In just three years as an Elite Series pro, Boyd Duckett has amassed over $1 million in BASS winnings. Half a million of it came from his Bassmaster Classic debut in 2007 when he took home the trophy and the big check. Besides a fishing career, Duckett juggles a tank leasing company and three kids. The Alabama pro is easily one of the busiest men on tour, but still found time to answer our 20 questions.
1. Where are you from, originally?
2. How did you get started in bass fishing?
I got started fishing at a pond outside of Charlotte. My brother and I roamed around a lot like kids do, and one day we came to this lake in the woods and we started fishing it. Later a group of us who grew up together fished it regularly. It's kind of amazing, because the group was myself, my brother, Chris Baumgardner, Bill Martin and another guy, and today we're all involved in tournament fishing at the national level in one way or another. I bought a boat before I got a car at 15, and I got friends who were older to drive, and we'd head to the lake. Shortly after I started fishing in tournaments — just local Saturday opens. From there, I fished regional tournaments, and then the Fisherman's Bass Circuit, which used to be called the Hungry Fisherman. We fished all through the Carolinas then into Georgia then all over the Southeast.
3. Who were some of your earliest fishing heroes?
Like everyone else, I liked Rick Clunn, Denny Brauer and Roland Martin. Those were the guys who got the most coverage in Bassmaster. In my early 20s, when I really knew what was going on, I especially liked Rick Clunn because he had such a unique approach and attitude to tournament fishing. He still does, and still to this day is one of my heroes. Kevin VanDam snuck in there later on because he had the same qualities in terms of a skill set that Clunn had. It wasn't his ability to throw a jerkbait, but his mental ability as an angler that made him appealing to me.
4. When did you realize you had made it in the bass fishing industry?
Even though it was early on in my career, I think winning the Classic legitimized my being here. I had won an Open a few years prior, but I don't think that was big enough.
5. What's the biggest bass you've ever caught?
The biggest fish I've ever weighed in a tournament was 11-6. I've caught a few bigger, but those were on shiners down in Florida. When I was in Nashville I knew some guys in the music industry and we'd go to Florida and meet up with a buddy of mine who was a guide, and we caught some giants.
6. What do you love most about bass fishing?
Today, it's the competition. This has kind of evolved as my career has progressed. Early on it was the thrill of being outdoors and on the lake and enjoying everything that had to offer, then it was trying to learn about bass and their habits and trying to fool them into biting, then it was the thrill of the bite. There's nothing like having a fish hit a plastic worm and not knowing if it weighs 9 pounds or less than a pound. Once I got into tournament fishing, it has become purely about the competition. Like any professional sport, it is the competition now and not as much about the fishing.
7. What is your greatest strength as a bass angler?
As a tournament angler I feel like I can recognize — finally — how important mental management is in tournament fishing. I recognized that and took the steps to develop that skill set to make better on-the-water decisions. If you can make the right decisions out there, you can win some events. I used to think tournaments were about baits and bass, but it's more like a game of water chess.
8. What is your greatest weakness as a bass angler?
That's a good question. I'd have to say mental confusion. Anything that takes away from my positive mental attitude is a weakness. These things can come from anywhere, but if my head is taken out of the game, it's a problem.
9. Where is your favorite place to fish for bass and why?
Lake Champlain is my favorite place to fish. Topographically it's beautiful, it's got loads of smallmouth — I love smallmouth — and it's one of those places it's just a pleasure to be at.
10. What question do you get asked most by fans and how do you answer it?
Being in the third year of my career, the question I get asked most is "How do you get to where you're at, given your situation with work?" Like most people, I've spent my life building my career, and unlike most people, I've had the chance to chase my dream of becoming a touring pro. Like a change in any career, it takes planning; there are no accidents here. It also takes a lot of drive and determination. If you have that, then a lot of the other questions will answer themselves. It's just a matter of work. A lot of people will ask "How do you get the money to do it?" If you fish a lot and do well enough, you should be winning some money and saving some.
If you plan it out, you'll have enough for the Elite entry fees. You need to have it as a goal and purpose and have your life in order before you try it. You need to have money set aside and be ready to make the sacrifices that come along with it. It's not all standing on a stage holding trophies. It's miles on the road and weeks away from home. If you can do all this and are willing to make the sacrifices and have the drive, then success will come.
11. What's the biggest mistake you see from casual anglers?
Probably the fact that they try to do too many things too quickly. When they read all the great stuff in BASS Times and Bassmaster and consume it all, they may go out and spend only seven minutes trying to learn how to throw a deep diving crankbait and expect to become an expert. It's kind of like golf. You learn how to hit a 7 iron first, then the six and then the five. By the time you can hit a 3 iron, the probability of missing is low. It's more fun to be good at a few things than be mediocre at a lot. You don't need to go out and do everything we're doing every week to be successful.
12. Do you have any fishing superstitions?
Red shoes. I've always worn red shoes and have gotten a lot of flak for it in the past, but now I think everyone is more accepting of them. I've made a conscious effort to make them part of my ensemble to keep my self confidence up. Superstitions are an artificial way of creating self confidence, and there are so many variables out there you may not be able to keep up with your superstitions. For example, some guys take it really far and have to launch their boat on the left side of the ramp, or have special cookies before an event, but what if you lose the cookies or can't launch your boat on the left side? Then what? Your tournament is toast. I've taken my superstitions and put them into one thing, the shoes. I've done this for two reasons First, at any time I can look down and they're there, and secondly, I don't have to worry about other things like putting in on the left side, I can always control my superstition. I usually keep about a dozen pairs with me in several places when I'm on the road, that way no one can steal them all.
13. How big a part does luck play in fishing?
Like all sports, luck is a factor, but I strongly believe that your luck is created by your mental attitude. "Unluck" can happen just as easily as luck can. Keeping a positive attitude will create a better chance that something lucky will happen.
14. What has been your greatest accomplishment in the fishing industry?
I think the fact that I have come from being a working class angler to being successfully accepted on tour. There's not any one win — not even the Classic — that matters as much being able to go to an event and back my boat down next to Matt Reed and Skeet Reese and have them think that I belong there.
15. What goals have you yet to accomplish in your bass fishing career?
I'd like to further solidify my place in professional fishing. Winning a Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year title is a big one as well, but to have other guys say he's a solid fisherman and belongs here is a greater honor than any one win. The media and the fans count victories, and, while those count, being respected is important, too.
16. What keeps you motivated to reach those goals?
The desire and drive I have to achieve them is what keeps me going. I have a lot of drive.
17. What has been the greatest regret of your fishing career?
Not getting started earlier. I think it would've been more fun to have started at 35 rather than 45, but that's not something that I can dwell upon. Every year I used to think to myself that this was the time I'm going to make the leap, but that never actually happened until the fall of 2005.
18. When you're not bass fishing, how do you like to spend your time?
I'm a very industrious person, and when I'm not traveling or doing something for my sponsors, I'm at work. After events on Sunday, I fly home and am back in the office Monday morning.
19. How do you maintain a balance between work and fishing?
Both have to mean a lot to me for them to work because they both consume so much time and energy on my part. My whole life is a balancing act between my kids, my company and my fishing career. I enjoy everything I do, so I enjoy every day because I'm always involved in one of those three things. Knowing I can do them all leaves me feeling like I'm a success.
20. When it's all over, how do you want people to remember you?
If fishing fans thought of me as one of the top competitors and a person who left more than he took, I think that would be great. It's not about the money or the titles, but what you left to the sport. Hopefully one day I can be associated with the names of the guys who made the sport great.