Defoe was able to secure the win with quick adjustments in the Championship Round.
The third edition of Major League Fishing's Heavy Hitters event took place on Lake Palestine, focusing on catching big bass with a pot of $200,000 in big bass prizes on the line. Thirty-two anglers qualified for this event based on their skills at catching big bass during the 2021 Bass Pro Tour season.
Claiming the overall top prize was Ott DeFoe with 16 pounds, 6 ounces, on the final day to earn $100,000, but there were several other big-money winners in the event.
Alton Jones Jr. had back-to-back big bass wins, claiming $50,000 during the Knockout Round and $100,000 for his 6-4 during the Championship Round.
Early in the week on Lake Palestine, the story was the weather—primarily the gusty winds, which forced MLF officials to enact the trailering policy that allows anglers to launch their boats anywhere on the lake instead of canceling a day of fishing due to the conditions.
The 32 anglers were split into two groups, with eight from each advancing in the tournament. There was also a $25,000 prize up for grabs for the biggest bass in each group. Bradley Roy took big bass honors in Group A with a 6-9 and Group B's winner was Brent Ehrler with an 8-5.
In Group A, Ott DeFoe won the round with 18 bass for 57 pounds over two days. In Group B, Stephen Browning took the group win with 27 for 83-10 in two fishing days. Both of these anglers advanced directly to the Championship Round. DeFoe did his damage sight fishing with a Bass Pro Shops Magnum Fin-Eke Worm in the sooner run color and Browning primarily relied on a Z-Man Evergreen ChatterBait Jack Hammer in Brett's Bluegill.
The 14 anglers remaining were battling it out for just eight spots in the final round. They were greeted with another blustery day that turned into lighting and rain, causing a brief weather delay late in the day.
Zack Birge led the group with 10 bass for 37-4 on the day and the last man in was Dustin Connell with six for 24-12. Most of the anglers found success in ultra-shallow water fishing for bedding bass or by throwing frogs, swim jigs, or pitching shallow cover.
The biggest winner of the day was Texas pro Alton Jones, Jr., as he took home a cool $50,000 for catching the biggest bass. He caught his 8-3 sight fishing with a Geecrack Bellows Shad in the AJ's juice color.
After several days of constant high winds, storms, and even multiple tornado warnings around Tyler, Texas, the final day was calm and pleasant. That wasn't the only curveball for the anglers, as the minimum weight for a bass to count was upped from 2 to 3 pounds. This change resulted in a drastically lower catch total and closer event, all the way to the end of the tournament, with several lead changes in the afternoon.
DeFoe was able to secure the win with just four fish and it was thanks to a midday area change and adjustment early on in the event.
"As hard as the fishing was today, I'm sure glad to be standing here as the winner," said DeFoe. "The keys this week were abandoning the shad spawn because it didn't seem like the fish seemed to be around them, and I decided to focus on spawning bass. That was my plan all week long, and today, I moved to an area I found in practice and caught two. Then, I went back to my primary area later in the day and was able to get those final two."
With tight weights on the leaderboard, DeFoe was surprised his final catch was enough for the win, his fourth victory in the state of Texas in the past few years.
"Everyone down to 4th place was just a 4-pounder away from taking the lead, and I fully expected someone to catch another one in those last thirty minutes," he said. "I thought there was no way I had enough, but it worked out. I love Texas."
Jones was able to win another big bass prize with the same lure and technique he used to claim big money a day earlier.
"I spent the first period on a really big one and couldn't get her to bite," he recalled. "Luckily, I found that six-pounder and got her. It was just a special week."