When bass aren’t biting in a predictable pattern in similar spots during a multiple-day tournament or fishing trip, try throwing almost everything in your tacklebox at ‘em where you find ‘em. Ott DeFoe did just that last Friday in Texas, slinging Terminator® swim-jigs, spinnerbaits and frogs, VMC®-hook-armed wacky and Texas rigs, and a Rapala® crankbait to win the 2021 Major League Fishing Bass Pro Tour Stage 1 tournament on Sam Rayburn Reservoir. It was his third MLF win in Texas in 13 months.
“This definitely was one of the larger mixes of baits that I’ve used to win,” says DeFoe. “Most of the tournaments where I have a good finish I’m usually running a pattern, where I’ve got two or three things that are working, and maybe I do this in the morning and that later in the day. But this tournament was so oriented around a couple of particular spots, that it was important to have five, six, seven different baits to show the fish. I’d make five casts with this, then put it down and make five casts with that, then lay it down, and so on. It took many different baits and presentations because I was fishing a small number of particular spots, and really trying to milk them for all I could.”
In four days of competition, DeFoe caught 38 scoreable bass weighing a combined 89 pounds, 13 ounces. A bass had to weigh at least two pounds to count as “scoreable.” The biggest bass DeFoe caught weighed 6 pounds, 2 ounces. Because he won his two-day Qualifying Round, tallying 25 bass weighing a combined 59-11, he earned an automatic berth into last Friday’s Championship Round, not needing to compete in Thursday’s Knockout Round.
Many of the scoreable bass DeFoe caught in Qualifying Round Day 1 action came on a 3/8th oz. Terminator Heavy Duty Swim Jig in the “OD” color pattern, which features a black-and-blue skirt with chartreuse accents. “It was good to me the first couple of days, and a large part of the reason I was able to win the Qualifying Round and get the automatic bid into the championship,” he says. A Terminator Popping Frog yielded Day 1 scoreable bass as well.
“I caught about five bass on those two baits in the second and third periods,” DeFoe says.
Wacky and Texas rigs armed with sticky-sharp VMC hooks yielded multiple Day 2 Qualifying Round bass for DeFoe. He wacky-rigged a black-and-blue soft-plastic stickbait on a No. 1 VMC Weedless Neko Hook. He Texas-rigged a purple-brown soft-plastic worm on a 3/0 VMC Heavy Duty Worm Hook.
“Both of those hooks, I have such a high landing percentage with,” DeFoe says. “I’ve just got so much confidence in those two.”
Terminator and VMC are Rapala Respected Brands.
DeFoe caught additional scoreable bass throughout the tournament on a bladed jig and a homemade balsa-body, square-bill crankbait that’s an early prototype for an addition to Rapla’s “OG Slim” line of baits. “OG” stands for “Ott’s Garage.” In his garage workshop, DeFoe designed Rapala’s OG Slim 6, an in-demand flat-sided, balsa-body crankbait.
“Our partnership with Ott on the OG line has already succceed big-time with Slim, one of the hottest lures on the market today,” says Rapala USA Field Promotions Manager Dan Quinn. “And judging by what we saw last week on Sam Rayburn, Ott’s Garage has more great baits in the pipeline!”
In the Championship Round, DeFoe added scoreable bass to his total tally with a 1/2 oz. Terminator Pro Series Spinnerbait and a Rapala DT-4 crankbait. “I had shown the bass that particular [prototype] square-bill a lot, so I wanted to have a different crankbait to show them too,” DeFoe says.
DeFoe fished far upriver on the northern end of Sam Rayburn Reservoir because the fish there, he suspected, would be less pressured than in the community holes on the lower end. His primary fish-holding spot was a brush-lined chute with current and chocolate-milk colored water.
“I didn’t win the tournament completely on one spot, but I had one spot that did the bulk of the work for the whole week,” DeFoe says. “That one little key spot, there was a lot of things going on,” including “current washing across that area,” a little bit of grass, some primrose and a lot of bushes on the edges.
“Looking back, I can’t say the fish were holding to this or that in particular,” DeFoe says. “It was just a place where they were. Maybe it was a little bit of a drain where fish that were up there spawning in those trees and stuff would filter out to that point for some particular reason, more than all the other places. But I don’t really have a great reason why they were there. It’s just where I found them.”
DeFoe has found many bass, and much success, fishing in Texas recently. In the last 13 months, he has won three of three Major League Fishing competitions he fished on Texas waterbodies – the 2020 General Tire Stage Three, the 2021 Heritage Cup and last week’s event, the Toro Stage One Presented by Power-Pole on Sam Rayburn Reservoir. In a Facebook Live video, DeFoe notes that Rayburn is somewhat similar to Douglas, a Tennessee reservoir close to his home.
“Where I’m fishing at on the upper end of Rayburn reminds me some of the upper end of Douglas, so I do think there are some correlations there – a little bit of current up there, dirtier water,” he says. “So, it definitely does feel a little bit like home. … It does have a lot of those big flats, like back in the creeks and stuff, and good, defined creek channels.”
Terminator® Heavy Duty Swim Jig
Among the features that distinguish Terminator Pro Series Heavy Duty Swim Jigs are an inline line-tie and a balanced, hydrodynamic head crafted to swim through the heaviest cover. Those are “really important to come through the kind of stuff that you’re going to throw it in,” DeFoe explained.
Additional key features, he said, include “really realistic” banded silicone skirts,” a well-designed trailer keeper, a 3D eye, a quality nylon weed guard that’s “soft enough” and “gets out of the way,” and a “really super-strong” 5-0 VMC Hybrid Wide Gap Hook. “It’s a really good stout hook that will hold up for a lot of big-fish catches,” DeFoe says.
Terminator® Popping Frog
By varying retrieve cadence and how much slack you give it on the stop, you can make a Popping Frog attract fish in different ways. “If you keep it tight-lined, it doesn’t want to walk as much and you can make it chug really hard,” DeFoe says. “If you twitch it on a slack line — a lot like you would walking a topwater hardbait — then it’s going to have a lot more walk and side-to-side action.”
The Popping Frog features a custom VMC® frog hook, round-rubber legs, a heavy-duty welded line tie and lifelike detail from nose to rear. It is tail-weighted to increase casting distance and stability on the retrieve. Its body is extra soft, easily compressing when bass bite it to increase your hook-up ratio.
Terminator® Pro Series Spinnerbait
Top tournament pros like DeFoe must imitate many species of forage to catch winning limits of bass, such as threadfin shad, gizzard shad, blueback herring, emerald shiners, golden shiners, silver shiners and alewives. Terminator® makes it easier than ever with Pro Series Spinnerbaits. With vibrant, real-life looking patterns Terminator helps DeFoe and millions of anglers “match the hatch” under any condition, on any body of water.
“Terminator has a spinnerbait that matches nearly every combination that you’re going to need as an angler,” DeFoe says.
Not only are Pro Series Spinnerbaits available with multiple forage-matching skirt color patterns, they come with several different blade colors and shape combinations. DeFoe provided input on all the color patterns and blade options needed to match bass forage species across the country.
VMC® Weedless Neko Hooks
VMC® Neko® Hooks feature a black-nickel finish, wide gap, 3-degree offset point, resin-closed eye and a forged, long shank. Numerous Rapala pros have relied on Neko Hooks to win and place high in top tournaments. They are available in four sizes: 2, 1, 1/0 and 2/0.
VMC® Heavy Duty Worm Hook
The perfect choice for fishing heavy-cover rigs, the VMC® Heavy Duty Worm Hook features a 3-degree offset point which dramatically improves hooking percentage. Its unique resin-closed eye eliminates line slip-out. It excels for fishing with braid and heavy monofilament line.
“DT” stands for “dives to.” Built of balsa wood, Rapala’s signature material, a DT-4 will get down to its maximum depth of four feet sooner than – and thus stay in the strike zone longer than – any other shallow-running crankbait on the market.
The way a DT’s balsa body wobbles while swimming and digging its bill into the bottom makes it a perfect tool for triggering bites from shallow, early-season bass. Swimming with a side-to-side action only balsa baits can achieve, DT’s can back out of shallow cover better than copycat crankbaits, floating up and minimizing snags.
Rapala® OG Slim 6
A non-rattling, easy-casting crankbait that swims with a medium wobble and tight side-to-side action, the Rapala® OG Slim 6 sports a lightweight, circuit-board lip. The lure dives to six feet when fished on 12-pound-test line – hence the “6” in its name. DeFoe desgined the bait’s original prototypes in his garage workshop.
Although OG Slim 6’s name derives, in part, from its thin, flat-sided profile, its balsa-wood construction gives it a live-minnow action that similar-looking flat-sided plastic crankbaits can’t imitate. Its ultra-thin circuit-board lip delivers the right action and attitude no matter how you fish it, triggering bites from big bass and other gamefish. It is armed with two No. 3 VMC black-nickel, 1X-strong, short-shank Hybrid Treble Hooks.