Baseball had the Curse of the Bambino and still has the Curse of the Billy Goat. Football, basketball and hockey have other, less celebrated curses. In fishing, there's the Curse of the Bassmaster Classic Local Favorite.
In 2007, Boyd Duckett of Demopolis, Ala., won the Bassmaster Classic on Lay Lake. It was the first — and so far only — time an angler living in the same state as the Classic waters won the championship.
But it wasn't nearly the first time a local angler had the chance to be a hero. Fifty-five anglers living in the same state as Classic waters tried before 2007, and 55 anglers whiffed. A couple came close — Jack Chancellor was second in 1982 on the Alabama River, Woo Daves was runner up in 1988 on the James River in Virginia and Dalton Bobo lost by an ounce in 1997 on Alabama's Lake Logan Martin — but they all fell short ... sometimes very short.
The Curse begins
The Curse started in earnest in 1973 at the third Bassmaster Classic. The championship was still a "mystery" tournament back then. Twenty-six qualifiers boarded a Delta DC-8 charter flight in New Orleans, La., and headed east to Augusta, Ga., and Clarks Hill Reservoir. B.A.S.S. founder Ray Scott did not announce the venue until the plane was circling the lake.
That's when Scott said, "That's Clark Hill Reservoir ... Junior Collis, we've brought you home." Collis, a truck driver from Decatur, Ga., had fished Clarks Hill for more than 10 years. Naturally, he was the prohibitive favorite to win.
He finished 21st.
Two years later on North Carolina's Currituck Sound, the Curse showed its teeth. That's when Paul Chamblee, a perennial Classic qualifier from Raleigh grabbed the first day lead with a huge limit catch. Things got even better in the second round when he extended his lead to 5 pounds, 15 ounces and a cold front came through, making a late charge from an another competitor unlikely.
Unfortunately for Chamblee, that's when the Curse jumped up and bit him.
On the final day, Louisiana's Jack Hains caught six bass (the limit was eight) that weighed 12-12. Chamblee zeroed and fell to third place.
To make matters worse, the Classic was winner-take-all in those days. Hains earned $15,000. Chamblee got nothing.
Three strikes and you're out
The Curse was evident for the next decade or so, but it was mostly pretty quiet, taking out seven Oklahomans and Texans on Lake Texoma in 1979 and vanquishing another six Arkansans on the Arkansas River in 1984 and '85.
Then, in 1988 B.A.S.S. did the unprecedented by announcing that the Bassmaster Classic would be held on the James River in Richmond, Va., for the next three years. Local legend Woo Daves was at the height of his piscatorial powers, and everyone just knew he'd be taking home some hardware. Shoot, he might win all three!
Of course, that wasn't to be. Daves would eventually earn his Classic title in 2000, but he'd have to go to Chicago and Lake Michigan to get it. In three tries at home, he finished second, fifth and fourth, respectively, as anglers from Missouri (Guido Hibdon in 1988), North Carolina (Hank Parker in 1989) and Texas (Rick Clunn in 1990) won championships on his beloved James River.
If ever the stars aligned for a local angler to win a Bassmaster Classic, it was in Virginia in 1988, 1989 and 1990. Clearly, the Curse was strong.
The Curse gets cruel
After sending Daves home disappointed three straight times, the Curse was quiet again for a few years, but it never went away. In 1994 and '95 on High Rock Lake in North Carolina, David Fritts was sent packing twice despite being the local favorite and the hottest stick in the tournament fishing universe. Other locals in other Classics were easily dispatched.
Then, in 1997, the Curse got ugly.
It happened in Alabama on Lake Logan Martin. Casual fans of the sport will recall it was the closest Classic in history. Missouri's Dion Hibdon, son of 1988 Classic champ Guido Hibdon, barely edged out B.A.S.S. Nation qualifier Dalton Bobo.
More serious fans will recall that Bobo was from Northport, Ala., not quite on the shores of Logan Martin, but certainly close enough for him to know the tournament waters.
It's something that only the most serious fishing fans know that makes the '97 Classic so cruel in the history of the Curse.
On the second day of that Classic, Bobo brought a limit of five bass to the scales that weighed 9-15 — a very respectable catch for that event. Unfortunately, one of his fish had been deeply hooked on a Texas-rigged worm and died.
That year there was a four ounce penalty for a dead fish, knocking Bobo's Day 2 weight down to 9-11. He ended the championship with an ounce less than Hibdon.
If you still don't believe in the Curse, consider this: The dead fish penalty a year earlier was two ounces. If the '97 Classic had been held under those rules, Bobo would have won the Classic by an ounce instead of losing by the same margin.
Let's get physical
By now the Curse was flexing its muscles. The assault on Bobo had been on an emotional level. It was time to show that there was a physical element, too. That would come in 1999.
The '99 Classic was the first ever held on the Louisiana Delta, and Davy Hite ran away with it. After three days, he was 10 pounds better than his closest challenger. Hite, a South Carolina native, wasn't impacted by the Curse.
But it did derail the hopes of a B.A.S.S. Nation angler and the only qualifier from the Bayou State that year. Big things were expected of Rodney Wagley. The Baton Rouge native knew the waters better than anyone else in the field.
A 10 pounder and another fish over five pounds in practice created a lot of buzz around Wagley. Surely he would break through and win at home.
But the Curse is powerful ... too powerful.
On Day 1, just after takeoff, Wagley's boat hit "something soft" that had been kicked up by a competitor running ahead of him. It might have been a log or even an alligator, but whatever it was it put Wagley's boat into a spin. He tried to correct things, but his rig plowed into the wake of another boat and then into some stumps along the shoreline.
The result: three broken fingers, some badly bruised ribs and a hole in the bottom of his Ranger. Wagley tried to fight through it all, but finished 38th.
Duckett won the battle, but maybe not the war
The Curse had a few more victims after '99, including Jason Quinn on North Carolina's Lake Wylie in 2004 — a lake on which he's worked as a fishing guide — and Elite pros Terry Scroggins and Preston Clark at the Kissimmee Chain in Florida in 2006. Those two Sunshine State standouts are from north Florida, but both had a lot of success on the Kissimmee Chain before that Classic. Instead it was won by the angler who lived farther away than any other competitor — Luke Clausen of Washington.
In all, anglers living in the same state as Classic waters have fished 77 championships and only Boyd Duckett has broken through to win. Nevertheless, there's still plenty of evidence that the Curse is alive and well. In fact, three years after his win the Curse came after Duckett as though to show he had somehow slipped through the cracks or under its radar and that some payback was due.
In 2010, on the very same body of water where he became a Classic champion, Duckett blew up his outboard on the first day of competition. He finished 49th out of 51 anglers.
And in case you're wondering, that's the worst performance by a local in Classic history.