Boyd Duckett – Florida can be a Mountain

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When I made my primary goal for this season, I had this week in mind.

The Elite Series is at Lake Okeechobee in South Florida this week. My personal goal for this season is to not finish a single tournament lower than 65th place. Based on history, if I’m going down to the bottom of the leader board, this could be the place where it happens. Therefore, I repeat, this is a place I had in mind when I set my sights at 65 or better.

Let me say first that I’d like to finish every event way closer to first place than 65th. But I’m a realist, and I know that every angler – even great anglers – have bad events. Kevin VanDam, the best angler I know, finished 62nd last week at Cherokee. It happens. So I figure I’ll have a few off weeks. And any place in Florida could be my ticket to an off week.

Several years ago, after a lifetime of frustration at every possible venue in this state – it didn’t matter whether it was a river, an inland lake, a chain of lakes, a bay or a stream – I gave up. I wrote a column that was titled “I Hate Florida Fishing.” I indicated that it wouldn’t bother me one bit if I never threw a cast in the state again.

I wrote about the incredible frustrations I’d had in Florida for more than 20 years. I couldn’t find bass. I couldn’t catch when I did. That was about the size of it.

After I wrote that column, you wouldn’t believe how many anglers sent me messages. Most said the same thing: “Dude, I feel your pain. I hate it, too.”

Funny thing, though, it got better. Maybe I quit caring so much and, as a result, I quit pressing. I don’t really know the answer. I just know that whereas I quit stressing about results, I never quit grinding. I vowed to fish hard from the first cast to the last, and I would accept the results. And that’s when things got better.

I won’t say that I’ve scaled the mountain. (Yes, I know, there are no mountains in Florida.) But figuratively speaking, flat is Florida is, tournament fishing in this state is still one my mountains to scale. But as I said, it’s the past few years have been a little better. I’ve made a cut in the Elite Series, and I’ve had a couple of respectable Major League Fishing performances. So at least I’m not whipped before the hull of my boat hits the water.

My view of Okeechobee is probably the same as everyone else’s. There will be a casting bite early. The flipping bite will come later.

There are four, maybe five, areas that will attract a lot of anglers. I’ll probably be happy if I catch 15 pounds a day; but if I do catch 15 pounds early, I’ll go looking for a 9-pounder. They’re out there. And you can rest assured, some of these guys are going to pull big numbers. This is where Ish killed it a few years ago. It’s a shallow lake, with a lot of vegetation. There are plenty of big fish.

Still, I don’t know whether I’ll be the one catching them. I hope so. But…

It is Florida. And the bad news is that I haven’t really found them in practice.