Dorothy had to have ruby slippers to reach her dreamland of Oz.
And, Boyd Duckett had to have his red shoes to realize his personal dream, too.
Yep, he wore red shoes to fish Sunday's final day of the 37th Bassmaster Classic and he showed them off proudly after he took home the $500,000 first-place prize in the tournament billed as the Super Bowl of Bass Fishing.
"They're what I wore Friday, and I figured it would help," Duckett said when he took the podium for the final day's weigh-in after three days on the 12,000-acre Lay Lake.
Maybe the red shoes helped, but there was something else red that helped Duckett, 46, accomplish a first-time Classic feat in making his first Classic. He was the first competitor in the long history of the Bassmaster Classic to win in his home state.
He said he used a reddish-orange-brown colored Rat-L-Trap to catch an early limit of spotted bass — Lay Lake and its sister reservoirs along the Coosa River are famous for "spots" — then went flippin' a jig to catch the heavier largemouth bass that made the difference.
Duckett held the lead after Friday's first round. His 19-pound, 14-ounce stringer was nearly two pounds ahead of the 50-angler field. He slipped to fourth place Saturday when two-time Classic champion Kevin VanDam matched Duckett's first-day catch. VanDam's 32-15 was up only nine ounces on California's Skeet Reese, two pounds ahead of Florida angler Terry Scroggins and Duckett was there with 30-13. Alabama's Timmy Horton rounded out the top five at 29-11.
Sunday's conditions played right into Duckett's hands: A storm moved through Saturday night. The clouds cleared quickly and the sun was shining shortly after the trimmed-down field — 25 fishermen were cut from the 50-man field after Saturday's second round — left the launch for the final round.
"I found fish in 8-to-9 feet of water on (Wednesday's) practice day and I couldn't find them," he said. "They didn't move far and I found them on secondary points on ledges. I was bouncing the lure off the bottom, fishing it almost like a jig. After I caught a limit, I went flippin' and I knew I was going fishing 5-to-6 hours for two or three bites."
The move was to shallow water, places Duckett knew big soon-to-spawn females would move. Still, they weren't there, so he said he moved off the banks and on to the first grassbeds off the bank.
The move paid off Friday when he caught largemouths that allowed him to cull the Rat-L-Trap spotted bass. Friday, he boated the Classic's heaviest fish, an 8-2 and another 4-pounder. With the storm moving in, those heavier fish didn't bite Saturday and Duckett dropped off the lead with a 10-15 stringer.
Sunday, when warmer conditions prevailed despite the storm, the bigger bass provided the two big bites. A 6-9 and another 4-pound-plus largemouth jumped his stringer weight to 17-13 and the Classic victory.
Reese and VanDam
Reese said he turned around his poor practice catches by heading to familiar territory, logs and laydowns on the northern end of the reservoir. He flipped jigs and worms all three days. His final day's 15-14 stringer gave him 48-4, his highest Classic in seven tries.
VanDam came in with a five-bass limit weighing 12-5. He said he tried to cover as much water as possible with a Red Eye Shad, a Strike King lure similar to the Rat-L-Trap. He said he paralleled grassbeds with his casts.
"I just didn't get the big bite. I made lots of casts and I know I left everything out there," VanDam said.
Terry McWilliams was one of six BASS Federation anglers in the field, and he fished water around the hot-water discharge from a power plant.
His fourth place is the highest since BASS Angler of the Year Michael Iaconelli finished fifth in the 1999 Classic held in New Orleans.
Odds 'n ends
Horton pulled off a rare feat, the first one caught on ESPN cameras. On his second cast on Saturday, Horton pulled up two bass, one of the front set of treble hooks and another on the back hooks. It gave him just more than six pounds on one cast … Duckett took home an extra $6,000 for big bass on the first (8-2) and third (6-9) days, and having the heaviest stringers on the first (19-14) and third (17-13) days … VanDam earned $1,000 each for his second-day heaviest bass (5-7) and heaviest stringer (19-14).