Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The very interesting rookie year of Ott DeFoe

“First” things you may not know about Bassmaster Elite Series rookie Ott DeFoe: He fished his first tournament at the age of 9; now age 25, he entered his first FLW event at 16; he aspired to the Elite Series and made it on his first try; his first name is Arthur (but don’t call him that).

Another first: He and his wife are expecting twins in June. Multiple births don’t run in either of their families, so the news of twins was a surprise. But, as DeFoe explains it, he would have expected twins if only he had listened to his 3 1/2-year-old.

“Our daughter had been telling us for about a year that she was going to have a brother and a sister,” DeFoe related. “We always said, ‘Maybe one day you’ll have one or the other.’ She said, ‘Nope, a brother and a sister.’”

For now, the twins’ gender is unconfirmed. The June arrival date, though, is a fact that promises to add drama to DeFoe’s rookie Elite Series season. June was already the busiest time on his 2011 tournament calendar: back-to-back Elite events in Arkansas and Alabama, plus the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Southern Open season finale in Tennessee.

DeFoe declared that just before the Open, which is slated for a lake close to home, is when the big event will happen.

That’s pure optimism at this stage of the game. But who could doubt that all will work out for DeFoe? He’s been successful since age 16 in various FLW circuits. He went out for the Elite Series through the 2010 Southern Open trail and made it, first try. This season, he’s already on a roll with a fourth-place finish at last week’s Southern Open, a $12,000 check and a personal-best bass of 10 pounds, 9 ounces.

“I’ve never caught anything even close to (being) that big — and I caught it on the last cast,” DeFoe said on stage on Day 2 as the bass was weighed.

Helping DeFoe launch his first Elite year is an impressive list of sponsors. His Nitro boat is wrapped by Bass Pro Shops, and the retail giant’s name is prominent on his tournament jersey. Other sponsors include Berkley PowerBait, Berkley Trilene, Abu Garcia Revo reels, Tabu Tackle, Reins Tungsten and Citrus Sticks.

On Monday, already back home in Knoxville, Tenn., DeFoe took time to explain that the name Ott is a family nickname — origin unknown —bestowed on him at an early age by an aunt and uncle. Mainly, though, he talked about his goals as an Elite rookie. The top target is a Bassmaster Classic qualification. It’s a dream that took hold when his father first took him and his brother to see a Classic in 1996, just before his 11th birthday.

They took the trip every year as their summer vacation through the 2004 Classic. Then the pulls of adult life kept him away.

“I’ve always told myself that the next time I got to a Classic, I’d be on the other side of the stage,” he said.

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