Small waters craft – Ott DeFoe’s aluminum boat

Ott’s alternative craft a model of ‘possibility’

By Mike Pehanich

Ott DeFoe has turned a Tracker jon boat into an optimized, fully equipped fishing boat that owners of far more expensive craft will envy. What’s more, this craft gets him into waters a bass boat can’t access! See exclusive Small Waters Fishing video!

Comfort, convenience, efficiency and effectiveness as a fishing craft. Those are the needs that bass boat design have brought out in anglers at every level.

Indeed, bass boats have set standards of performance and style that prior generations of anglers could not have conceived. Yet not every angler can afford a bass boat. What’s more, a bass boat is not necessarily the best craft for every situation.

Bassmaster Elite star Ott DeFoe knows this, and he has put a ton of thought and effort into his second boat, a craft he is reluctant to regard as a back-up.

“The Nitro Z21 is the boat I make my living in,” says Ott. “But when I’m at home fishing in the river, I am fishing out of my Tracker aluminum boat.”

Ott has put a lot of creative yet practical thought into accessorizing his jon boat, a large but simple Tracker model you have likely passed often at the Bass Pro Shop but eyed with only utilitarian regard. With a host of accessories, expansions, and upgrades largely extracted from the TH Marine catalogue, he has opened the eyes of  fixer-upper anglers to the potential of the humble jon.

“There’s a lot of things I’ve done to it to make it a very special rig,” he says. “There’s a lot of things I’ve done that anybody can do to make (a jon boat) the ultimate fishing machine.”

His add-ons and modifications run from the small to large, from a glove box addition to a jack plate that enables him to run his outboard propeller above the level of the boat bottom and electric trim tabs that help the Tracker to get up on plane more quickly.

Of course, DeFoe admits his customized Tracker has become more than a river runabout. Flat-bottomed, shallow draft jon boats can enter –and escape — from areas that have left many a bass boat mired in the muck, and Ott has leveraged the advantages of this “everyman” craft at Bassmaster Open tournaments where shallow backwaters and tight channels hold bass that competitors in glitzier craft are afraid to challenge.

With the season winding down, winter boat projects are creeping into my brain. I  shot a video with Ott in a car port on a rainy morning on Lake Guntersville two seasons ago. With winter rolling in, I thought this a good time to tickle your ambitions, too.

A wise man once told me that I should calculate what I confidently felt was the right electronics and the right trolling motor for my boat and angling needs — and then go a grade or two higher with each!

Ott seems to have adhered to that maxim. The Minn Kota on his bow is a 36-volt, 112-pound thrust model. Why such a big trolling motor on a modest craft? River current can pose a big challenge. What’s more, the flat bottom of a jon boat makes it easier for winds to swing the craft. Take his advice. You’ll appreciate the added muscle.

Here are a few other highlights of the upgrade:

  • TH Marine G-Force Eliminator prop nut – The prop nut eliminates prop noise and vibration and is easy to remove to check beneath the propeller for fishing line and other debris. “It really helps this trolling motor run more effectively – and last a lot longer, too,” says Ott.
  • Extended deck and rod locker — The extended deck made room for additional storage compartments and deepened his rod locker. “I can get 20 rods up to 8’ long in this rod box now,” Ott says. “I’m a tournament angler. I can’t go to the river without 15 or 20 rods. That is just the way it is!”
  • Hydro-Turf floor cover — Standing on a hard metal platform is tough on the back and joints. This weather-resistant boat floor covering is comparable to the carpet on his bass boat, Ott claims.”It makes the boat more comfortable and quiet, helps avoid fatigue. It enables you to fish all day,” says DeFoe.
  • Storage and more storage — DeFoe has added TH Marine tackle organizers for tackle tray storage and a TH Marine access hatch between seats on his travel bench.
  • Talons — Two 10-foot Talons allow him to anchor securely and quietly even in areas with rapidly sloping bottom contours.

If you’re looking for a winter project to make the 2018 fishing season something special, take Ott DeFoe’s ideas to heart and turn that Plain Jane jon boat into a fish-catching machine!




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