Everyone knew the Bassmaster Classic would come down to who got the biggest bite on Sunday. For Boyd Duckett, that was a 6-pound, 9-ounce largemouth that struck his Berkley Chigger Craw with one hour to go on nearby Lay Lake. The big bass propelled the Alabamian ahead of Californian Skeet Reese by a mere 6 ounces and won him $500,000.Duckett, who also caught the biggest fish the first day (8-2), finished with 17 pounds, 12 ounces to vault from fourth place and join a short list of rookies who have won the coveted Classic.
He finished the three-day event with 48-10, followed by Reese with 48-4 and Kevin VanDam of Kalamazoo, Mich.m who was third with 45-4. Indiana's Terry McWilliams, an amateur, made a great showing the last day with the biggest five fish limit (17-6) and finished fourth.Duckett fished a two-prong pattern. He slowly cranked an orange/blue half ounce Rat-L Trap along grass edges to get his limit then went flipping the Chigger Craw in pre-spawn staging areas to catch bigger fish that upgraded his weight."That was my plan all week and I stayed with it," he said. "We will have a full moon in about 8 days, and with the warming weather, I knew the fish would be moving into those potential spawning areas. Once I defined the places they'd spawn, I backed off to the first grass bed and started fishing the edges."
Reese was deflated, thinking he had it won right up to the last minute."I didn't know about Boyd's 6-pounder," he said. When I saw that, I knew I was in trouble."Reese also fished the Chigger Craw, a new bait Berkley introduced just before the Classic. It's basically a soft plastic craw worm with pinchers that vibrate when they fall."I just went flipping along the banks where there was cover in the current up river," said Reese, whose limit weighed 15-14. "That's something I'm most comfortable doing."VanDam put together a 12 pound, 5 ounce limit and caught a lot of fish, but he couldn't get the big ones. His hands were sliced and torn from handling so many fish."I fished really well, but couldn't get the quality bite," he said. "What Boyd did (catch the big fish to go with a limit) is what you need to do to win."
VanDam, a two-time Classic winner, caught most of his fish on a Strike King Red Eye Shad, a lipless lure, with most of them coming on a gold-colored bait that he used to tick the grass.McWilliams was the surprise story. Hoosiers rarely do well in the Classic, yet the retired police officer from Greenfield nearly pulled of the upset. He fished a weedless, green pumpkin tube jig in the out-flow of the Wilsonville Steam Plant that belched 65 degree water in the cold river water. The warm water attracted bait and the bass were there feeding on them."It just kills me to know that I lost the classic the second day when I didn't fish a little deeper like I did today," he explained. "That's where I caught the bigger fish."
McWilliams still went home with a $30,000 paycheck.