When Boyd Duckett left the Bassmaster Classic stage last February 25 as the newly-crowned world champion, he stepped into a world that even today, a full year later, leaves him both dazed and amazed.
"The full scope of the tournament and how far it reaches today is truly amazing," notes the Alabama pro as he prepares to defend his title on Lake Hartwell, Feb. 21-24. "I stayed so busy with press interviews and photo shoots the first week after the Classic I actually missed the first day of practice at Lake Amistad for the opening of the Elite season.
"And it's hardly slowed down since."
Duckett can't begin to count how many newspaper and magazine interviews or radio and television appearances he made, but he acknowledges he seldom turned down such requests for his time.
"If it was good for the sport of bass fishing, I tried to do it," he says. "I believe the Classic champion assumes a responsibility to spend as much time as he can during his reigning year to be the voice of the sport, to try to give something back for all the benefits he gets.
"What I'm still trying to get used to is that even though I started tournament fishing in 1977 and actually had won on the Bassmaster Tournament Trail in 2003, no one knew who I was. After I won the Classic everyone knew who I was and wanted to hear what I had to say."
After the initial surge of publicity and excitement slowed down to an average of just two interviews per week, Duckett won the Bassmaster Legends Major tournament on the Arkansas River. The victory was extremely satisfying to him in that it helped validate his Classic win and his qualifications to be world champion.
It also sent the publicity machine into full speed again.
"Admittedly, it took three or four tournaments into the Elite season for me to find my groove and get comfortable again," explains Duckett. "I fish totally by intuition, but to do that successfully, you have to have a clear mind, and as Classic champion, I always had a lot of distractions.
"Looking back now, I'd have to say the 2007 Elite season presented the biggest learning curve in bass fishing I've ever had because it was a constant balancing act."
Not only was Duckett trying to balance his Elite fishing (even as Classic champion rules required him to qualify for the 2008 Elite season) with the demands as the Classic winner, he was also managing his company, Southern Tank Leasing, which has offices in five states with a total of 65 employees.
Add to this the fact he was also developing new lures for Pure Fishing, one of his primary sponsors. He spent much of his Elite season testing prototypes of two products that have recently been introduced, Berkley's 3-inch Chigger Craw and 3-inch Chigger Chunk. He's also working on a special line of jigs and other lures for the future.
Then there was the travel, from Alabama to Florida to California and innumerable places in between made all the more difficult by weather delays and tight schedules.
Still, it has been the reaction of fans everywhere that have amazed him the most. At the huge Anglers' Marine Show in Los Angeles, Duckett autographed a six-month old baby. In other cities he signed his name to everything from fishing lures to baseball bats to underwear.
"As much as possible, I traveled in my own company plane," Duckett adds, "even though it costs $1,100 an hour to fly it, sponsors and promoters were willing to pay that.
"That's how important the Classic has become today. I don't think anyone can truly explain it. It has to be experienced."
If Duckett wins on Lake Hartwell, he'll be in for another wild ride as Classic champion, but even if he doesn't his ride won't end when someone else is crowned. Immediately following the Classic, he and two other pros will give seminars in five cities in three days for Bass Pro Shops, arriving in Leesburg, Fla., only hours before the 2008 Elite season opens on the Harris Chain of Lakes.
"Yes, it all leaves me dazed and amazed, but also very happy and very proud," smiles Duckett, who has turned out to be one of the Classic's most popular champions, "but I'd love the chance to experience it all over again."