Bass Rankings: You didn’t win the Bassmaster Classic, but the day after — thanks to your 2013 finish and the 2011 Classic dropping off — you ascended to the No. 1 spot in the Majors Ranking. What was it like seeing your name at No. 1?
Ott DeFoe: It was pretty exciting. I keep up with Bass Rankings a lot because I’m a numbers guy. I’m into stats and rankings.
I was close [to being No. 1] most of last year. So when I saw I finally was No. 1 I was pretty stoked. It’s something I’m very proud of.
BR: Growing up fishing the streams and rivers of Eastern Tennessee, did you ever think you would be able to call yourself the best bass fisherman in the country?
OD: I dreamed of it, and I knew I wanted to do it. But that’s really the extent of it. I never thought it was actually going to happen.
BR: Have you called up Kevin VanDam to brag about taking his spot?
OD: (Laughs) Definitely not. There’s no reason to rattle his cage.
BR: Well, you mentioned you’re big into stats. Obviously, so are we. So we were looking back over the last two years and your stats are pretty remarkable. You only have one tournament where you didn’t beat at least 50 percent of the field (2011, Arkansas River). All the rest you beat at least 59 percent of the field. And you have 14 top-20 finishes, with seven of those being top 10s. How have you been able to stay so consistent?
OD: It’s a couple of things, for me. No. 1 is that I keep it simple, and No. 2 is that I’m not afraid to change.
In every tournament I stick with the basics that have worked for me — the lures and the techniques.
At the same time, I don’t get stressed out a lot. You know, if I catch ‘em in practice, great. But some of my best tournaments have been when I struggled in practice, scratched everything and just went fishing. You have to have that ability to adapt and make things work.
BR: There was one thing missing from your resume: a Major victory.
OD: Yeah, even when I was with FLW Outdoors it’s the way it was. I won the BASS Elite Series All-Star Championship in 2011, but that was a one-on-one deal. I don’t have a regular-tournament win. I’m immensely proud of that All-Star win, but it was a smaller field. For some reason I haven’t had that breakthrough win yet.
BR: Why do you think that is?
OD: Sometimes I think it’s a lack of risk. I’ll be in a situation where I can play it safe and finish fifth, or I can decide to go for the win but I may finish 20th. It’s all a mind thing. I’ve been the type of angler that opts not to take the risk.
BR: You have the All-Star win. What would an Elite Series qualifier or Classic win mean to you?
OD: It would be incredible. I’ll always remember and cherish what it felt like when I won the All-Star. But to hold an Elite Series trophy over my head would be a special moment.
BR: You’re only 27 and your gearing up for your third season on the Elite Series. What are your goals?
OD: They’re the same as they are the last couple seasons.
No. 1 is to make the Classic. I know that doesn’t seem like it should be a big deal, but it is. You can’t win it unless you’re in it. So hands down, that is my main goal, because I want to win the Classic.
No. 2 is to be in the Angler of the Year race at the end, just like I was last year.
No. 3 is to win that first tournament.
BR: Think you’ll have any added pressure on you being ranked No. 1 heading into the season?
OD: I wouldn’t say I do. Being No. 1 is just going to drive me to keep getting better to stay there