A record crowd gathered in Knoxville to watch hometown favorite Ott DeFoe win the $300,000 first prize in the GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK'S Sporting Goods Sunday, B.A.S.S. announced.
DeFoe outfished a star-studded field of 52 professional anglers competing in the 49th Bassmaster Classic, which featured a total purse of $1 million.
The three-day bass fishing tournament on the Tennessee River drew a record total attendance of 153,809 to tournament venues, including daily weigh-ins in the University of Tennessee's Thompson-Boling Arena, the Classic Outdoors Expo consumer show presented by DICK'S Sporting Goods, and morning takeoffs at Volunteer Landing. Attendance numbers, including as many as 6,500 at Saturday's early-morning takeoff, were provided by officials at each of the venues.
DeFoe, a six-time champion in professional Bassmaster tournaments, caught five-bass limits each day totaling 49 pounds, 3 ounces, which enabled him to slip past second-place angler Jacob Wheeler of Harrison, Tenn., who had 45 pounds, 5 ounces.
Other top finishers included Jesse Wiggins of Cullman, Ala., third with 43-14; Michael Iaconelli of Pittsgrove, N.J., fourth with 42-9; and Mark Daniels Jr., fifth with 41-12.
"This is a dream come true — a dream I've had since I was a 9-year-old kid," said DeFoe. He was inspired to become a professional angler with aspirations of winning the world's most prestigious title after he and his family attended the 1987 Classic on the Ohio River at Louisville, Ky.
"For it to happen now…I just keep thinking I'm gonna wake up," he said.
"But the fact that it just didn't work for me, that caused me to just scrap it all. I just went fishing today, and that's exactly what I needed to do."
DeFoe's magic lure was a lipless crankbait made by Storm Lures, which he customized with orange, black and red felt-tipped markers.
"I was making it a lot prettier than it was to start with," DeFoe said, laughing. "That's definitely a confidence thing, but I altered the color of the bait pretty substantially to give it a lot more orange and red. It may be a confidence thing, but who's going to argue with it?"