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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Ott DeFoe came into Friday’s opening round of the GECIO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods with two patterns in mind that he thought would work on the Tennessee River.
Knoxville native, Ott DeFoe leads Day 1 of the 2019 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods after weighing in a five-bass limit of 20-0.
Photo by Andy Crawford/B.A.S.S
Only one of them did — and even then, just barely.
But it worked well enough to give him the lead at the Super Bowl of Professional Bass Fishing.
DeFoe caught only eight keeper bass on the day, but his best five weighed 20 pounds and gave him an early cushion over Arizona pros Roy Hawk, who was second with 17-11, and Clifford Pirch, who was third with 16-11.
“I got five good bites all day, and I landed them,” said DeFoe, a Knoxville resident who was considered by many to be the odds-on favorite coming into the event. “Honestly, it felt like a very tough day.”
DeFoe’s two-pattern strategy included one tactic he believed would produce heavier bass and another he thought would be a good “limit filler.” The limit-filling pattern didn’t work at all.
Fortunately for the Tennessee pro, the big-fish strategy produced a 6-pound largemouth that anchored his catch.
“A 6-pounder here is a really big one,” said DeFoe, who also took the Day 1 lead in the Berkley Big Bass competition. “So to get that one and four other pretty good ones, I felt really blessed.”
This marks the first time that Fort Loudon and Tellico Lakes have hosted a major Bassmaster event — and since DeFoe lives in the area, he probably knows as much about the fisheries as anyone. But even he couldn’t say exactly what changed the fishing so dramatically from what he had come to expect in practice.
“Coming in, I felt like both of my patterns would hold up all week,” DeFoe said. “I don’t know if the fishing pressure got to the one that didn’t work for me today or if it was the fact that the water level came up some.
“If I had to guess, I would say the water level coming up probably caused the fish to scatter out in some places.” As the first-round leader, DeFoe receives the GEICO Everyday Leader Award of $2,500.
Hawk — an Arizona angler who finished second in last year’s Bassmaster Rookie of the Year standings — said he spent all day fishing shallow structure with an unspecified red crankbait. He said his solid weight of 17-11 didn’t come as a huge surprise.
“After what I saw in practice, I felt like you could have a day like today,” Hawk said. “Two things made me believe that. One, I have a lot of confidence in the bait I’m throwing right now and two, the mapping I’m using is fantastic here.”
Hawk said a new C-Map of the fishery from Lowrance allowed him to highlight the shallow areas and follow them exactly.
“I have the shallow water marked red, and I’m using a red crankbait,” he said. “So you just connect the red with the red and let her roll.”
Pirch said he had to make a quick adjustment Friday morning after rains Thursday night muddied the water he had planned to fish.
“I was going to gin-clear water, and when I showed up it was chocolate brown,” he said. “So I had to do things differently than I expected. But it still worked out.”
Pirch wouldn’t disclose the bait he was using — or even which one of the two lakes he was fishing. He only said he didn’t let the muddier water scare him away.
“I didn’t know if the color of the water would make a difference,” Pirch said. “I’ve caught them in practice this week in the chocolatey-brown water, but I went there to do something totally different.
“Fortunately, they were still there.”
The tournament will resume Saturday with takeoff at 7:40 a.m. from Volunteer Landing and weigh-in at 4:15 p.m. at Thompson-Boling Arena. Friday’s Day 1 takeoff at Volunteer Landing drew a Classic-record takeoff crowd of 5,500 spectators.
The Bassmaster Classic Outdoors Expo presented by DICK’S Sporting is also underway this week at the Knoxville Convention Center and the adjacent World’s Fair Exhibition Hall. The Expo will be open Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Sunday’s weigh-in will culminate with the crowning of a new world champion and the awarding of the $300,000 first-place prize. Total purse for the 52 anglers is $1 million.
2019 Bassmaster Classic Title Sponsor: GEICO
2019 Bassmaster Classic Presenting Sponsor: DICK’S Sporting Goods
2019 Bassmaster Classic Platinum Sponsor: Toyota
2019 Bassmaster Classic Premier Sponsors: Berkley, Humminbird, Mercury, Minn Kota, Nitro Boats, Power-Pole, Skeeter Boats, Talon, Triton Boats, Yamaha, Abu Garcia
2019 Bassmaster Classic Outdoors Expo Presenting Sponsor: DICK’S Sporting Goods
2019 Bassmaster Classic Local Host: Visit Knoxville Sports Commission
2019 Bassmaster Classic Local Partners: Calhoun’s, Pilot Flying J, TVA
B.A.S.S. is the worldwide authority on bass fishing and keeper of the culture of the sport. With more than 510,000 members internationally, B.A.S.S. is not only home to the nation’s premier fishing tournament trails, but it also boasts the most expansive and comprehensive media network in the fishing industry. Its media include The Bassmasters on the ESPN networks, more than 130 hours of tournament programming on the Pursuit Channel, 250 hours of on-the-water streaming coverage on Bassmaster LIVE and 1 million monthly visitors to the flagship website on bass fishing – Bassmaster.com. B.A.S.S. also provides more than 4.4 million readers with the best in bass fishing coverage through Bassmaster and B.A.S.S. Times, and its radio and social media programs and events reach hundreds of thousands each month.
The Bassmaster Tournament Trail includes the most prestigious events at each level of competition, culminating in the ultimate event on the biggest stage for competitive anglers, the GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods. The trail also includes the Bassmaster Elite Series, BassPro.com Bassmaster Open Series, B.A.S.S. Nation Series, Carhartt Bassmaster College Series presented by Bass Pro Shops, Mossy Oak Fishing Bassmaster High School Series, and the Bassmaster Team Championship.
Team Toyota’s Mike Iaconelli will be the first to tell you the past few months have been among the most challenging of his life. But on the eve of the 2019 Bassmaster Classic in Knoxville he seems to be in a very good place. Full of laughter, kindness, and confidence, and even guaranteeing what the winning lure will be.
Q: Other than the 2003 Classic you won in New Orleans, what do you consider your single greatest Classic moment?
Ike: This will surprise you, but it wasn’t one of the Classics I competed in. My greatest Classic moment was watching Rick Clunn come from behind to win the 1990 Classic on the James River as a teenager. It gave me chills, and I knew after watching that TV show this was absolutely what I wanted to do for a living.
Q: What is your greatest concern going into this Classic?
Ike: My biggest concern is if the TVA (Tennessee Valley Authority) quits running current. Current is a huge key for me this week. With more rain forecasted, I doubt they’ll slow it down much. At least I hope not.
Q: When the scales stop spinning on Friday, what will the leader’s weight be?
Ike: I’d say 20 or 21 pounds. I doubt the same guy catches 20 pounds all three days, and I’ll almost bet two of the five keepers the leader weighs-in will be smallmouth.
Q: What’s the coolest thing you’ve experienced in Knoxville since you arrived in town last week?
Ike: That’s easy. Going out to Ott and Jennie DeFoe’s house, seeing their new place, and visiting with Ott about all the custom crankbait work he’s doing for Rapala right now.
Q: Name 4 lures fans can expect to see the Classic competitors throw most this week?
Ike: Yep, no problem, in fact, I’ll rank these in order. First, crankbaits like a DT6 or Shad Rap. Second, double Colorado-bladed spinnerbaits. Third, vibrating jigs. And fourth, old school ½ ounce pitching jigs. And because the water temps are in the low 50s, and muddy to off colored water, coupled with current, lots of current, I’ll go on record and guarantee this Classic will be won on a crankbait — 100% guarantee it!
The line thru offers a unique and simple way to be rigged. Run your line THRU the bait and tie on the premium treble hook. When the fish strikes the bait, many times it will pull free allowing the bait to run up your line when fighting the fish thus saving your bait for future use.
“My Boom Boom Line Thru excels in open water as it runs true no matter what the conditions are. The line thru feature allows the bait to slide up the line once you hook up, which not only saves your bait from getting damaged, it reduces the leverage the fish has to throw the bait resulting in greater landing ratios. I’ve got so much confidence in it; I have one tied on year round.” – Professional Angler, Fred Roumbanis
4″ Suggested Tackle and Lure Specs:
- Line: 8-12 LB Fluorocarbon
- Rod: 7’ Medium Heavy
- Reel: 6:1 ratio
- Hook: Size 2 Round Bend
- Length: 4”
- Weight: .85 oz, 25g
5″ and 6” Suggested Tackle and Lure Specs:
- Line: 12 -20 LB Fluorocarbon
- Rod: 7’6 – 7’11” Medium Heavy –Heavy
- Reel: 6:1 ratio
- Hook: Size #1 Round Bend
- Length: 5.5” & 6”
- Weight: 1.4oz (40g) & 1.75oz (50g)
An oversized cardboard Toyota Bonus Bucks cardboard check sat unassigned and on display as Bassmaster Classic competitors passed by the Toyota booth on angler registration day Tuesday at the Bassmaster Classic in Knoxville.
A huge number of Classic competitors tow with a Toyota, and are eligible to win, including Casey Ashley, Brent Chapman, and Todd Faircloth. All three signed up for Bonus Bucks, and could add the sizeable $7,500 fringe benefit from Toyota to the $300,000 first place prize from B.A.S.S. should they become the 2019 Bassmaster Classic Champ.
Ashley, Chapman, and Faircloth talked about why they love Toyota, and how they’d spend the $7,500 should they win this Classic in Knoxville.
Why have you been loyal to Toyota for so many years?
Ashley: The first vehicle I ever drove as a teenager was a 1988 Toyota, and as a pro I won nearly enough money the first year I was signed-up for Bonus Bucks to pay for a Tundra.
Chapman: Pure and simple, they’re awesome trucks.
Faircloth: I believe when a company supports our sport as generously as Toyota has for so many years, it’s our responsibility as anglers to support them in return.
What are your favorite qualities of a Toyota Tundra?
Ashley: It pulls like crazy, and as long as I keep the gas tank full and fresh tires on it, I don’t have to worry about mechanical failures.
Chapman: Low maintenance, and it pulls my boat as well as a diesel.
Faircloth: It tows great, and I have a great relationship with my local Toyota dealer.
If you win the 2019 Bassmaster Classic, and pick up the $7,500 Toyota Bonus Bucks check, what are you going to spend it on?
Ashley: An asphalt driveway for the house I’m building.
Chapman: A tractor to build deer hunting food plots, and also to use on the 20 acres we’re about to build a house on.
Faircloth: It would be spent on all sorts of things related to a whitetail deer lease.
Buford, GA (March 12, 2019) – In the highly competitive world of pro bass fishing, staying dry, warm, and comfortable can mean the difference between a stellar payday or a poor finish. Along those lines, Gill is proud to announce their official roster of pro bass anglers wearing various Gill rainwear and other fishing apparel and accessories to make their time on the water more profitable and a lot more fun.
Gill pro Fred Roumbanis
A diverse group of anglers from various locations coast to coast, Gill’s new roster of 15 pro bass anglers also represent the three major pro bass circuits: the B.A.S.S. Elite Series, Major League Fishing (MLF), and FLW. Additionally, Gill pros Drew Benton and Dean Rojas will be fishing in the bass fishing’s biggest tournament, the Bassmaster Classic, this coming March 15-17 in Knoxville, Tennessee.
In the B.A.S.S. Elite Series, anglers Skylar Hamilton, Denny Brauer, Luke Palmer, Drew Benton, and Chris Groh are all representing Gill. On the Major League Fishing circuit, Dean Rojas, Marty Robinson, Randall Tharp, Stephen Browning, Fred Roumbanis, and John Murray are all wearing Gill professional rainwear and additional fishing apparel. And fishing the FLW for Gill are Pete Ponds and Russell Cecil. And lastly, Gary Dobyns, the all-time-winningest in the West, as well as Jon Crans, another great ambassador for Gill, will be representing the brand.
Gill pro Marty Robinson
With Gill’s pro bass angler roster rife with such talent, the company looks forward to not only continued exposure but product design feedback from some of the best sticks on the water.
“Our goal is not only to build exposure through relationships with these anglers but utilize the discourse they provide on making our best-in-class products even better,” says Tim Golden, U.S. National Sales Manager, Gill Fishing.
Gill pro Dean Rojas
Golden continues: “The fact that we have this caliber of anglers on our team is a testament to the quality and confidence these anglers have in Gill. I have worked closely with Brauer, Roumbanis, Murray, Ponds, Hamilton and Dobyns, and I can tell you they all expect top quality products. We are honored they chose Gill.”
To learn more about Gill’s fishing rainwear and additional apparel, visit www.gillfishing.com.
Gill pro Randall Tharp
Gill was an idea first born on British waters in 1975 by founder Nick Gill, a keen sailor who wanted to create a range of sailing product without compromise; the best fabrics, the best features, the best quality.
Now trusted for over 40 years, Gill has grown into an established technical marine apparel brand meeting consumer needs both on and off the water and continues to combine innovative design with the latest fabric technology to increase the performance of its range.
Distributed around the world to 37 countries and more recently through a global Ecommerce platform Gill remains the number one marine glove brand and its comprehensive product range driven by the well-known Race Ocean jacket (0C1) as well as global best seller the Offshore jacket (0S2) continue to set it apart. More recently Gill introduced the highly successful FG21 Tournament Suit with vortex hood to the North American Fishing market.