In February, Boyd Duckett fished his fifth straight Bassmaster Classic. He caught the biggest bass of the entire tournament on the final day of competition — an 8-pound, 15-ounce giant — to net him a Super Six finish. In his five straight Classic appearances, he has garnered a sixth and a 12-place finish to go along with a title.
When Duckett hit the highest-level of competitive bass fishing in 2007, he blew in like a Great Plains Nor'easter. He won the Bassmaster Classic, took the title in an Elite Series "major" and captured another first-place finish on the Outdoor Channel's Ultimate Match Fishing series. By year's end, he had earned more money in one season than any B.A.S.S. competitor in history.
He was 46 at the time.
Though not as successful as he was in 2007, Duckett has shown a remarkable steadiness during his past three-plus seasons. He has also shown an amazing ability to catch fish when he has to. Two of the past three seasons, he has entered the final two tournaments outside the Classic cutline only to close out both seasons with strong finishes — strong enough to secure his Classic berth.
He followed that pattern last month in New Orleans. He made the final-day cut, starting the day in a respectable 19th place. Then he put together a 29-pound bag that was the Sunday's best. He lost another fish that he believes was roughly the same size as his almost 9-pounder.
"Still wouldn't have been good enough to make a run at Kevin, but it would have added a little spice," Duckett said.
The public got to know Duckett better after his Classic victory and during the rest of 2007, as he strung together his remarkable year. Through regular interviews, blog postings on his own website and ESPN Outdoors' site, as well as through a syndicated column about competitive angling, Duckett offered his thoughts on a variety of subjects. Duckett exudes the persona of a savvy, cerebral angler who has been around the block more than a few times. Many of his blog postings, not surprisingly, refer to business.
His peers and bass fishing fans seem amazed that Duckett is able to compete at such a high level, considering his day-to-day involvement in a wide array of businesses and interests.
"No matter what I do, I'm still probably most comfortable in the tank-trailer business," Duckett says. "I've been working in that industry my entire adult life. But I've started plenty of businesses. Some made it; some didn't."
Before moving to Demopolis, Duckett spent roughly a decade in Nashville. There, in addition to running a Nashville-based tank-trailer business, Duckett was heavily into the music industry. During Duckett's time in Nashville, his companies managed three artists with No. 1 country hits: Tim McGraw, Ty Herndon and Joe Diffie.
"I really enjoyed living in Nashville. It was a great town," Duckett said. "One thing I enjoyed was that a lot of country music performers loved fishing.
"We used to have midnight fishing tournaments at J. Percy Priest Reservoir. A lot of country music performers would come out to those tournaments after they performed," Duckett said. "I don't think Porter Waggoner ever missed one."
Gary Klein said he is constantly surprised by Duckett's anecdotes.
"My introduction to Boyd came through his fishing. I really had no idea who he was until he made the Super Six at the 2007 Classic. Kevin and Skeet and couple of other guys and I were in the finals with Boyd. We sat back behind the stage, and we were there for quite a while. Boyd's a great story-teller, so I got to listen to a lot of stories and jokes, but it was pretty evident that Boyd was somebody who's a little different — and I mean that in a good way," said Klein.
Klein and Duckett are now close friends, but that wasn't always the case.
"Later that year I had a run-in with him on Kentucky Lake. It was over territory, and I just flat-out had an issue with him and confronted him over it," Klein said. "We worked it out to the point that afterward we were cordial around each other, but I was still gritting my teeth a little bit.
While his businesses and a pro fishing career dominate Duckett's time, he's quick to tell you one thing: "It's not all about business." An adoring father of three — he has two sons, William and Jack, and a daughter, Anabelle — Duckett says, "Sometimes you just have to enjoy being with your family and spending time doing the things in life that are important."
Unfortunately, there's not enough time to enjoy some of the good things, Duckett said. In fact, his too-full professional life has killed most of the time he could spend on another passion: music.
A primary reason Duckett spent years in the music business in Nashville is that he is a musician: a guitar player and singer. His songs are country with a dash of southern rock thrown in.
Until recently, he and a performing partner (Selma, Ala., banker Paul Garner) played and sang in local restaurants and clubs. Duckett and Garner both play acoustic guitar. Their two-man band is called Bankers and Tankers.
"We'd beat around clubs in Alabama and Florida, and all I can say is that we had a good time," Duckett said. "I can't honestly say that we're real good, but I can say that most of the time people that came to our shows ended up enjoying themselves.
"We both play guitar, but neither one of us is accomplished enough to be considered the lead guitar. When we would get on a roll, we would call what we were doing 'rhythm plus.' Paul would take off on something, and I'd say, 'Folks, that's Paul taking off on a little rhythm plus."
One of Bankers and Tankers' favorite gigs was the Flora-Bama Lounge, Package and Oyster Bar, a Gulf Coast landmark located on the Florida-Alabama border.
"We played some Friday nights at the Flora-Bama. They would bring in some pretty big groups, and we would be the guys they would stick in the middle, between the really good bands," Duckett said. "What was really fun, though, was that we would play small clubs. We played every week at the Red Barn in Demopolis. Wednesday night was our night.
"We would sing our small repertoire of songs, and we would tell a bunch of jokes, then when we ran out of our songs, we would take audience requests," he said. "Lots of times we wouldn't have a clue about the song they requested, so we would just make one up. You could tell they would be saying, 'What the hell are those guys doing?' Then they would understand we were just messing with them. That was the stock thing we did — make up songs on the spot. I'm not sure why they liked us so much. We were just two mildly talented guys with acoustic guitars."
For all his accomplishments and obvious business acumen, you might guess that Duckett has a masters degree in business administration from a major university.
"There's a funny story there. Well, I guess it's funny now," he said.
Duckett, who grew up just outside Charlotte, didn't even graduate from high school. He had a confrontation during his junior year with an assistant principal, was expelled and never made it back to graduate. Instead, he went straight into business, opening up a body shop.
"I had worked my whole life anyway. My father rebuilt tank trailers, and I had hung around his shop," Duckett said. "So I just started working full-time, and pretty soon I found a niche rebuilding auto bodies. I started my own shop, and it was the first of a lot of businesses that I got involved in."
"I worked hard for a lot of years, and those hard years of work allowed me the opportunity, in my mid-forties, to give a shot at fishing at the highest level. I was always a tournament angler, but I had finally reached a point in my business life where I could spend enough time to become not just a good angler, but an angler who could devote enough time to compete at the Elite Series level," he said.
"I worked at fishing as hard as I worked at building my businesses. I've been a tournament angler since I've been in my teens, and to be honest I've been good at it," Duckett said. "And that only tells me how unbelievably good these guys are at the Elite Series level. I've been trying to get to this my whole life, and I finally worked enough hours and built my business to the point I could work more on my fishing game. Finally, I made it."