Rookie Classic angler Boyd Duckett of Demopolis pulled a stunner Sunday by shooting down favorites Kevin VanDam and Skeet Reese to become the first angler to win a Bassmaster Classic in his home state.
Duckett's three-day catch of 48 pounds, 10 ounces beat Reese by just 6 ounces in one of the closest finishes in Classic history. VanDam, a two-time Classic winner, was third.
With confetti falling and "Sweet Home Alabama" blaring over the loudspeakers, the 46-year-old Duckett lifted the Bassmaster Classic trophy over his head before a delirious crowd of about 15,000 in the BJCC Arena.
"I'm really tickled about this home-state thing," said Duckett, who owns a stainless-steel tanker leasing business in Demopolis. "Me and some of the other Alabama guys like Gerald Swindle and Timmy Horton talked about how great it would be for one of us to win it here."
Asked how he planned to celebrate, Duckett said, "I plan to sleep tonight and I'm going to have to get back to my business tomorrow afternoon."
Duckett won $502,000, which included $500,000 for the win and $2,000 for catching the biggest bass Friday and Sunday.
Duckett's win marked the first time an Alabama angler has won the Classic since Phenix City's Jack Chancellor won 22 years ago. Duckett also became the first Classic winner who qualified through open fishing tournaments.
Duckett led the first day of the event with an 8-pound, 2-ounce bass anchoring his five-fish creel, but he dropped to fourth Saturday after hanging into two big bass and losing both.
Naysayers said Duckett was history and speculated Sunday would come down to a shootout between VanDam and Reese, but on Sunday Duckett found the big fish again.
A 6-pound, 9-ounce largemouth anchored his 17-pound, 13-ounce catch, and that gave Duckett the biggest catch of the day for the second time in the tournament.
Duckett said his hopes were buoyed Sunday when he realized that Alabama Power was not generating power at Logan Martin Dam and there was no current as there had been the first two days of the tournament.
He said he knew that would affect the way that VanDam and Reese were catching fish but not how he was fishing.
"When I caught the 6-pounder, I told my cameraman that I just might win this thing," he said.
Duckett said he used an orange and brown Rat-L-Trap to catch a limit of spotted bass each day and then began flipping a jig in the grass hoping to catch the bigger largemouth.
"I was only getting two or three bites a day, but they were good fish," he said. "I lost two yesterday and today I caught them."
Reese said he was not at all happy to finish second.
"When I realized I was in contention to win on the last day, I wasn't thinking about second," he said. "I really thought it was coming down to a head-to-head match between me and Kevin."
VanDam said he knew it wasn't going to be his day when he got to Lay Lake Sunday morning and realized that despite the storms Saturday night the lake had dropped 6 to 8 inches.
"To be honest, I'm definitely disappointed," said VanDam, who could have become only the second angler to win more than two Bassmaster Classics."I was catching my fish in less than three feet of water, and when you drop the water like that, they're gone."
Amateur angler Terry McWilliams surprised many by posting a 17-pound, 6-ounce catch Sunday and finishing fourth. Gary Klein finished fifth and former Kentucky Derby jockey Kevin Wirth finished fifth.
Auburn angler Steve Kennedy finished eighth.