BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — It's been in Boyd Duckett's mind to join the BASSMASTER Elite Series Tour for some time and this was to be the year he pulled the trigger, but first he had to attend to more important things.
The 46-year old Demopolis, Ala., angler became the eighth Bassmaster Classic rookie to take the title, putting together a monster third and final day (17 pounds, 13 ounces) of competition to best Skeet Reese and Kevin VanDam, two of the most accomplished anglers in the Elite Series.
Duckett also broke the home state jinx for Classic contention. Though he's far from a local — Demopolis is 138 miles from the Lay Lake launching point — he's a veteran on the lake through various team and individual tours.
"It's every anglers dream," said Duckett, a chemical tank rental business owner. "I've been working towards fishing the tour for a few years. I'm really tickled about the home state angle. All of us, Timmy (Horton), Russ (Lane) and everyone else talk and we all said how great it'd be."
Duckett, an accomplished river angler, emphasized how important his flipping bite — in decidedly calmer water — was in upping his weight after securing a limit early each morning.
"This whole tournament was about the flipping fish. The longer you keep a flipping stick in your hand the better off you are," Duckett said. "We've got a (full) moon coming up in eight or nine days and those females are moving up."
No stranger to the Coosa River impoundment located southeast of Birmingham, Duckett said that while familiarity with the body of water certainly didn't hurt, it wasn't a big factor either.
"I really didn't use local knowledge for this tournament. I went in with a totally open mind," Duckett said. "That's what has really helped me in my tournaments. I really love chasing fish and figuring them out."
Duckett's solution to figuring out the Lay Lake puzzle was to flip a black/red flake Berkley Chigger Craw around matted grass, alternating with a lipless crankbait pulled slowly, "like a jig" through the vegetation.
The tactics produced the largest stringer on Day 1,including the largest bass of the tournament an 8-pound, 2-ounce lunker. That magic would return on the final day, after he dropped to fourth on Day 2. In the final, he once again caught the largest stringer and the day's Purolater Big Bass, 6-9.
The $500,000 purse for first place was clinched with that last big bass. Either the fish or the angler, or both, had a flair for the dramatic: it was landed at around 2 p.m., just an hour before check-in time.
"I needed it," Duckett said.
Skeet Reese knew he had done everything he possibly could to capture his first Classic, but second place hurt just as bad as if he had blown it.
"This was a golden opportunity. I can't say I let it slip away. Boyd just flat out beat me. Second hurts, it really does. You don't get that many opportunities to win a Bassmaster Classic. Unless you're Kevin," said Reese with a smile, referring to two-time Classic champion Kevin VanDam, seated to his left.
Reese endured an excruciatingly slow early morning, but stuck a relatively quick 11 pounds to put him in striking distance as the lunch hour waned. He endured a slow, mush-mouth bite today, saying he never once felt the telltale "thump" on his flipping fish.