Ott DeFoe triumphs in record-breaking Bassmaster Classic
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A record total attendance saw local boy, Tennessee pro, Ott DeFoe, win the ‘Super Bowl of fishing’ in his home town of Knoxville at the weekend.
The fact that the world championship bass tournament drew an enormous 153,809 people to the competition venues, including daily weigh-ins and the Bassmaster Classic Outdoor Expo, will be a massive fillip for the organiser against a backdrop of the launch of a rival tour.
This year’s introduction of the Major League Fishing (MLF) Bass Pro Tour – and a mass exodus, led by four-time Bassmaster Classic winner, Kevin VanDam – failed to overshadow this year’s event, which has been described as one of the most successful in its 49-year history.
Over $1m was paid out to the 52 competitors, with DeFoe pocketing the $300,000 winner’s cheque for his three days’ work.
“This is a dream come true – a dream I’ve had since I was a nine-year-old kid,” said DeFoe, who now has six career victories with B.A.S.S. “When we came over here and did the walk-through the day before the tournament, I actually imagined hearing my name after the words ‘Bassmaster Classic champion’.
“For it to happen now… I just keep thinking I’m going to wake up.”
For the first 36 years the event was held, no home-state angler claimed the Classic crown. But that streak was broken in 2007 and then home-state anglers won three straight times from 2014 to 2016.
Since DeFoe lives in Knoxville – and since few others in the 52-angler field had much experience on the tournament waters of Fort Loudon and Tellico lakes – he was one of the obvious favourites coming into the event.
But things didn’t go smoothly for him in his own backyard all three days.
DeFoe’s closest competition came from Jacob Wheeler, an Indiana native who moved to Tennessee two years ago after enjoying great success on fisheries in the Volunteer State. Wheeler has two career B.A.S.S. wins – one on Lake Chickamauga and one on nearby Cherokee Lake.
“I knew it was going to be hard to beat Ott on this fishery,” said Wheeler. “All I can say is I caught fish every day, so it was a great week for me.
“If I just had to come up a little short, I’m glad to see Ott win it.”