Learn to Fish for Bass Like a Pro with Ott Defoe
How many casts does a professional angler make in twelve years? Hint: It’s a few million more than you think! Find out the answer and more today as we interview Pro Angler and 2020 MLF Bass Pro Tour Champion Ott Defoe!
About Ott Defoe: His journey from amateur to angler.
Tucked back in the heart of Tennessee, Ott Defoe picked up a fishing pole for his very first tournament at nine years old.
“I first started off fishing tournaments by fishing with my dad when I was nine years old. It was actually his first tournament too,” he says. “My dad wasn’t a bass fisherman really, but he supported my love for it. I started off at a young age and always enjoyed being outdoors but honestly was not very competitive at traditional sports. Fishing was a way for me to do something competitive and find something that I love, along with being outdoors, which I enjoy so much.
“It was in me from the time I was really young,” Ott says. “I just love being outside, I love figuring out creation and how things work together. I give the glory to God and give all the blessings to him. The desire to do it is from Him.”
What does it take to become a professional fisherman?
Ott shared that it takes a lot of practice to become successful at fishing. No matter how talented you are, true skill comes when you put in time and work. “As far as actual fishing and making fish bite, that in and of itself is just from so much time on the water, so much time I spend days by myself just out there learning stuff about what the fish are doing and how conditions change and how the fish adapt to it,” Ott says. “Time on the water is what you can’t replace with anything else.
“In some situations, when you’re fishing around targets, you need to make a very accurate cast, putting your bait right where it needs to be under a dock or by a fishing cover or under the cover, or whatever it may be. Somebody once said ‘Wow, it’s amazing how you can cast’ and I said ‘Well, if I’ve fished since I was twelve years old, that would be thirteen years. I’ve fished 150 days a year for eight hours a day, and I’ve made three or four casts a minute.’ I figured it up and it was somewhere over five million casts. I should be pretty good at it by now! If I’m not good at it by this point, I might as well pick up golf or something else.”
Fishing Tips & Tricks
2020 was a fantastic year to start fishing and people flooded to lakes and bodies of water to try their hand at fishing for the first time in their lives. Ott shared some words of advice for those who are new to fishing, especially those with a family of energetic kids.
“When you’re getting started just find somewhere close, a small body of water. Starting out, we’d fish in the lake some and we might catch a few fish. I still love to take my kids to just walk the banks of the farm pond. It can be a community pond or any small body of water that’s got fish in it around you, especially if you’re taking young kids with you. To put kids in a boat - and I’ve experienced this first hand - is kinda cooping them up. You’ve got to keep a life jacket on them and follow all of those safety precautions… where you can put those kids on the bank and let them run around the banks of the pond, let them fish for five minutes, and then run around some and fish for another ten minutes. Generally the fishing is better in ponds than it is in a lot of lakes so you’re going to catch something.
“A good pond is a great way to hook a kid on fishing.”
What do you look for in a fishing location?
“Other than the bite, the part of fishing that probably is my favorite is going somewhere new, going to a new body of water. We actually have a tournament coming up later this month in Texas and it’s at a lake I’ve never been to.
“When I am going to new lakes, the thing I always go back to and look at, my starting points, are seasonal patterns for bass. Generally, they’re the same thing, throughout the course of the year, whether that’s down south or up north. The timing is different based on the climate they live in, but in the wintertime they spend their time in wintering areas where there’s a warmth, in the spring they start to get ready to spawn, and once the water temperature reaches low 60s or so the fish start to spawn and they kinda move in with their post-spawn and the summer cycles, and then what they do in the fall. So, those seasonal patterns truly apply across the country, no matter where you’re fishing or what type of bass you’re fishing for. That’s definitely the starting point.
“The more you know about fishing and the more places that you go across the country, the simpler it gets. Starting out, it can be very overwhelming, especially when you’re going to different bodies of water. I’d lived in Tennessee my whole life but the first time I went to Florida it was completely different. The fisheries don’t look anything the same. I had to completely learn how to fish through their seasonal patterns. Once you figure it out a little bit, it’s actually not that different. It’s just a different environment so you have to understand how they’re using their environment. It certainly does become much simpler over time and you end up learning that bass are bass regardless if they live in Texas or Florida or Tennessee or New York or anywhere in between.”
“I’ve recently become a hunter for deer, turkey, and ducks. I’ve gotten obsessed with all of it and it’s neat to see how that translates over. With fish, we can’t actually see them. We’re trying to catch them. They can be where we’re fishing but we’re just not able to get them to bite. With all other animals, we actually can see them and watch them. There’s a little pond next to our house, and these ducks come from nowhere in the sky and boom, they make a beeline and go straight into this pond. How do they even know it is there? They didn’t make a high flight and circle three or four times. It’s like it was set in their GPS and boom they splash down in the pond knowing it’s there. It’s very interesting knowing how smart they are and how instinctual they are.”
What is the greatest challenge to overcome in fishing competitions?
Ott shared that decision making is the greatest challenge to overcome in fishing competitions. “The guys I fish against, physically we can all do the same things,” he says. “We can all put a bait where we need to. We’ve all made millions and millions of casts so the physical aspect of it is very similar. It’s all in the decision making of applying those steps of ‘the conditions are this, the water is that,’ and when you put the boat in the water, saying ‘okay, do I turn left or do I turn right?’
“It can be as simple as even fishing the same area as somebody else but you just approach it differently. It’s not always that you go to a part of the lake and it’s magical and fish jump in the boat. You know that tournament that I won this past year down in Texas and ended up catching 20-some fish and almost 70 pounds for the day? I had fished through the exact area earlier that morning and so had another angler. I went back there at a different time of the day when the conditions had changed. I did fish different baits but it was strictly a timing thing. I didn’t know it. I wasn’t expecting it to be good all of a sudden. It just happened that the timing was right. I went right through there and in 90 minutes went from 20 pounds back to winning by 25 or 30 pounds. It was one of those things… the decision making to leave where I was and go through there and the fish were there, ready to bite.”
What is life like for a professional bass fisherman?
Amidst the busy life of bass fishing tournaments and regular fishing, Ott Defoe also balances the joy and responsibility that comes with being a husband and father of three. He takes his kids fishing and enjoys spending some time on the water with his wife Jennie, too. “We do go fishing together some,” Ott says. “Five is kind of a crowd in a boat so we don’t typically go all five of us but a pair or three of us will go at a time. We’ve got two girls, one boy and my son and I fish together a lot. The girls like to go some and Jennie and I like to fish a good bit. We don’t get to quite as much anymore but we still find a few days each year to go fishing together.”
Fishing isn’t the only passion that unites the Defoe family. “Faith is completely what Jennie and I are grounded in,” Ott says. “Not only just in our marriage but in us individually. In everything I do, I try to make sure that people know that as much as I enjoy everything that God has created on this earth, this is all just temporary. It truly is. This is just a stopping point along the way. Everything we do, we see, hear, experience, feel, everything. This is all just temporary.
“My daughter Abbie goes to a different Wednesday night church service with a friend of hers. They have t-shirts and sweatshirts that say “People live forever.” It’s so very true. Maybe not physically on this earth, but once we are created, we live forever.”
Ott and his wife Jennie often hop on YouTube to share their story and connect with Ott’s followers in Jesus Ott Jennie (JOJ) Series episodes and in these the topic of marriage comes up. “Something that Jennie and I talked about on a JOJ episode is praying together and that is not something we did for the first two or three years of our marriage,” Ott shares. “We try to pray together each day - some days we do, some days we don’t - but if you pray together with your spouse once a week, that is such a big deal in my opinion. It’s really just having that time of openness. And certainly with your kids, same deal. We try to have a family prayer time each evening and that is really nice just to hear them. It’s amazing to me, a lot of times it’s a pretty simple prayer from them but other times it’s stuff that’s on their heart and on their minds and when they lift that up to the Lord, sometimes it’s the first time we’re made aware of it. It gives us a chance to talk about that and maybe talk through something that’s on their mind and on their hearts.”
An angler’s perspective on Groove Rings, Watch Bands, and The Groove Belt
Why would a fisherman wear a Groove Ring? As it turns out, life for an angler can be pretty miserable with the wrong kind of ring on his or her finger.
“The thing to me that is really neat about Groove Life and all of the products is just how innovative they are. The silicone ring, but especially the grooves in the back… if that was just a solid ring it would hold moisture and cause your finger to break out and plenty of other problems. As a fisherman, my hands being wet a lot of the day, I would deal with that. But just those simple little grooves in the back and how that allows it to breathe and keeps any of that from happening, that’s so smart. Same with the watch band, having those grooves there that make it breathable.
“In my line of work, there aren’t too many things that I can hook my hand on but there definitely are things. If you were to hook a metal ring on a boat cleat, while the boat’s moving or something, that could be a very bad day.”
Ott shared that the innovation of The Groove Belt is especially extraordinary. “The belt is really the smartest of all of the Groove products, just the way the magnetic part of it works. You can adjust it for any size waist, whether that’s pre-Thanksgiving or post-Thanksgiving.
“To top it off, Groove Life being U.S.-based and even in Tennessee, my home state, and that No BS Warranty... there are no worries. If something happens to any of it, they’re going to take care of it. Not only having a smart product but really standing behind it, that really makes it an easy company to support.”
Ott says the Mossy Oak watch bands, belt, and rings are his favorite to wear on a daily basis. “I wear Mossy Oak patterns in all of the products. That ties it in for me that much more. I’ve got a camo belt and a Mossy Oak Elements Ring right now. The watch band is actually the leather one. I love the fact that they work for anybody whether that’s a lifestyle or personality, whatever it is. They have something that fits everybody.”
Quick Q&A with Ott Defoe
Curious what was like to fish in 2020, or wondering where Ott Defoe’s favorite fishing spot is? We’re wrapping it up with a quick Q & A with Ott so you don’t miss a thing!
How did 2020 impact the fishing season?
“We did lose half of our regular season so we did definitely feel the effects of it some, but the great thing with the fishing industry is it had a major uptick last year. There were so many new boat buyers, there were so many new people buying fishing licenses. The fishing industry had a major boost due to COVID. So many other industries had major declines and I feel so blessed that I’m a part of the fishing industry.”
What do you love most about fishing?
“As far as the actual fishing part, the most exciting part is the bite. The fight’s fun, figuring out the fish is fun, understanding what they’re doing, but truly when you really get down to each individual piece, the bite is what I like the most.”
What is your favorite thing to fish?
“Bass are my favorite species. That’s what I make my living chasing. I certainly understand them the most. Living in Tennessee, we’re a pretty long way from the coast or any kind of saltwater fishing. There are other kinds of fish you can catch, walleye fish and crappie fish, but bass are most definitely my passion and probably smallmouth bass would be my number one.”
Which location on tour are you looking forward to the most?
“Probably this first event with Redcrest that’s down in Texas. There are multiple reasons why I’m looking forward to it. First, it’s a new place for me so I’m excited about that. It’s supposed to be really, really good with a lot of big fish. A 13-pound largemouth was caught there a few weeks ago, so it has the potential to be something really special. Also, I won an event on the Bass Pro Tour last year and the final day was on Lake Athens which is about ten miles from there so I kinda like that area. I might finish dead last but the lake next door to it was really good to me last year.”
Do you have a favorite fishing spot, and if so, what do you like about it?
“I love Douglas Lake, which is here in Tennessee, and the French Broad River which feeds into Douglas Lake. That’s probably my all-time favorite place that I’ve been. Honestly, I’ve been to a lot of places that are better fisheries - that have more fish, that have bigger fish - but that’s just a place I know really well and I love fishing there.”
Keep up with Ott Defoe
If you made it this far, we’re willing to bet you’re itchin’ to go bass fishing yourself! If you’d like to hear more fishing advice from Ott and learn what it takes to go pro, subscribe to his YouTube channel! He keeps it updated with all of the info you could wish for! You can also find more information on his website or you can follow him on Instagram and Facebook.
Curious about these Groove Life products that Ott was talking about earlier? We’ve got the most comfortable breathable rings and watch bands on the planet and recently created The Groove Belt which buckles with just one hand! If you’ve ever wished you could wear your ring to work (or to the gym) or if you hate uncomfy belts, check out our website! Warning: shop at your own risk. This action may result in a purchase because our gear is almost too good to be true!