of their home water and know the areas that produce consistently for them. However, Ott says prior to the tournament record rainfall and flooding occurred in the region pushing the water level above summer pool which then fell back hard. Because of the conditions Ott says he was disappointed, thinking the rainfall and flooding all but erased his local advantage. However, he was able to overcome those challenges to win. In general, being able to adapt to weather, the impact it has on water conditions and the ways that influences the bass is crucial. No matter where you are in the country, weather affects the bass, Ott says. In broad terms he notes that nice weather is better for fishing in places like Florida and northern clear waters like those in New York and Michigan. However, outside of those places, a cloudy, rainy, nasty day can actually work to an angler’s advantage. Ott says in states like Oklahoma, Missouri, Tennessee, Alabama and more, phenomenal fishing action can come as a result of poor conditions. The way weather impacts a fishery is region specific and Ott highlights the need to understand those influences in order to adapt to the body of water you are fishing. For cloudy, poor condition days Ott says he likes to use something with a lot of flash like a Terminator spinnerbait in chartreuse and white or a Rapala crankbait, matching the color to whatever the fish are eating. The moving reaction style baits on cloudy, nasty days are really good, Ott says.
Beyond adjusting to the weather and water conditions, in order to find the kind of success that Ott DeFoe has found in professional bass angling, you have to be able to read the fish. Ott has called it “listening to the fish” but says that just translates to paying close attention to every detail. Paying attention to where a strike comes from, how the fish was positioned, making note of how aggressive a strike was, did you pause during your retrieve, were you reeling back in quickly and then got a strike – it’s all of those factors that can help you hone in on your strategy and the pattern. Paying careful attention to the first few bites may confirm what you already thought the fish were doing, or it might give you an entirely different outlook and force you to change your tactics. Ott says it’s important that anglers take as much information as they can from every bite and the spots where they get those strikes. Make note of how deep the fish are, if it’s a sunny or shady bank, did it come from rocks, wood or somewhere else. By compiling all this information, you can determine if you are seeing a pattern. Ott talks about a particular episode of “The Hunt for Monster Bass” where this came into play while he was fishing on Lake Chickamauga. He highlights how a brief pause in his retrieve while talking to a cameraman produced a strike and helped him dial in and understand the need to slow down.
Ott is known for his ability to locate and catch bass in river systems. With summer quickly approaching, how can you be more successful fishing rivers? Ott says it’s all about the current. Depending on how you look at it, bass are either lazy or very efficient. They want to stay close to the grocery store which is the current. The current brings food right to them, much like an Uber, Ott jokes. They want to be close to the current, but not in it, he says, in the first place with just a little slower water. It’s in these areas that they can sit comfortably behind a rock, a stump, some grass, or whatever structure it may be that keeps them out of the current just enough to where they aren’t fighting all the time. They will be relating to the current, close to it, but not quite in it and that’s where you need to focus your efforts.
As with any sport, there are plenty of armchair quarterbacks out there that think they could do it better. However, professional fishing isn’t a game of chance, but rather skill. Amateurs and average anglers can experience the same kind of success catching bass on the weekends that the professionals do in tournaments, however it’s all about putting in the work. Ott says you have to work at understanding what’s going on beneath the surface, what the fish are doing, what makes them trigger and more. If you are willing to put in the hard work, the time and the effort, there is no reason why you can’t be successful. So, what would Ott’s go to set-ups be right now that you can duplicate and try on the water? First, he says that he likes wacky worms on a spinning setup. In particular he prefers a Bass Pro Shops Wacky Stik-O Worm in Green Pumpkin or Green Pumpkin Blue on a Johnny Morris Platinum Signature Spinning Rod and Reel. Next, he says he’d choose a top water bait like a Storm Cover Pop in a Ghost Pearl Shad color on a Johnny Morris Patriot Rod and Platinum Reel. Finally, he’d round it out with a Rapala DT series crankbait in Disco Shad on a Bass Pro Shops Crankin’ Stick and Platinum Reel.
Be sure to listen below as professional bass angler, Ott DeFoe joins The Revolution to talk reading bass, how weather impacts water and fishing conditions, some of his timely go-to bass smashing setups and more.
You can catch Ott DeFoe hosting “The Hunt for Monster Bass” on Outdoor Channel, Sundays at 9:00 am ET. He’s also a Major League Fishing pro and you can follow him on the MLF Bass Pro Tour and watch those events streaming LIVE on MajorLeagueFishing.com and MyOutdoorTV.com. Or you can watch Major League Fishing each weekend on Outdoor Channel, Saturdays at 2:00 pm ET.