Read the current headlines and it’s clear that there’s a lot that’s not right in the world right now, much of it brought on in recent days by the ugly coronavirus pandemic sweeping the globe.
While things aren’t as bad in Texas right now as they are in other places, they’re not great either. And that includes the final day of winter on Wednesday as more COVID-19 headlines dominated news cycles and the gray threatening sky provided more gloom for residents across the Lone Star State.
But even in the face of a medical crisis unprecedented in our lifetime, there are some things that remain tried and true here in Texas.
The sun continues to rise every morning, the bluebonnets are about to bloom with the arrival of spring, and big bass are heading to the bank for their annual spawn.
I was reminded of that on Wednesday as I took a mental health break from the endless cycle of coronavirus breaking news stories. Wanting to see how the action was going in the final hours of the Major League Fishing Bass Pro Tour event taking place in East Texas the past several days, I went to the MajorLeagueFishing.com website and sat back to watch the streaming action.
What I saw was incredible, a bass fishing comeback rarely if ever seen as 2019 Bassmaster Classic champ Ott DeFoe proved once again that he’s one of modern fishing’s best.
After five days of competing and surviving the various rounds at famed Lake Fork—where the BPT pros landed two 10-pounders, five 9-pounders, and many 6, 7, and 8-pounders — DeFoe was in a bind at 4:45 p.m. as he faced the final hour or so of the event’s competition at Lake Athens, site of the Championship Day finale.
But that’s when things started to get interesting for the likable Tennessee pro as he sat in 8th place with 12-pounds, 8-ounces, more than 19-pounds behind then leader Mark Daniels, Jr.
When DeFoe started fishing offshore near a bridge causeway that combined current, baitfish, and bass, he landed a scorable fish that weighed 2-pounds, 3-ounces, a bass that barely elicited a yawn from the rest of the field.
But it should have.
“I knew when Mark had a 15-pound lead I wasn’t going to catch him by fishing on the bank,” DeFoe explained to MLF reporter Mason Prince in a post-game story. “I knew I had to move offshore and find something else. I didn’t want to go to the bank, honestly, so I was happy moving offshore. I knew from what I found in practice that the offshore bite was going to be a big player.”
And in the final hour of the six-day long event, was it ever. Averaging a fish every 3-minutes, 40-seconds the remainder of the final period — bass that averaged 3-pounds, 3-ounces during the run — DeFoe knew he had stumbled onto something special.
“I felt the crankbait bump across the fishes’ backs, that’s how I knew how many were in that school,” DeFoe told Prince. “A jerkbait and a wakebait were important, but nothing was more important that my Rapala DT-10 in a new ‘Bigg’s Shad’ color. That new color will be coming out at ICAST this year, so look for that.”
The big bass at Athens were certainly looking for it as DeFoe made a historic run that completed a comeback for the ages, one that would enable him to weigh in a winning weight of 69-pounds, 12-ounces on the strength of 23 scorable bass. In winning the $100,000 top prize, he topped Waco’s Alton Jones, Jr. in the runner-up spot (41-09). Mark Daniels, Jr. (39-02), Brent Chapman (37-13), and Brandon Coulter (28-01) rounded out the “Top 5.”
Fueling that rally by DeFoe was his amazing run of 18 scorable bass in 66 minutes, including a 9-pound, 6-ounce giant; a fish of more than 5-pounds minutes later; and a bass weighing 4-13 moments after that.
For all of those heroics, the margin could have been even greater as the Blaine, Tenn. resident landed another big bass just one second after the final buzzer sounded. How much did that fish weigh? Amazingly, it tipped the electronic scale to 5-pounds, 6-ounces!
“I honestly didn’t try to horse that fish in because I didn’t want to lose that DT-10,” DeFoe said laughingly to Prince. “If I would have broken off that 5-pounder and lost my bait I would have been pretty upset. Since I knew I had the win wrapped up, I just took my time. It still would have been nice to add a 5-pounder, though.”
On a day when the news was gloomy across most corners of the globe, including here in Texas and the rest of the U.S. as grim numbers and cancellations grow, Ott DeFoe and the Lone Star State’s glorious spring bass fishing action provided a much needed reprieve and a bit of a smile.
And believe it or not, it was on a date that DeFoe is likely to cherish for years to come, the date of March 18. For in completing his late game heroics en route to his first BPT title, that trophy came exactly one year to the date that the tournament pro and television show host had hoisted the top prize at the 2019 Bassmaster Classic, DeFoe’s final event on the Bassmaster Elite Series.
By the way, it’s worth noting here the name of DeFoe’s television show on Outdoor Channel and MyOutdoor TV — “The Hunt for Monster Bass.”
“I don’t know what it is about this day, but I’m a big fan of it,” said DeFoe to Prince. “This is just a really special day for me and my family and I truly cannot thank God enough for the opportunities he has given me.”
Amen to that Ott. And thanks for reminding a few bass fishing fans around the nation that the sun still shines, even on an otherwise gloomy spring day in Texas.