Duckett turns "fish whisperer"

RUSSELLVILLE, Ark. — In the end, Boyd Duckett simply listened to the fish better than the other six finalists in the Bassmaster Legends presented by Ramada Worldwide.

"If you just settle down and listen, they'll tell you," Duckett said. "They'll tell you every day."

The 47-year-old Demopolis, Ala., resident listened to the tune of $250,000 in capturing the Legends title Sunday on Lake Dardanelle. In doing so, he set what is believed to be a BASS single season record for tournament winnings.

The $500,000 Bassmaster Classic title in February was the big lick. But Duckett has added another approximately $100,000 in BASS winnings this year by making the top 12 cuts in six other tournaments.

Even though the Elite Series has its season finale in two weeks on Lake Toho, Sunday's $250,000 check put a perfect bookend on Duckett's season, which started in February with the Classic title.

"Knowing Ray Scott, I'm proud to win this in his honor," said Duckett of the BASS founder whose name is inscribed on the trophy.

What the bass told Duckett on Sunday was that they weren't going to be caught the way he had done the day before on the Illinois Bayou six-hole course, where the competition moved for the last two days of this event.

"I really believed that I would be able to catch them deep again, like I did yesterday," Duckett said. "With the sun shining, I knew that (Dean) Rojas would struggle with his frog."

But after Duckett struggled through the first three holes on the course Sunday, he knew he had to change tactics from a deep dropshot pattern. Common sense would tell you that bass would move deep in bright sunshine after they'd been biting shallow the day before during overcast conditions.

However, when Duckett couldn't find any deep fish, like he'd found Saturday, he moved shallow Sunday. He listened to the fish instead of his head.

"You can't stay out there and die," Duckett said. "I went to the banks and started flipping."

He caught one good keeper on a Berkley Chigger Craw flipped on a 1 1/2-ounce weight punched through thick aquatic vegetation. But most of the aquatic grass in Illinois Bayou is of the thin, "water willow" type, that Duckett has fished often in his home state of Alabama.

So he changed tactics again, this time relying on an electric blue Berkley 7-inch Power Worm, fished on 15-pound test line and a 3/16ths-ounce weight.

"That's a different presentation than that big heavy deal," Duckett said. "It takes a long time. You've got to shake it to get it to fall down (in the grass)."

Duckett finished with a five-bass limit weighing 13 pounds, 9 ounces. Coupled with is 16-8 from Saturday, it gave him a two-day total of 30-1.

As Duckett predicted, Rojas struggled with his SPRO Bronze-eye Frog topwater lure. Rojas resorted to flipping, but totaled only 9-5 Sunday, which wasn't nearly enough to hold off Duckett, who he led by only 4 ounces going into the day.

Jason Quinn moved from third to second with 14-7 Sunday for a total of 29-5. Quinn relied on pitching a half-ounce black-and-blue Tru-Tungsten jig, trailed with a bluegrass-colored Gambler Flappy Daddy. He cast it against bluff banks on the course.

"This time of year, they'll get on that (structure) just about everywhere," Quinn said. "I'd pitch it straight to the bluffs, and then it would drop off into about seven feet of water. I caught a limit this morning pretty quick doing that.

"I fished a good tournament. I didn't lose anything. I just didn't have a real big bite today."

No one else had a "big bite" Sunday either. Kevin VanDam used the big bass of the day, a 4-4, to help him move past Rojas into third place with 28-8.

Quinn was particularly pleased with his performance, because his mind was on the final Elite Series tournament of the year in two weeks on Florida's Lake Toho. He needs a solid performance there to get him off the bubble for Bassmaster Classic qualification.

"I didn't want to be here," Quinn said of the Legends, which has a higher pay day, but offers no Angler of the Year points that determine the field for the Classic. "The Classic is my main objective.

"I'm glad I stuck around."

But Quinn wasn't nearly as happy as Duckett. Coming off that Classic victory in February, Duckett finished 93rd in the first 2007 Elite Series event at Lake Amistad in March, then was 78th at the California Delta. A 26th-place finish at California's Clear Lake turned around his season.

"I had a lot of stuff going on," Duckett said. "I was in the middle of a divorce. I was in the middle of a business buyout. I just had a world of stuff going on coming off the Classic. I didn't think that would affect me, but I guess it did.

"I found out if you're not 110 percent when you put your boat in the water here, these guys will beat you to death."

Duckett has been fishing various bass circuits, including BASS, since 1977. He is not considered an Elite Series rookie, even though this is his first full year on the tour.

"I'm not new to (tournament) fishing by any means," Duckett said. "I've fished a lot of different trails. But this Elite 100 group is amazing. This was a real eye-opener for me.

"Until you get out here and live with these guys, and you catch them, and then you falter a little bit, and you go from seventh to 35th, then you figure out real quick these boys can catch them. It's an unbelievable group of fishermen."

If there were any doubters about Duckett after the Bassmaster Classic, he made believers out of them Sunday with the Legends title.