Fishing & Boating News

Changes At Douglas Lake Impact Final Bassmaster Southern Open

Southern Open

by: Helen White, Bassmaster

Bassmaster Elite Series angler and Opens champion Ott DeFoe will be one of 148 pro anglers competing at the final Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Southern Open on Douglas Lake out of Dandridge, Tn., May 19-21. 
Photo by James Overstreet/Bassmaster
(May 14, 2016 - Danridge, TN)

Douglas Lake won’t be like its old self when the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Southern Open is held May 19-21. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
 
First, the water is low. Due to various construction projects around the lake, the water level has been held several feet below full pool — 990 feet above sea level.
 
But the most significant change is a thriving smallmouth bass population that now permits a seasonal daily limit until June 1 of five smallmouth over 15 inches in length. In previous B.A.S.S. tournaments on Douglas Lake, anglers were allowed to weigh in only one smallmouth measuring at least 20 inches.
 
“There’s a lot of 3-pound smallmouth in the lake,” said Bassmaster Elite Series pro Ott DeFoe. “You’re going to see that in this tournament. They’re going to be a factor.”
 
DeFoe of Knoxville, Tenn., won the last time B.A.S.S. came to Douglas Lake. He took the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Northern Open title in May 2014, with a three-day total of 62 pounds, 5 ounces.
 
That total weight points to one factor unlikely to change at Douglas Lake: It will take an average of more than 20 pounds a day to win. Patrick Bone of Cleveland, Ga., won a three-day Southern Open on Douglas Lake in April 2013 with 65-04. Jeremy Starks of Charleston, W.V., won a four-day Elite Series tournament in May 2012 with 81-02.  And, Bobby Ferguson of Chuckey, Tenn., won a three-day Southern Open in June 2011 with 61-09.
 
“In nearly every event held here in recent years, it has taken about 20 pounds a day to win, and I expect it to be about the same this time,” DeFoe said.
 
This marks the third and final Southern Open event of the year. Wesley Strader of Spring City, Tenn., won the first Southern Open in January on Florida’s Kissimmee Chain of Lakes. Jesse Wiggins of Cullman, Ala., won at Alabama’s Smith Lake last month.
 
An Opens victory provides a berth in the 2017 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by GoPro March 24-26 in Houston, Texas, provided the winner fishes all three tournaments in the division.
 
DeFoe readily admits his decision to add the Southern Opens to his busy Elite season schedule was because of the tournament at Douglas Lake, which he’s fished most of his life.
 
He said there are still lots of fish shallow, maybe more than usual for this late in the spring. “But I don’t see how it won’t be won deep,” he added. “Several guys will make the Top 12 by fishing shallow, but winning at Douglas is almost always about the deep bite.”
 
Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens angler Skylar Hamilton of Dandridge, Tenn., lives on Douglas Lake. He noted that bass are just starting to move into a late-spring/early summer pattern.
 
“I was catching them on spawning beds two weeks ago,” Hamilton said. “They’re not grouping up deep yet.”
 
Hamilton agrees with DeFoe about the smallmouth bass factor.
 
“This lake has changed so much from the way it has fished in the past,” Hamilton said. “Now it’s full of smallmouth. You can catch a 17- to 18-pound bag of smallmouth pretty regularly.”
 
Finally, there’s one other factor that could affect the tournament at Lake Douglas: fishing pressure. Hamilton said large tournament fields will have been on the lake both of the previous weekends before the Southern Open.
 
“I don’t remember it ever being pressured this hard this early in the year,” Hamilton said.
 
Anglers will take off each day at 6:15 a.m. at the Point Marina. Weigh-ins will be held at 2:30 p.m. at the Point Marina the first two days, with the final weigh-in on Saturday taking place at the Bass Pro Shops in Kodak, Tenn., at 3:15 p.m.

The local host for the event is the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce.
 
2016 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens Series Title Sponsor: Bass Pro Shops


2016 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens Series Platinum Sponsor: Toyota


2016 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens Series Premier Sponsors: Huk, Humminbird, Mercury, Minn Kota, Nitro Boats, Skeeter Boats, Triton Boats, Yamaha, Berkley, GoPro


2016 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens Series Supporting Sponsors: Dick Cepek Tires & Wheels, Livingston Lures, Lowrance, Power-Pole, Rapala, Shell Rotella, Shimano, A.R.E. Truck Caps, Carhartt


About B.A.S.S.
B.A.S.S. is the worldwide authority on bass fishing and keeper of the culture of the sport, providing cutting edge content on bass fishing whenever, wherever and however bass fishing fans want to use it. Headquartered in Birmingham, Ala., the 500,000-member organization’s fully integrated media platforms include the industry’s leading magazines,  Bassmaster website, television show, The Bassmasters, social media programs and events. For more than 45 years, B.A.S.S. has been dedicated to access, conservation and youth fishing.
 
The Bassmaster Tournament Trail includes the most prestigious events at each level of competition, including the Bassmaster Elite Series, Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Open Series, B.A.S.S. Nation, Carhartt Bassmaster College Series presented by Bass Pro Shops, Costa Bassmaster High School Series, Toyota Bonus Bucks Bassmaster Team Championship and the ultimate celebration of competitive fishing, the GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by GoPro.