Moving Water Will Have Douglas Bass Chomping

Published on 09-27-2021

Moving Water Will Have Douglas Bass Chomping

By Pete Robbins

Ott DeFoe may have more knowledge of Tennessee’s Douglas Lake than anyone alive, and he’d be licking his chops to fish in the upcoming Big Bass Tour event on the winding Tennessee impoundment. The tournament will be held from October 8-10, and the former Bassmaster Classic champion said that’s normally prime time for the fall feed, and it’ll be made better by the was this year’s weather has played out.

“It was kind of a late, wet year,” he said. “We had quite a bit of rain in August, as well as some in September. The lake is still up a bit, certainly not as low as it would normally be. By the time the tournament starts, they should really be pulling water hard, trying to get it down to the right level for winter pool. That takes an already good situation and compounds a good bite. It’s ok when they’re not pulling water, but when it’s moving it tends to be really good.”

That should give anglers options. He expects that a fair number of fish will still be out deep, relating to offshore and deep structure like points and breaks. “If you can find some rock with current running across it, that’s the key for that bite,” the veteran pro stated. If that was his chosen depth zone, he’d deep crank and also rely on spoons and football jigs.

His preference, however, would be to stay shallow.

“I’m sure that lots of the hourly money will be won deep, but I’d be surprised if the overall winner didn’t come up closer to the bank.” He’d expect to put his trolling motor and batteries to the test, covering water with a big square bill or a topwater. “Once the water starts falling, fish any cover you can find. It could be a piece of wood or rock or concrete.” That’s not what holds the fish, though. A lot of times his biggest bites come “on almost nothing.” That’s because the bass are keyed in on bait. That would be his focus in practice: finding the largest concentrations of baitfish, because the bass will be right behind them.

Local hammer Casey Majni agreed with DeFoe’s preference to stay shallow. With cooler nights coming, he’d likewise put in heavy duty work with topwaters, including Berkley’s Cane Walker, J-Walker and Choppo, the bigger the better. Bone colored baits are a consistent favorite, but he also likes shad patterns including “Perfect Ghost.” He said it pays to stay on point because “before you know it they’ll erupt, so you’ve got to get the bait to them quick.” On the rare days when the shallow bass are hesitant to break the surface, he’ll go with a Frittside crankbait, especially the “Biggun’” which as the name suggests tends to get bigger bites.

Majni added that as the water goes down, he tends to target the backs of pockets with a ¾ ounce Berkley Warpig lipless bait, hitting the flat spots as far back as he can cast. His strategy: “Turn and burn.”

DeFoe is a noted river rat, so you might expect to find him in the far upper reaches of Douglas come tournament time. That might happen, and might be a player – in any event, he expects that the mid- to upper-half of the impoundment will produce most of the top ten.

“That’s shifted,” he explained. “It used to be that the biggest fish almost always came from the lower end of the lake. Big ones still get caught down there, but they’ve spread out.” The one opportunity that has exploded down the lake is the smallmouth population. “They’ve grown up a lot,” and while they too might not win the overall top prize, he expects to see some quality brown fish in the weigh-in line.

One other wildcard that an angler focused on a single giant could pursue is to throw a big glide bait or swimbait all day. DeFoe said that’s an increasingly popular way to approach the lake, and someone who committed to the big fish strategy “could get on bluffs with current hitting them and catch a truly big one that way.”

For anglers who choose to pursue the deep bite, Majni urges them to dropshot a white Berkley Maxscent Flat Worm or rig a Berkley Hollow Belly swimbait on a 1 ounce jig head and hunt individual specimens with forward-facing sonar.

The weights at the top of the leaderboard are typically tightly-packed in the BBT tournaments on Douglas. It usually takes over 5 pounds to make the top 10, although in both 2018 and 2020 slightly smaller fish snuck in. In 2019 there was a 6.09 weighed in. In 2016 there were two over 6 and another over 7, and in 2017 Sam Harris weighed in a remarkable 7.44 pound brute. Accordingly, it’s critical to pay attention to the live leaderboard to maximize your chances and your winnings.