Boyd Duckett on the Eve of the St. Lawrence Elite Series Event

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DuckettBlogLet me tell you the point we’ve reached these days in professional fishing. We are driven more by research than by what we see during a few days of practice fishing. In the competition world of 2015, an angler has to study – or at least be willing to listen to someone who has studied – to be successful. At least that’s the case most of the time.

Now don’t get me wrong, an angler’s still got to catch them. But in a tournament with his future on the line, he had better have a good idea which places – statistically speaking – are going to give him the best chance of finishing high in the standings. He can’t just show up and fish when everyone else has done the research.

I bring this up because you’ll see a perfect example this week of how anglers’ pre-study plays out. During our Elite Series event on the St. Lawrence River, here’s what’s going to happen: 113 boats will launch in Waddington, New York, and more than 100 of those boats are likely to take a dicey, roughly two-hour trip southwest toward Alexander Bay and the Thousand Islands region.

All of those anglers will head that way because they know that’s where tournament-winning-size fish are going to be. They – I should say “we” – will fight winds and waves and currents, we’ll give up half our day of fishing, and we’ll do it just because the fish near the Thousand Islands probably weigh an average of 5 to 10 percent more than the fish closer to the launch ramp.

Boyd Duckett Lake Guntersville Stage (Custom)

Boyd Duckett on the Lake Guntersville Stage – photo by Dan O’Sullivan

There’s no doubt you can catch fish anywhere on the river. It’s huge and full of bass. But here’s the deal: The fish I would catch farther north might weigh an average of three pounds. So let’s say I have five fish averaging three pounds each. That’s a 15-pound bag. Good, right? Well, that 15-pound bag will probably get me 75th or 80th place.

If I go 60 miles southwest, my fish might average three-and-a-quarter pounds. That means a five-pound bag will be 16.25 pounds. That total might get me 50 places higher in the standings.

No matter where we fish, there will be some spots on a lake or in a river where the fish are just bigger.  It’s an interesting question to discuss and debate why that’s the case. But we’re tournament anglers, so the why really doesn’t matter as long as we recognize the facts. The bigger fisher are HERE, that HERE is where I will go.

Research is one area in which our sport has evolved. Years ago, it seemed that the top guys were usually privy to the best information. But now, with the Internet and with the immediate availability of tournament results, anybody willing to study can have a heads up on where the best areas on a body of water traditionally are.

I understand that we’re not going to know everything. There are special places and certain waypoints and solid information that local anglers might know – and these things aren’t necessarily there for the taking. But I’m talking generally. I’m talking about why 50 anglers might want a piece of the same ledge on Kentucky Lake. I’m explaining why it sometimes looks like we’re a bunch of sheep being herded to the same spot.

Boyd Duckett at Lake Guntersville (Custom)

Boyd Duckett with his Tools

We play percentages. We employ them the same way a baseball manager plays percentages when he brings in a left-handed pitcher to face a left-handed batter. Statistically, the left-handed batter has less success against a left-handed pitcher. So a manager makes the move that statistically gives him a better chance for success. We play the percentages in an Elite Series tournament, because most of the time it’s too risky to go with a gamble.

Back to our event this week in New York. I’ll be one of “the herd” fighting the wind and currents and running all the gas out of my boat (and hoping I don’t have engine trouble). I’ll be running a long way toward the Thousand Islands, hoping I can catch a fish that averages about a quarter of a pound more than the fish I might have caught staying closer to the launch site.