Boyd Duckett – It Feels Good to be a Pro Again

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DuckettBlogI posted on my Facebook page the other day that it’s good to feel like a pro angler again.

Here’s what I meant by that. We start our B.A.S.S. Elite Series season this week on the Sabine River. The water we will fish covers the southern Louisiana-Texas border. I feel like a pro angler because I’ve already been here practicing.

In fact, I’ve carved out time to go to the sites of our first four Elite Series events in order to pre-fish, which is what the majority of our field tries to do. If you want to get technical about it, I’ve actually only traveled to three sites. But our second event is on Guntersville Lake, and that’s where I live – so I guess you can say I’ve pre-fished that one, too.

Specifically, what’s making me feel like a pro angler again is that I’m putting more time into my competitive career. That means more study, more preparation and more traveling to tournament sites BEFORE the week of the actual event.

When you get to the Elite Series level, we can all catch them. Getting fish into the boat once we find them is usually not the problem. Every now and then when an angler’s confidence is shot, actually catching them can become a problem – but more often than not, we can all catch the bass we find.

But finding fish requires skill and homework. And in recent years I haven’t always been able to do as much homework as I need to. But so far this year, I’ve taken time to visit the Sabine River (well before the cutoff date), the California Delta and Lake Havasu in Arizona.

There’s nothing like pre-fishing to help raise your confidence level going into an event. Even if the water levels and the temperatures and the fish tendencies change between the time you pre-fish and the time you compete, at least you’re familiar with the surroundings. Familiarity is almost always a good thing, so pre-fishing helps you strategize.

The bottom line is that in the past few years I’ve spent too much time on outside business and not enough taking care of my pro fishing career. I’m the first to admit that in the past two years I’ve said that in the past. I also swore before the last two seasons that I wouldn’t let outside business distract me, but I let it happen anyway. And I paid the price.

I missed the Classic the past two years. I don’t want to miss it again.

Thank goodness this year has already been different.

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So we get the season going this week at the Sabine River, and I’m ready. That doesn’t mean that I’m going to win or that I’m going to catch a big bag, because there won’t be many big bags of fish caught this week.

What it does mean, though, is that I’ve done as much as I can do to prepare, and I’m confident.

Let me take that a step further. I’m confident that I’m going to finish well.

As is true with most events we fish, nature can throw you a curveball. And the heavy rains will bring a new dynamic because the river is now at flood stage. We’ll probably be fishing backwater only.

Most of the field will likely to be in the shallow areas and bayous. But the big choice for all of will be whether to make our runs into Louisiana or Texas. You’ve got to commit to one or the other.

This is one of those events you can lose at the launch ramp. You just don’t know whether the bites are going to be predominantly in Texas or Louisiana. So a wrong turn will likely haunt you.

It reminds me of an event we fished with Major League Fishing. We were on Lake Messalonskee in Maine. As you probably know, in MLF competition, we only get a 15-minute ride-a-round. So sometimes it’s a crapshoot which way to go.

On this particular day, there were 10 of us in the field. The launch ramp was basically at the center of the lake. When we launched, five anglers went right (including me), and five went left. The left-turn group it paydirt.

It could be that way this week. Texas could be golden, and nobody finds them in Louisiana. Or vice-versa.

It could be an advantage that you won’t need a big bag to make the cut. This isn’t the California Delta, where you can happen up on five big ones. At the Sabine, we’ll be fighting to get a limit of legal-size fish.

It’s going to be tough.

But, I swear, I do feel confident.