December 14, 2011
In late September I spent several days listening to Brian Snowden of Reeds Spring, Missouri, Rick Clunn of Ava, Missouri, Edwin Evers of Talala, Oklahoma, and Ott DeFoe of Knoxville, Tennessee, talk about the various lifestyles of professional bass anglers. They talked about the many days that they spend preparing for and competing in tournaments, guiding, working for tackle manufacturers, helping to create televisions shows, and participating in seminars at tackle shows.
They also explored how professional angling affects recreational angling and how recreational angling affects professional angling. As they talked, they were asked if they enjoyed fishing recreationally. If they said they fished recreationally, they were asked how and where they fished for the fun of it.
Here's what they said about how they fish recreationally:
Rick Clunn of Ava, Missouri, said that he doesn't fish recreationally. But he does traipse down to the creek or pond near his family's home with his sons to help them fish.
Edwin Evers of Talala, Oklahoma, used to have the same perspective about recreational fishing that Clunn possesses. Thus, he never fished for fun during the first eight years of professional angling career. He said that he was physically and psychological too tired after competing in a raft of tournaments each year and working for "The Bass Pros" television show to spend time fishing for fun. Instead he preferred to hunt, play golf or just watch television rather than fish.
(It is interesting to note that Evers has found that creating a 10-minute segment for a television show is often more demanding than most of the tournaments that he fishes.)
Then about three years ago, for some unexplainable reason, Evers slowly developed a hankering to fish recreationally. Now he has become an avid recreational angler who is afloat at least one to two days a week, fishing from dawn to about 2 p.m.
Evers has discovered that recreational angling is not only fun and relaxing, but it allows him to play with tactics that he would not employ in the tournament and television worlds. For instance, he has become a touch curious about finesse fishing, which recreational angling will allow him to explore. It also lets him to experiment with lures and colors that he would never touch while competing on the tournament circuits.
What's more, he can play around at waterways that he has never fished before, which he finds to be a delightful and educational way to spend a day. Evers said that Stacey King of Reeds Spring, Missouri and Charlie Campbell of Forsyth, Missouri, turned him on to the joys of floating Ozark rivers for smallmouth bass, and now floating these streams and small rivers has captivated him, and his only regret is that he can't find enough time throughout the year to float these enchanting waters and to catch incredible numbers of the most charming bass that swims.
In the years to come, Evers expects that he will spend significantly more hours a week fishing recreationally. He also expects that it will make him a better professional angler. And at this moment he is already a heck of a professional angler, ranking second on the BassFan World Rankings with 198.097 points and behind Kevin Van Dam ofKalamazoo,Michigan, who has 210.649 points
On the other side of the spectrum, Brian Snowden of Reeds Spring, Missouri, and Ott DeFoe of Knoxville,Tennessee, said they have always spent a lot of time fishing recreationally, doing at every opportunity that they can. Both work as guides and for "The Bass Pros" television show.
DeFoe fishes recreationally two to three times a week. Each outing encompasses four to six hours of fishing.
From May into early November, he is aboard his tunnel hull boat, fishing on the French Broad River below Douglas Lake and Holston River below Cherokee Lake. These rivers eventually converge and form the Tennessee River. When DeFoe is on the French Broad, he generally fishes from 22 miles to 17 miles above the confluence with the Holston, When he is afloat on the Holston, he normally fishes from 30 miles to 20 miles above the convergence with theFrench Broad.
To avoid the heavy flows that jettison out of the dams, DeFoe starts fishing about 10 to 20 miles below the dams, and he plies about a five mile stretch of each river.
Unlike Evers, DeFoe rarely experiments with new tactics. Instead he uses the baits and methods that bring him the most enjoyment, which are usually the same ones that he uses on the tournament trail.
His favorite tactic is to wield a topwater bait, and he especially likes a No. 9 and No. 11 Rapala X-Rap Walk in the gold-olive hue. His favorite locale to employ it is at a shoal or riffle, where he executes a perpendicular cast and a short retrieve.
When he fishes one of the many shoals with the X-Rap Walk, the strikes occur before DeFoe executes his third twitch of the rod; he calls it an instantaneous bite. If it doesn't inveigle a bass before the bait moves four feet, DeFoe quickly makes another perpendicular presentation slightly downstream.
On the pool sections of the rivers, he employs the traditional walking-the-dog retrieve.
The pools are about 200 yards long. In the pools, he primarily focuses on the biggest laydowns that are immediately downstream from a shoal. He says these laydowns provide the first deep-water lair for the bass to abide in after they finish foraging in the heavy current of the shoal.
When DeFoe's topwater bait isn't effective, he plays with a four-inch green-pumpkin Berkley Havoc Skeet's Pit Boss, which he rigs on a 5/0 VMC extra-wide gap hook and 5/16-ounce Reins TG Slip Sinker.
He never uses this combo in heavy current; instead he probes eddies with it. The eddies are usually created by a laydown or some other object that lies in the water. At each eddy, his first pitch is aimed at the most upstream portion of the eddy. As soon as the lure hits the water, DeFoe allows it to fall straight to the bottom. If a bass doesn't engulf it on the initial fall, he will hop it only twice, and if he doesn't allure a bass on one of those two hops, he will quickly make another pitch to another segment of the eddy.
Once November arrives, DeFoe leaves the rivers and spends his days fishing Cherokee and Douglas lakes. The water temperature at both reservoirs ranges from the low 60s early in November to the low 50s at month's end.
As long as the water temperature is above 50 degrees, DeFoe prefers to use the X-Rap Walk — especially on cloudy days. His best five-bass catch with a walking topwater bait weighed 21 pounds, and he caught those lunkers in early December when the water temperature was 52 degrees at Cherokee.
Cherokee consist of 30,300 surface acres. Douglascontains 28,420 surface acres. DeFoe described them as drawdown reservoirs, which means their water levels drop in the fall, dropping as much as 35 feet by the end of December. The drawdowns usually commence in August.
In November and December, DeFoe fishes these reservoirs from their mid-lake sections to their dams.
If the topwater bite doesn't materialize for DeFoe, he likes to fish mud flats with a crankbait. When the water is clear, he opts for a crankbait with a shad hue; when the water is slightly stained, he uses a white one with a black back. On these flats, his boat is floating in six feet of water, and his casts are aimed for the water's edge. The crankbait is retrieved so that it plows the bottom, stirring up the mud and silt.
If the barometric pressure is high, the sun is as bright as newly minted dime, and wind doesn't stir, DeFoe says the crankbait bite on the shallow mud flats becomes problematic. When the mud flat bite becomes vapid, DeFoe moves an area that is bedecked with docks, and he skips a jig under docks. When he does this, he employs a 9/16-ounce TABU Open Water Series Jig with a green-pumpkin-and-orange skirt and tipped with a green-pumpkin Berkley Havoc The Duce. In addition to fishing the docks, he also probes deeper lairs that he finds along creek channel bends adjacent to the shallow mud flats and points that he fishes with a crankbait.
As the water temperature drops in December, DeFoe will spend most of his day along steep shorelines that have a creek channel nearby, and he says that at times this cold-water fishing can be surprisingly fruitful and some of his most exhilarating fishing of the year.
During the hardest days of winter, DeFoe will occasionally ply lairs within the plume of warm water that jets out of the John Sevier Steam Plant on the Holston River.
In a future blog, we will detail how, when and where Snowden spends his days fishing recreationally at Table Rock Lake, Missouri.
For more information about Evers and DeFoe, here are the addresses of the their websites: www.edwinevers.com and www.odfishing.net