As far as Ott DeFoe knows, his eyesight is as good as that of anyone else on the Bassmaster Elite Series. Just a few months shy of his 30th birthday, he doesn’t wear glasses, doesn’t need ‘em, and still figures that he’s got a while to go until he has to travel with a set.
He also thinks he’s a pretty good sight fisherman. Maybe not the best on tour, but he said he’s “been fishing in areas around other guys and caught fish that they didn’t.” Humbly, he said that he’s “at least average,” but makes up for any comparative lack of skill because he enjoys it so much.
|Ott DeFoe shows off a lunker largemouth— proof that you don’t have to see bedding bass to catch them.|
Going In Blind
So what does he do when he can’t put that skill and passion to work? At times, he knows that the fish are bedding, but wave action, overcast conditions, or plain, old chocolate milk-colored water prevents him from using those above-average peepers to his advantage.
That’s the situation he encountered at the season-opening event on the Sabine River in Texas. While he could make out a few beds and their inhabitants when the tide was drastically low, most of the day was spent just blind casting to likely spots. This tactic doesn’t have to be a complete act of faith. Ott stuck to specific patterns to target unseen bedding bass.
Find Likely Cover
"On the Sabine, it was all about wood,” he said. “There was no gravel and no rock, but lots of wood cover. Every bite I got came around some kind of log. The overhanging cover and small limbs were useless. In order to produce, it had to be the diameter of your arm or better, and places where two logs came together or they forked were the best.”
Back ‘Em into a Corner
It stands to reason that those “forks” would be most productive. If you were a bass, would you build your bed where you’d need eyes in the back of your head to protect it? Or would you rather have natural barriers on three sides and only need to protect what’s in front of you? If you want your progeny to survive, you’d better choose the second option.
“I like to find corners,” DeFoe continued. “Places the size of a five gallon bucket where the bass only have to look at one area to guard.” If there’s visible grass he suggests thinking the same way. “Look for the holes. That’s where they’ll be. They have to get to the bottom. They can’t lay their eggs on the grass.”
Blind casting with a stick worm or a flipping bait can be productive, but when the fish are bedding and you’re a bit off your game, it can also be about as fun as waiting for your beard to grow. Miss the heart of the bed by a few inches and you might as well be casting into a porta potty.
Sometimes, for that very reason, Ott will start with a moving bait to generate aggressive strikes. “It’s usually a spinnerbait or a bladed jig,” he said. “But in water that’s less than 2 feet, sometimes I like a buzzbait. I’ll fish through likely areas until I start getting bit or until I see fish swirling or waking toward my bait.” With their location established, he’ll slow down and soak soft plastics.
Know When to Move On
Fishing on the Sabine was frustrating at times for Ott. The bass would move a bait, nip at his lure, or just tug on his craw’s pinchers. He spent 45 minutes on one fish, and went through an entire bag of soft plastics, but didn’t manage to get her to weigh-in. In situations like that, the mental struggle becomes whether to speed up or slow down. For Florida strain fish, the best approach is often to dead stick a lure as long as you can do so without going insane.
At the Sabine, however, DeFoe feels he should’ve fished faster. The ones who wanted an air-conditioned ride to the scales tended to engulf a lure immediately, while those that didn’t pounce quickly tended to remain at home.
Ott's excellent vision is certainly an asset on the water, but this tactic is proof that an angler’s best weapon is often experience. If the bass are on their beds DeFoe doesn’t let low-vis conditions keep him at home in his. Just because they can’t be seen it doesn’t mean they can’t be caught.