CATCH OF THE DAY! Knoxville native wins 2019 Bassmaster Classic

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- Knoxville native Ott DeFoe has won the 2019 Bassmaster Classic in his hometown.

"I can't believe it's real right now," said DeFoe.

DeFoe pulled in five fish each day of the weekend tournament for a dominant weight total of 49 pounds, three ounces. Second place Jacob Wheeler finished at 45 pounds, five ounces.

“This is a dream come true — a dream I’ve had since I was a 9-year-old kid,” said DeFoe, who now has six career victories with B.A.S.S. “When we came over here and did the walk-through the day before the tournament, I actually imagined hearing my name after the words ‘Bassmaster Classic champion.’

“For it to happen now … I just keep thinking I’m gonna wake up.”

DeFoe also pulled in the biggest wight total of the day for the second time in three days, finishing with 18 pounds, 14 ounces Sunday. DeFoe pulled in a staggering 20 pounds on Day 1 Friday.

This year is the fourth time in six years the Bassmaster Classic winner has taken home the title in his home state.

DeFoe said it was a dream come true to have the tournament in Knoxville. He just wanted to be a part of it.

"It puts bass fishing on the map for our community and what I've known and love about the area, the whole world gets to see now," said DeFoe.

Along with winning the iconic Bassmaster trophy, DeFoe also won $300,000 in prize money.

The world-championship bass tournament drew a record-total attendance of 153,809 to tournament venues in the Knoxville area, including a massive crowd for the final weigh in at Thompson-Boling Arena Sunday.

DeFoe entered the weekend as a favorite, relying on his knowledge of Fort Loudoun and Tellico lakes. However, his second day catch of just 10 pounds, five ounces left the hometown angler's chances in doubt.

“If I would have had a good Day 2 — if I’d had even 14 or 15 pounds — I might have been totally committed to what I was doing,” DeFoe said. “It was working. Why would I not stay with it?

“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.”

After some insight from fellow angler Keith Poche, DeFoe switched from fishing shallow docks to the outside wall of a marina.

“In this tournament, we can all talk and share,” DeFoe said. “That kind of thing happens all the time, and sometimes it works to go try some of that stuff.

“These guys all know what they’re doing, or they wouldn’t be here.”

Second place Wheeler is a two-time B.A.S.S. winner and an Indiana native who moved to Tennessee two years ago.

“I knew it was going to be hard to beat Ott on this fishery,” said Wheeler, who caught 12-15 Sunday and finished with a three-day weight of 45-5. “All I can say is I caught fish every day, so it was a great week for me.

“If I just had to come up a little short, I’m glad to see Ott win it.”

Mark Daniels Jr. and Edwin Evers split the Big Bass prize with identical 6-pound, 3-ounce bass.