Skimming The Top

For Ott DeFoe, trading glass for aluminum is sometimes worth the risk

Story and photos by Craig Lamb

Published Spring 2014

Photo of Ott Defoe running his bass boat

To fully appreciate what you’re about to read is worth taking time to find a ruler. Once you do look at the 4-inch mark. That is the on-plane running depth of pro angler Ott DeFoe’s fully loaded 18-foot aluminum boat.

DeFoe won’t catch bass with the 1,500-pound metal sled racing across the skinniest of water. That’s not the point. For DeFoe this rig takes him to places where few other bass boats can go.

Call it DeFoe’s ace in the hole for reaching virgin bass territory.

The Bassmaster Elite Series pro can’t use the boat in all tournaments. Rules prohibit anglers from switching boats during the season in the Elite Series. The Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens are different. Pros have the option to switch boats during the competition.

Photo of Ott DeFoe on his bass boat

DeFoe’s rogue rig is known to appear in the middle of the night. Call it the “boat and switch pattern.”

That’s what happened during an Open on Lake Logan Martin in Alabama. Practice was unproductive in the lower lake and DeFoe speculated much better conditions existed in the upper reaches of the headwater. In a snap decision, he traded his Nitro Z-9 for the Tracker Grizzly 1860 parked at home in Tennessee. A supportive wife delivered the aluminum rig overnight in time for Day Two.

During the takeoff, all the other boats headed up lake passed DeFoe. And then he passed them. His destination was the upper end of Choccolocco Creek. It’s dangerous territory for fiberglass rigs, with sharp boulders, hidden shoals and swift currents at every turn of the narrow channel.

The gamble paid off. DeFoe caught what he needed to break into the top five and ultimately earn a nice paycheck.

It’s not the first time he switched boats and it won’t be the last. Oxbow lakes and silted channel entrances leading to open backwater come to mind. Such was the scenario at a tournament on the Arkansas River.

“What I lose in speed and fishing time I gain in access,” he said. “Jet drives are banned for use in my tournaments, but this boat can go the same places with a prop.”

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The Rig

  • Tracker Grizzly 1860
  • 90 h.p. Mercury Optimax
  • Minn Kota Fortrex 101 36v
  • Humminbird 788 (bow)
  • Humminbird 898 (console)
  • 12v Lithium Pros (cranking)
  • 36v Lithium Pros (accessories)
  • TH Marine Atlas Hydraulic Jackplate
  • Minn Kota Talons (2)


  • 26-gallon fuel tank
  • Rod storage
  • Recessed tackle storage
  • EZ-Troll Tray for recessed trolling motor pedal
  • Tunnel hull rise from 7 to 11 inches


  • DeFoe estimates the tournament-load weight at 1,500 pounds. Top end speed averages 32 mph and he can run 4 hours with a full tank of fuel.