Story by Russ Bassdozer
Dandridge, Tenn., March 25, 2013 – The Town of Dandridge and Jefferson County Tourism are excited to be hosting the 2013 Bass Pro Shops PAA Tournament Series season opener on Douglas Lake in East Tennessee this week. Official Practice started today, Monday through Wednesday, March 25-27. Check-in and pairing meeting for pros and co-anglers will be Wednesday afternoon at tournament headquarters, Bass Pro Shops in Sevierville/Kodak.
Competition days will be Thursday, Friday and Saturday, March 28-30. Day 1 and Day 2 follow a pro-am format where co-anglers and pro anglers compete separately. Day 1 and 2 weigh-ins will be lakeside at The Point Marina.
After Day 2, the field is trimmed to just the top pros who fish on Day 3 with the final weigh-in on Day 3 at tournament headquarters, Bass Pro Shops in Sevierville/Kodak.
No Better Place to be than East Tennessee
The first event of 2013 also marks the first time for the PAA to visit Douglas Lake. It’s one of the best largemouth bass fisheries in East Tennessee- and all our pros are excited at this great opportunity to enjoy the awesome fishing here!
Adele Sensing, Director of Tourism, Jefferson County offered, “The Town of Dandridge is excited to be hosting the best professional tournament anglers on Douglas Lake. We have a community that is excited the PAA is coming to town and will be showing the anglers true Southern hospitality. We enjoy all the exposure that comes along with a large scale national event like this. This lets the rest of the world know we have great fishing on Douglas Lake.”
Professional Anglers Association President Dave Mansue exclaimed, “Jefferson County is a beautiful venue. The fishing has become outstanding in recent years and we look forward to some incredible weights being brought to the scales by our anglers.”
Although Douglas Lake is a new venue, the PAA Tournament Series has a rich history in Tennessee. The PAA held a great event on Cherokee Lake in nearby Morristown, TN in July 2010. PAA pro Tommy Biffle of Wagoner, OK won that event with a field of 111 pros. In May 2012, an exciting PAA event on Old Hickory Lake in Hendersonville, TN was won by Steve Kennedy of Auburn, AL.
In May 2013, the PAA will be returning to East Tennessee again to enjoy fishing at Knoxville’s fantastic Fort Loudon/Tellico Lakes, yet another brand new and exciting destination for the PAA this year.
Ott DeFoe at Home
“With the great PAA schedule of events this year, including two of them around here (East Tennessee), they’re home lakes for me. I’m going to have my mind on winning them – and 2013 PAA Angler of the Year too,” says world-famous local angler hero and Knoxville native Ott DeFoe. His 10-year pro career includes 4-time FLW Forrest Wood Cup, 2-time Bassmaster Classic and 2-time Toyota Texas Bass Classic qualifications. In 2011, DeFoe was Bassmaster Rookie of the Year as well as the Bassmaster All-Star Champion.
DeFoe has fished the Bass Pro Shops PAA Tournament Series since our early days in 2009. “You know the PAA is the best of each tour that you get. You get the FLW anglers together with the B.A.S.S. people and the guys who just fish the PAA. It’s a cool, really neat mix of people and it’s a tight knit group, so it makes for extremely fun events while you’re still fishing for some great money too,” says Ott.
“Douglas Lake is a heavily pressured local fishery but that’s because it is the best one we’ve got around here,” says DeFoe. “Douglas tends to produce the best average weight per fish and the highest five fish weight limits. It’s one of the more pressured fisheries but that’s because it has the fish in it. It’s always been thought to hold the most fish in this region. While it’s always been a great numbers lake, that’s not all! The quality has gotten better and better every year over the past 5-6 years and 2013 should prove even better!”
DeFoe recalls, “One time there, about this time of year on Douglas in a local tournament, we found a group of fish and I caught a bass on eleven straight casts until I finally lost one while my Dad who was my team partner caught a bass on 7 straight casts – all nice sizes. You just can’t do that at a lot of places this time of year, but you can on Douglas this time of year.”
“Indeed this should be a full-blown pre-spawn tournament. There should be really good weights this week. The weights for the Elite Series here last year were around 20 pounds a day to win it. This event should be right on par with that or maybe even a little better. No doubt it should take over 20 lbs a day to win this one,” predicts DeFoe.
Andy Montgomery Agrees
Andy Montgomery of Blacksburg, SC finished a lofty 6th at that 2012 Bassmaster Elite last year on Douglas Lake. Montgomery has fished professionally for 7 years and he’s a 1-time Bassmaster Classic qualifier. He feels, “This week’s event will obviously be different since that Elite was May and this is March. That was more of a post-spawn tournament and this will be more of a pre-spawn tournament plus the water is really low this time.” Despite that, Montgomery still expects equally great fishing this week.
Andy agrees wholeheartedly with his best friend on tour Ott DeFoe’s weight predictions. If anything, Montgomery’s estimating even higher. “It could take in the low 20’s every day to win. So I would guess around 70 pounds to win. It’s just that I know how good of a lake Douglas is and I know what quality of fish I need to look for here.”
He believes, “This is one of the best lakes I’ve fished travelling the country. The fish are just so healthy it’s incredible. Even though we were catching post-spawn fish last May, they were so healthy, they weighed so much, and they were thick across the back.” That’s noteworthy since post-spawn fish usually look skinny after they spawn. Montgomery thinks they eat a lot of big gizzard shad and other big baits on Douglas Lake, which makes then grow so fat and healthy.
David Walker’s a world-known local angler hero who, like Ott DeFoe, lives fairly close to Douglas Lake.Walker’s hometown is Sevierville, Tennessee so he’s fished here for quite a few years, yet he’s also been away campaigning on the national Bassmaster and FLW tours for 17 years and he’s fished across the Southeast and Texas on the Bass Pro Shops PAA Tournament Series since our early days in 2009. Over his career, he’s a 10-time FLW Forrest Wood Cup qualifier, an 8-time Bassmaster Classic qualifier and 4-time Toyota Texas Bass Classic qualifier. Because Walker fishes so much when he’s gone, when he gets home, he doesn’t fish that much on Douglas Lake nowadays. Instead he opts to spend that quality time with the family and within the community in Sevierville.
Walker reiterates DeFoe’s words about Douglas Lake being a really good fishery, one of the best around in his opinion. Walker says, “There’s such a number of fish in the lake now, and it’s always been known for numbers. Some years, the size has really been there as well with some really big five fish limits in events.”Walker’s heard there was a bass caught close to 9 pounds there already this year.
Although Walker feels this week has the potential of being a really good event, he worries that, “The tough part’s going to be the weather that we’re getting dealt. It’s like winter is still here. They’re calling for snow flurries for Tuesday and even possibly Wednesday. Normally, bass here would be sort of close to spawning now during milder years, but definitely it’s not going to be that way this year. We’ve had an extremely cold winter with lots and lots of cold rain and there’s been a lot of chilled water run in and out through Douglas Lake in the past few months.”Walker says, “You know the way I think of that, it’s kind of a good situation for a PAA pro who hasn’t been here before and that doesn’t know the way Douglas normally fishes this time of year. I don’t see that as a disadvantage for this event. Somebody who goes into this with a fresh outlook may very well have an advantage.”
Will Mike DelVisco’s Scouting Trips Pay Off?
Before the lake went off-limits to anglers from March 18-24, pro Mike DelVisco spent two weekends here scouting around for clues as to what the fish might be doing come game time this week. DelVisco doesn’t have a lot of history on Douglas, but he thinks that this lake is so diverse and there is so much different stuff to fish that the pros will be using a wide variety of different ways to catch bass from shallow to deep to even suspended fish.
Three species of bass – largemouth, spotted and smallmouth bass – add to this diversity. Anglers will be able to weigh-in a mixed bag of five bass with only one being a smallmouth per day. That one smallmouth could be a dandy though because Douglas Lake is managed for trophy smallmouth; the minimum size to keep a smallmouth must be 20 inches or greater!
DelVisco says, “I don’t really have any notion in my head that any one approach is going to dominate. I think a guy that’s going to do well in this tournament is going to be one who has several different game plans and that’s what I have actually been trying to put together myself before the cut-off, multiple things I can do each day.”
The launch ramp at The Point Marina is centrally located so it’s a short run to either end of Douglas Lake from there. With water levels presently low near the lake’s winter pool level, it’s about 8-9 miles to Douglas Dam downstream and around the same distance from the ramp to the upper end. “Like I’m saying, for a guy who has several game plans, and with most on the lake within a relatively short striking distance, a guy should be able to move around the entire lake easily if he needs to. It’s not like you will have to make a commitment to a hard-to-reach spot or a long distance run or anything. The logistics of this event are well-proportioned,” believes DelVisco.
DelVisco doesn’t expect Douglas to fish small though. Overall, this highland reservoir has 555-miles of at times convoluted shoreline, a total surface area of 30,600-acres and sits 940 feet above sea level at winter pool. “There have been tons of people out here fishing local tournaments and things like that over the two weekends when I was there before the cut-off, and I never really ran into a lot of anglers in any places I was in. It wasn’t like people were fishing on top of each other. There are tons of different coves, little pockets and shoreline corrugations where guys can disappear.”
DelVisco says anglers should expect to be fishing plenty of bare banks because the lake is down around its winter pool level. When asked if he saw any vegetation before the cut-off, DelVisco quipped, “Just the lettuce on my baloney sandwich was all.” Most of the shoreline grass, button brush, willows and what have you will be about 50 feet above the waterline. Simply sand, gravel, rocks, steep banks, points and channel beds may be key pieces of the puzzle for many anglers this week.
Blake Nick New to the PAA
Right before the cut-off, Blake Nick of Adger, Alabama went and cruised around for a couple of days to see what he could on Douglas. That was Nick’s first time here and he’s new to the PAA too. Nick signed up for all three PAA events in 2013 because this FLW Tour pro has his eye on the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to double qualify via the PAA for the 2013 and 2014 Toyota Texas Bass Classic championships.
Nick was expecting Douglas to be a clear lake but he found that most of the lake had a pretty good stain to it prior to the cut-off. Nick reckons, “The stain’s going to keep the bass up a little bit, so there’s going to be some shallow fish. A lot of guys should be able to run around beating the banks if the water color stays like it was.”
Nick caught deep and shallow fish, and he’s sure there are big fish there too. Using his electronics, “I could see a lot of big fish out there. There are definitely a lot of suspended fish too, and I’m thinking that the umbrella rig could be a pretty big player from what I was told before the cut-off, they catch a lot of suspended fish here on umbrella rigs.”
Nick agrees with most pros we’ve spoken to today that, “This will definitely be a pre-spawn tournament. There’s a chance of snow during the first couple of practice days, but they’re also expecting a warming trend the rest of the week. Regardless, it’s just that time of year, even all across the country now, when those fish are just waiting and wanting to come up and do their spawn thing. So any kind of warming trend is going to be good this week. Practice might start a little tough, but it’s going to get better every day. Indeed I’m thinking this tournament is going to set up pretty good for increasingly better catches every day.”
As we say, this is Nick’s first year to fish the PAA. “The cool thing is I fish the FLW Tour and I’m pretty stoked to get to fish against the top Bassmaster pros for my first time. It’s a cool format and I’m excited about it,” exclaims Nick.
Cold can make Douglas Unpredictable says Local Tommy Bryant
Tommy Bryant of Knoxville, TN is new to the PAA yet he’s a local expert who says he can usually hold his own on Douglas Lake. He’s fished this lake and tournaments on it for much of his life since he was a 6-7 year old kid going with his Dad.
Bryant mentions, “It’s such a beautiful lake. If you’ve never been there, you’ll fall in love with the view of the Smoky Mountains and the scenery. It’s a beautiful place to be and a great lake to be on with good fishing.”
Bryant loves fishing and he’s good at it although Tommy doesn’t fish as much as he used to. Part of the reason he says, “I’ve got 2 little girls, 9 and 6, and I coach their basketball and softball games and I have my own business, so I don’t have as much time for fishing as I used to.” Another reason is in June 2010, he fell and broke his back in 3 places, plus 8 ribs and a hip and had a severe concussion.
It took almost a year with rehab and exercising to get enough of his strength back to fish again and Bryant did it in style by finishing 4th in the Bassmaster Southern Open here in June 2011. When he fished that event in 2011 it was almost one year to the day after Bryant had his bad fall and even then, he had to rest his back for several intervals every day during that tournament.
Bryant’s just now trying to come back into fishing a little more and that’s why he’s joined the PAA now. He’s just getting his strength back (although he’ll never be the same) and he feels he’s going to be a little more prepared and physically more ready. He’s looking forward to 2013 on the PAA tour and thinks it’s going to be fun! He’s planning to fish all three events including Table Rock, Missouri in September 2013, God willing. The prospect of qualifying for the Toyota Texas Bass Classic championship via the PAA hasn’t really crossed Bryant’s mind yet. “That would be a real neat thing to do,” he chuckles, but with everything else going on and getting ready for these first two events in Tennessee, he hasn’t thought that far ahead yet.
“The PAA seems to be growing every year, and talking to some of my friends who fish it, I think it is a great tournament trail that I wanted to be a part of,” he states. “I like the fact it is only 3 tournaments and not 8 or 10 so you’re not going to be gone from home anywhere as often. Also two of the tournaments will be close to home for me this year, and I won’t have to travel very far to either Douglas or Fort Loudon/Tellico events. So I can still be around home and be with the family. It’s a really hard sport to participate in when you have to be on the road all year long, and I admire the pros that I’ll be competing with this week who make a career at that. Most people don’t realize what a hard road they travel,” he says respectfully.
Getting back to the weather, Bryant wishes it was going to be better this week. He’s heard the forecast calls for highs in the 30’s with rain, snow and wind on Monday. Low 40’s with a few snow showers and still windy on Tuesday with Wednesday only in the mid-40’s too, after which it’s going to warm up a little more each day of the tournament itself from Thursday to Saturday.
“We’ve had so much rain around here this spring, and the lake level has actually fluctuated up and back down so much, this may be a very unpredictable tournament,” thinks Bryant. Driving across the Interstate bridge last week, he noticed the water was really muddy. “We all know that cold, muddy water is not a real good formula for hot fishing. Warm, muddy water is fine and cold, clear water is too, but with this rain and snow we’re getting early this week, Douglas may stay muddy. If it does, the fishing’s going to be really unpredictable. I wish the weather would prove to be a little more stable than what’s being forecast, and people could probably get on a pattern a little easier then. We’ll just have to see what happens,” he says.
Exciting Activities for Fishing Fans this Week
Make your plans to attend now! The PAA pros look forward to meeting our co-anglers and favorite fishing fans on location at DouglasLake this week!
The public is invited to tournament headquarters at the Bass Pro Shops in Sevierville/Kodak on Wednesday from 5:00-6:30 pm to meet and greet the pros and to attend free fishing seminars being given by the pros.
Come see the pros take off each morning at 7 am at The Point Marina in Dandridge.
Stop by to watch the pros weigh-in the big bass that Douglas Lake’s known for at The Point Marina in Dandridge on Thursday and Friday at 3:00 pm and at the Bass Pro Shops in Sevierville/Kodak on Saturday at 4:30 pm.. Also stop by to meet and greet the pros prior to weigh-in on Saturday from 12:30-3:30 pm at Bass Pro Shops in Sevierville/Kodak.
For more info on the Douglas Lake event this week, visit http://fishpaa.com/2013-douglas-lake-tournament/ and get details of all the activities going on at Bass Pro Shops tournament headquarters here: http://blogs.basspro.com/blog/bass-pro-shops-seviervillekodak-tn/paa-fishing-tournament-is-making-a-stop-on-douglas-lake or call the PAA Office at (270) 527-2030. Thank you.
Remember our next PAA event will be back in Knoxville in late May to fish Fort Loudon/Tellico Lakes. We’re hoping a lot of our fans and co-anglers will have a great time at Douglas Lake and that you’ll all come back and reunite with us to fish together again and have fun at Fort Loudon/Tellico. Tournament headquarters for that event will also be East Tennessee’s favorite Bass Pro Shops in Sevierville/Kodak.
About the 2013 Bass Pro Shops PAA Tournament Series
|#1||DouglasLake||Dandridge,TN||March 25-27||March 28-30|
|#2||Ft. Loudon/Tellico||Knoxville,TN||May 20-22||May 23-25|
|#3||TableRockLake||Branson,MO||Sept. 2-4||Sept. 5-7|
Format - Pro Angler/Co-Angler, random draw pairings
Registration - Our events are open registration. PAA membership is required to fish. New anglers can purchase required membership upon registration for event(s) or by calling the PAA Office at (270) 527-2030. Pro Anglers must possess a $400 Tour level or a Legends level membership. Co-Anglers must possess a $50 General or $150 Advantage level membership. Students, ages 16-22, may fish as a Co-Angler with a $25 Affinity membership – proof of age must be provided upon registration.
Magazine Coverage - Game and Fish Magazine (circulation 425,000)
Television Coverage – Pursuit Channel, 2013 events will air in Quarter One of 2014
Championship – Toyota Texas Bass Classic (TTBC) – The top 15 pro anglers in the final Angler of the Year season standings (after event #3) will qualify for the 2013 TTBC. The TTBC is a no entry fee event with a guaranteed check. The sport’s only true unifying championship, the TTBC pits the top 15 pros from the PAA Tournament Series against the Top 15 pros from the Bassmaster Elite Series and the FLW Tour. There will also be a special post-season event (#4) to be announced soon, and this event will serve as a wild-card option for PAA pros to further qualify for the 2014 TTBC championship.