DeFoe Would “Fish the Textbook” on Pickwick

Published on 05-16-2024

By Pete Robbins 
As May ends and June begins, lots of things throughout the world are in flux, but not the way that veteran Tennessee pro Ott DeFoe would fish Pickwick Lake. This resurgent jewel of the Tennessee River continues to pump out big fish in similar ways year after year after year, and while conditions always change slightly, he noted that they remain more constant than on many other fisheries. 
“By then it should be the typical Tennessee River offshore deal,” he said. “Exactly what the textbook said, back when there was a textbook.” 
He noted that even though Pickwick is a large reservoir, it tends to fish smaller than some of its neighbors. “There are not as many ridges and bars,” he explained. “There’s typically the shoreline, then one bar, then the river channel.” Savvy participants in the Minn Kota Humminbird Owners Tournament can use that basic information and geography to their advantage, whether they’re Tennessee River veterans or have never seen the lake before. 
“There are an incredible number of fish, so you’ll be able to catch them on community hole type stuff, but also on other places,” he said. “I couldn’t call them random. They’ll still be current and shape-of-the-bottom related, but look for high spots or turns on the main bars, or little low spots. If it has potential, it may be hard to leave one of those perfect little places. They can turn on at any time. They slow down, but then they may pick up after an hour or so. I’ve seen it happen a lot of times.” 
If there’s current flowing, even a moderate amount, he’d start with a crankbait like a member of the Rapala DT Series or an oversized model. Both can produce not just numbers, but often get the biggest fish in a school fired up. 
“You’re triggering bites, especially by reeling fast, this time of year,” he said. He’d keep his basic palette of colors limited to three general patterns – Green Gizzard, Citrus Shad and Chartreuse with a Blue Back. Under just about any water clarity and sky conditions one or more of those will get the job done. 
At the opposite end of the spectrum, if there’s no moving water or the fish are otherwise lethargic and uncooperative, DeFoe would rely on a Neko Rigged Bass Pro Sops Magnum Fin-Eke worm with approximately a 1/8 ounce nail weight. The worm is subtle, but also big and bulky enough to elicit strikes from fish with designs on one big meal. 
His “in between” lure choices would be a ½ ounce or 5/8 ounce “fluffy” bucktail jig, or a hollow belly style soft swimbait, usually rigged on a ¾ ounce weight. Again, both are known big fish producers. 
While he’d look offshore first, DeFoe doesn’t dispute the possibility that there could be some giants caught shallow. 
“There will definitely be some brim, bluegill and shellcrackers up spawning,” he said. “You can absolutely find a really big fish doing that, too. You won’t get a lot of bites, but the one you get could be an 8-pounder.” He’d chase those fish with topwaters, frogs and swim jigs. 
His favorite section is about 5 to 7 miles in either direction of the Natchez Trace Bridge. It’s where he feels most comfortable and where he’s had the most success, but he said that a true giant could be anywhere in the lake. 
For the offshore bite, he said that his Humminbird 360 would get heavy use. 
“On those ledges with a lot of stumps, you can line up your casts with it and bounce a crankbait off of them or pull your Neko Rig through them,” he said. “But there are also a lot of ledges that are pretty clean. On those ones you can often see the school of fish on your 360. The advantage of this technology is that you can Spot-Lock on them and still make the cast. That’s 360 doing its thing.”