John's Journal...

More Keys to Winning Bass Tournaments with Boyd Duckett

Lesson from the Legends Tournament

Click to enlargeEditor’s Note: At the end of August, 2007, the 2007 Bassmaster Classic champion, Boyd Duckett of Demopolis, Alabama, won the B.A.S.S. Legends tournament and $250,000 at Arkansas’ Lake Dardanelle, bringing his total winnings in bass tournaments during 2007 to nearly $1 million. Never before has a tournament bass fisherman won as much money in as short a time on the B.A.S.S. circuit as Duckett. Besides finishing in the top-10 in eight, 2007 B.A.S.S. tournaments, Duckett also won the Ultimate Match Fishing Tournament, earning $76,000, and the Bassmaster Classic, earning $500,000. “I’ve won about another $115,000 this year in Bassmaster Tour Elite events,” Duckett says. At this writing, Duckett has won a total of $961,000 for 2007 and still has one tournament left to fish before the end of the year to possibly break the $1 million mark in one year from tournament winnings. He’s also currently in 10th place for Angler of the Year, which will pay about $20,000.

Question: Boyd, you just won $250,000 in a major bass tournament. What key decisions did you make, and how did you make them?

Click to enlargeDuckett: Let me say this, first, John, before I answer that question. I’ve learned more from this year – my first year of fishing the Bassmaster Elite Series – than ever previously. This kind of fishing is the highest level of bass fishing at which an individual can compete. I honestly can say that I’ve learned more about bass fishing this year than I ever have at any time in my life. I thought I knew a lot about bass fishing when I made the Elite Series. However, I’ve learned that with 2-1/2-days of practice before the event starts, I can’t find enough bass to win. So, I’ve learned to react more quickly to changing conditions and absorb the knowledge I’ve learned in that moment faster than I ever have in other years.

During the first half of the 2007 season, I developed a tournament plan like a coach develops a game plan for a football game. Then once the tournament started, I executed my plan, and I was fairly successful. During this second half of the 2007, I learned that I had to develop a tournament plan while I actually was on the water, catching bass and attempting to put fish in my live well. I also learned that I had to adjust that plan every day of each tournament. Our events from the time we begin practicing until the final weigh-ins last for seven days. There’s no way you can fish the same way for seven days and win.

However, the B.A.S.S. Legends tournament on Lake Dardanelle was especially interesting. I’d never fished the lake before. At the beginning of the tournament, I started catching bass, flipping grass mats with a heavy weight and a Berkley’s Jigger Craw on the main lake. Using that pattern in practice, I caught good-sized bass. But I knew that in the weeks before the tournament, this area had received quite a bit of rain and experienced flood-water conditions. Therefore, during the tournament, I assumed that we might get some heavy rains, and the river would get high and muddy. So, even though I was catcClick to enlargehing bass on the main river, during practice, I’d still fish the backwater areas, if the rains came and prevented me from fishing on the main lake because of current and rising water. I anticipated a weather change 2 or 3 days before it happened. I didn’t anticipate that the water-control board of the lake would drop the lake level of Lake Dardanelle in preparation for those flood-water conditions. The lake got 12 inches of rain on the last day of the tournament. 

I caught my three biggest bass on the first day of the tournament, flipping the grass mats on the main lake. On the next two days, the lake authority dropped the water level. The places where I’d been catching bass under the matted grass, instead of being 3-feet deep, were only 1-foot deep. Those bass that had been holding under the grass mats left the area. At the end of the first day of the tournament, I started scrambling and discovered a few of those bass out in the scattered grass, away from the shoreline. I caught a few of those bass on the Rat-L-Trap, which is one of my go-to baits when I get in trouble trying to catch bass. I hadn’t fished a Rat-L-Trap during practice, and I only fished it the last hour or so of the first day of competition. Then on the second day of competition, I fished with the Rat-L-Trap, caught and released 60 bass and finished in the top 12 to make the cut.

The next morning, when only the top 12 fished, I looked for scattered grass to fish my Rat-L-Trap in as I had on the previous day. But on this day, the tournament directors had chosen 12 sites for each of the competitors to fish. There was no scattered grass in any one of those 12 locations. Therefore, my Rat-L-Trap pattern had ended. I only had 1 hour and 10 minutes to fish each location. So, I had to depend on my intuitive sense and decision-making abilities to locate the bass and determine the lure and the presentation to convince the bass in those places to bite. I really enjoyed fishing under that kind of pressure, because I believed it maximized the need for a fisherman to depend on his mental database and his on-the-water decision-making abilities. You have to do what you need to do in 1 hour and 10 minutes, and then you leave that location forever. Click to enlarge

None of the 12 spots we fished offered any of the opportunities to fish any of the tactics or the lures I’d used before on that lake. I was able to find bass in 10 to 12 feet of water on channel drops in this creek where we were fishing. I hadn’t caught bass using this tactic at any time during the tournament. But I caught 16-1/2-pounds of bass with a drop-shot rig. I knew where the fish were concentrated, so that technique was the most-likely one to catch those bass.

Question: Boyd, how did you make the decision to move out into deep water when all the bass you’d caught earlier the tournament had been shallow?

Duckett: I looked at all the structure on the bank, and I didn’t see anything I thought would hold big bass. The creek was more clear than the banks. The main creek channel had numerous creek-channel swings, points and drop-offs, which I knew from my database was where bass liked to hold. Using my Navionics maps, I could find those underwater topography breaks quickly. So, I went to them and started catching bass. From the information I’d absorbed and internalized from years of tournament fishing, I knew that the bass that lived in a creek only would be in certain places.

These creek-channel bends, underwater points and underwater drop-offs were sites where bass in this situation liked to hold. As I soon as I saw there was no spot where I could catch bass on the bank, I spent about 20 minutes looking for the bass on the creek channel with my depth finder. I found the fish. From then on, at every location we fished, I stayed in deep water and searched for bottom structure that held bass. That’s how I caught my 16-1/2-pounds of bass during the next-to-last day of competition.


Tomorrow: Make Decisions to Make the Cut


Check back each day this week for more about "More Keys to Winning Bass Tournaments with Boyd Duckett"

Day 1: Get Mentally Ready
Day 2: Learn Your Weaknesses and Strengths
Day 3: Lesson from the Legends Tournament
Day 4: Make Decisions to Make the Cut
Day 5: Play Chess to Catch Bass



Entry 422, Day 3