Making My Case: Defoe Casts his Vote for the Volunteers

By Joel Shangle - August 7, 2017

MLF Select angler Ott Defoe’s response is out of his mouth before the question is even finished: “Tennessee. No doubt about it.”

The question? “Which state produces the best bass anglers in the country?”

Defoe, of course, is a Volunteer State faithful though and through. He grew up near Knoxville, and developed the skills that have made him an every-year Angler of the Year threat on the Bassmaster Elite Series while fishing Cherokee Lake, Douglas Lake and Fort Loudon Lake.

But he insists that he’s not being a homer when he says that Tennessee is the unrecognized “Bass Capital of the Country”.

“If you fish just within the confines of the state of Tennessee, you’re going to cover almost every kind of water that you’ll find in the whole rest of the country,” Defoe says. “Other than tidal water, we have everything. We have deep, clear waters in Douglas, Cherokee and Dale Hollow. We have grass fisheries in places like Lake Chickamauga. We have real river fishing on the Tennessee River and the Cumberland River. We have a variety of waters that allow an angler to learn how to fish just about every kind of technique.”

Defoe’s East Tennessee angling evolution – similar to that of fellow MLF competitors Wesley Strader and Michael Neal – can also be attributed to a thriving club culture that provided a stout competitive environment for young Otter: Defoe fished his first tournament with his dad Bud when he was 9 years old, and then competed in an estimated 50 tournament the following year, as a 10-year-old.

“Bass clubs were a really big deal in the Knoxville area, and I know they’re a big deal all over the state,” Defoe says. “Just my little area, there’s the Blueridge Bass Anglers, East Tennessee Bass Anglers, and the Knoxville County Bassmasters, just to name a few. There were five to 10 clubs in the area that had up to 75 members apiece when I was a kid. We used to fish team tournaments on two or three local trails that averaged 80 to 150 boats per tournament. If you wanted to learn how to be a bass pro, Tennessee was the place to do it.”

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