Outdoors Notebook — Barnes keeps the faith for Texoma title; DeFoe wins again

Lynn Burkhead
For the Herald Democrat
Evan Barnes, the winner of the MLF Big 5 Toyota Series tournament on Lake Texoma last weekend, is all smiles after collecting the trophy and $40,000-plus paycheck.

Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit pro Evan Barnes had Lake Texoma figured out and then some last weekend, going wire-to-wire in winning the MLF Big 5 Toyota Series event staged on the 89,000-acre reservoir from March 25-27.

In winning the Texoma derby, Barnes weighed in a total of 14 bass over three days, fish that tipped the scales to 42-pounds, 10-ounces. That winning weight was good enough for his first title in a MLF event and paid out a total of $40,906 dollars for the win.

Rounding out the pro-side "Top 5" was runner-up Cameron Mattison (2nd place, 39-07); Billy Cline (3rd, 38-10); Christopher Temple (4th, 35-00); and Blake Schroeder (5th, 33-01).

Several local anglers also did well on the event’s pro-side including Calera, Okla. pro Jeff Reynolds, who finished in 11th place with 23-12 and won $3,694 for his efforts. Denison’s Wes Davis also had a good event on the pro side, grabbing a 29th place finish with a three day total of 19-11, which earned him a $2,463 check.

While Barnes’ fishing skills made a big difference in his win at the three-day derby on Texoma, his Christian faith also played a key role according to the Hot Springs, Ark. angler who is also a pastor and a regular participant in Pro Circuit “Meet the Pros” ministry events.

"I’ve had a tough year, on the (Pro Circuit), missing checks and stuff,” Barnes told MajorLeagueFishing.com writer Jody White. “This year, I felt like I was led to fish full-time and I made that big leap of faith.

“Because I’ve had such a tough year, and financially there were a lot of questions, I really didn’t know if I was going to come to this tournament,” he continued. “Like, I wanted to come, but, I’m telling you, I literally started praying. I was like ‘Lord, if you want me to come to this tournament, then you need to let me know.’ And I felt the Spirit rise up in me, and I knew I was going. So, without Him telling me to go, I wouldn’t even be standing here today. It would take all evening to tell you everything that God has done this week.”

After grabbing the lead on Day One with five bass weighing 16 pounds, 11 ounces, Barnes retained his lead on Day Two despite weighing only four bass at 12-15. Last Saturday, on the three-day derby’s final day, he managed to put five fish on the scales at 13-00 to grab the win.

While the pre-spawn event was tough for all of the competitors, Barnes had to sweat it out to the end, keeping his faith until the victory was officially his.

"“I didn’t have a bass at 1 o’clock,” says Barnes. “Man, I pulled up on this point, right by weigh-in, and I caught my first one. Just a small one, like a 2-pound smallmouth. I wanted to go back to my main areas and give them one more shot, but for whatever reason, it had to be the Lord, I just turned around and made a few more casts.

“I bombed that swimbait up and caught like a 4-pounder,” he added. “We literally caught all of our fish over there, I caught my last one with 10 minutes to go and half the people here were watching me fish. It was just nuts – I didn’t have a bass at 1 o’clock. Then I pulled up on that point and caught five and my co-anger caught four and we both win.”

Incidentally, that Strike King co-angler was Eufaula, Okla. angler Bill Bean, who weighed in four bass at 9-08 on the final day. That gave Bean a three-day total of 13 bass weighing 31-05, good enough for his third career co-angler triumph and a $33,500 payday at Texoma.

Other local co-anglers grabbing solid finishes on Texoma last weekend were Whitesboro's Billy Sammons (7th, 16-14); Pottsboro's Michael Fleehearty (30th, 9-11); Sherman's Victor Moellenhoff (31st, 9-11); and Cartwright's James States (38th, 8-12).

In grabbing the MLF Big 5 pro-side win on Texoma, Barnes admitted that there were plenty of last second prayers going up as he waited out the clock.

“It’s going to sound crazy to a lot of people, but I was fishing that point, thinking about going to that main spot, and just praying to myself,” said Barnes. “I was like ‘Lord, you know what I need to be doing, you know where I need to be.’ And I felt Him tell me to be still, and just hang out. And in the last 10 minutes, it happened.”

Another Texas win for DeFoe

Bass fishing superstar Ott DeFoe lives in eastern Tennessee. But he might want to consider moving to Texas someday soon, because he owns the Lone Star State’s top bass fisheries in recent months.

DeFoe proved that again a few days ago as he won Major League Fishing’s Bass Pro Tour event on Sam Rayburn Reservoir, a 2021 triumph that marked his third MLF/BPT victory in the state within the past 11-months.

After winning the BPT event on Lake Fork and Lake Athens last April and the MLF Heritage Cup on Waco area fisheries last year, DeFoe went to work on Big Sam last week. Having to sweat out the final half-hour of competition, he edged runner-up Luke Clausen by 2-pounds, 13-ounces and won the Stage One derby with a Championship Day total of 13 bass weighing 30-pounds, 2-ounces.

“All of the stress you could ever imagine, I was feeling that last hour,” DeFoe told MajorLeagueFishing.com writer Mason Prince. “I knew we were going to have poor connectivity so my official was going to make me move with five minutes left. I didn’t know if Luke had caught another and I knew we were close. Just that feeling of relief when I knew that I had it was amazing.”

With three recent Texas MLF/BPT wins in his back pocket, Prince asked DeFoe — the 2019 Bassmaster Classic champ who had 28 "Top 10" finishes, six wins, and $1.6 million in career earnings when he competed on the Bassmaster Elite Series circuit — what it is about Lone Star State fisheries that allows him to be so successful here.

“When you come to Texas, bass act like they’re supposed to,” said DeFoe, who finished in fifth place at the 2016 Bassmaster Elite Series BASSfest event on Lake Texoma and fifth at the 2017 Bassmaster Classic on Lake Conroe.

“I tell everyone who asks me that same question that answer. I’ve won here on three completely different fisheries but caught them the way I knew they should be caught at that time of year in that particular environment. They eat shad, they live around cover, and they like current.”