For Jack Link’s Major League Fishing Pro Ott DeFoe, bass fishing is bass fishing no matter where an angler happens to find himself wetting a hook.
That fact is true in professional competitions, especially as the 2017 MLF Summit Cup is contested this week on the smallmouth bass and largemouth bass rich waters located in and around Grand Rapids, Minn.
It was also true earlier this year when the 2017 MLF GEICO Select event in the Lake of the Ozarks region of central Missouri, a competition that saw DeFoe succeed and ultimately qualify for this week’s Cup event.
With that thought in mind, does participating in the GEICO Select events earlier this year give the Knoxville, Tenn., bass pro any leg up on the other regular Cup level anglers that are here this week?
“Maybe a little bit,” said DeFoe, a young but highly experienced pro who is already a four time winner in B.A.S.S. and FLW Tour competitions along with being the 2011 B.A.S.S. Rookie of the Year.
“I think that one of the biggest advantages that I have though is that I have already competed in this (MLF) format several times already this year,” he added.
“And these other guys here, this is their first time doing this format this whole year. So maybe I’m a little bit ahead of the learning curve.
“(MLF events) are so different than the norm in terms of what (other events) we fish all year,” said DeFoe, a pro with five Bassmaster Classic appearances and one FLW Tour Forrest Wood Cup berth on his resume.
“Maybe I’ve got a little bit of an advantage (here in Minnesota this week) in that I’ve already been doing (the MLF format this year) and it does take a little bit of getting used to again, to go back to (trying) to get as many bites as you can.”
That being said, DeFoe’s first glance at the electronic map of Trout Lake – site of his Sudden Death round of competition – didn’t reveal what he had hoped to find.
At least in terms of similarities to the types of fishing that he was able to find in the other MLF Select venues this year.
“I like to fish somewhere that has current flowing in and it doesn’t look like Trout Lake has any of that to offer, really,” said DeFoe, known to many fishing fans as The Otter.
Such a discovery didn’t mean that DeFoe was any less confident in his ability to do well in the Sudden Death round. Especially given the region’s strong smallmouth and largemouth fishing opportunities.
While smallmouths will undoubtedly play a part in the day’s outcome, DeFoe will not be forgetting the largemouths that call northern Minnesota home.
Especially if there is a little bit of sun shining as the day goes along.
“One of the big things with northern largemouths is that they really like the sun,” laughed DeFoe. “I mean they really like the sun. It helps position them in likely places so sunlight is always a big, big deal up here. It makes the fishing (in this region) better in my opinion.”
Another key consideration in many North Country lakes is the clarity of the water, whether such lakes feature a darker tea-color stain from tannic acid or whether or not they are abundantly clear with superb visibility.
As DeFoe fiddled with his tackle in the boat ramp parking lot, he had yet to get a look at the water clarity. He also acknowledged that such clarity – or the lack thereof – would be a key item to figure out during the 15-minute ride thru.
Depending on what water clarity exists, that could cause the Tennessee angler to adjust his bait selections just a little bit as the day begins.
“”You want to adjust your bait selection accordingly (to the clarity),” said DeFoe. “But even then, that darker water is normally pretty clear, it’s just not as clear to us as it is to the fish.
“So (you) adjust a little bit but you don’t have to completely change the way that you fish either.”
Given that this day of competition is in a Sudden Death round, finding some shallow water largemouths right off the bat could help an angler get out to a good start here on Trout Lake.
Especially if the big groups of smallmouths prove to be somewhat elusive.
And that last thought is exactly why DeFoe is hoping to get off to a quick start when the opening bell of the first period sounds and the boat officials declare “Lines in!”
“You had better feel that pressure from the start and try to make good decisions from the get-go,” DeFoe said. “If you get behind on a Sudden Death day, it’s a really, really bad deal.
“At least on a regular round, you’ve got all 7 1/2 hours to use to try and be one of the top three (anglers to advance),” he added. “But on this, it could be over in the first period…for everybody.
“It doesn’t usually work that way, but it could.”
However today’s Sudden Death round ends up going, whether the Top 3 pros advance early or later on in the day, expect the Otter to be right up there in solid contention.
Because in Minnesota or Missouri, or in Select or Cup level competition, bass fishing is bass fishing.
And that’s something that Tennessee pro Ott DeFoe is pretty good at.