BIRMINGHAM — Boyd Duckett of Demopolis put himself in position to end a Bassmaster Classic jinx with an impressive catch Friday.
Duckett had a five-fish limit weighing 19 pounds, 14 ounces and the big bass of 8-2 to grab the first-day lead. In 36 previous Classics, no angler from the state in which the Classic was held has won.
"I wanted to do well and represent the state of Alabama," Duckett said to a cheering crowd in the arena at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex. "I wanted to bring this thing home."
If Duckett falters, Randy Howell of Springville is right there to step up. Howell was second with a limit weighing 17-15. Skeet Reese of Auburn, Calif., was third at 17-8, followed by Timmy Horton of Muscle Shoals at 17-5 and Terry Scroggins of Palatka, Fla., at 17-0.
Duckett, who qualified for his first Classic by finishing third in the Bassmaster Southern Tour point standings last year, has a lot of experience fishing Lay Lake, a 12,000-acre impoundment of the Coosa River.
His plan was to fish for largemouth bass instead of spotted bass by fishing in the backs of creeks instead of on the main lake.
"I'm targeting largemouths because they weigh the most," Duckett said. "I started in an area with a fair number of fish and caught my first one in about seven minutes. As soon as I caught my limit, I went for bigger fish."
Duckett got that limit of largemouths around 8:30 a.m. He said the fish weighed about 12 pounds. He culled three of them and got his 8-pounder fairly late in the day.
"The day went just the way I wanted it to," Duckett said. "I'm keying in on pre-spawn locations. The big fish are moving in and I think that as the weather warms, there'll be more fish."
Howell also has spent a lot of time on Lay Lake. His plan was to fish for big spotted bass and he started off with a limit weighing about 7 pounds.
Between noon and 2:20 p.m., he culled four of those fish to finish with a solid limit of 3-plus-pounders.
"I fished an area where I've caught a lot of fish over the years," Howell said. "I stayed there all day."
Steve Waters writes for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.