Boyd Duckett – 91st at St Johns and Feeling Fine

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DuckettBlogSunday Scorecard: I finished 91st in Florida – and you might be surprised how I feel about it

I had a great tournament last week on the St. John’s River. I finished 91st out of 108.

I’m starting into my eighth year of these columns about competitive bass fishing. I’ve said from the beginning that I enjoy talking about what it’s like to compete at the highest level of bass fishing while holding a full-time job – but I’ve also said that one of my goals in writing is that I’d like to help other anglers, especially young anglers.

If I can talk about a struggle that I have in the sport of fishing, maybe the way I talk about that struggle can help other people find their way past the same challenge.

Last week in Florida, I had to take some of my own advice.

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I’ve “preached” over and over that a good day of fishing is not always about how many pounds you bring into the boat.

That’s not an easy concept to understand. It took me a long, long time to really get it. But I promise you that a successful day of fishing is about a lot more than a big bag and a good finish. It’s about how you fish.

Our Elite Series Event on the St. John’s River was a perfect example. The first line of this column looks like sarcasm, but it’s not. I really had a nice tournament. I found fish better than I ever have in Florida. I made solid decisions. My preparation couldn’t have gone better.

Obviously, I had a streak of bad luck getting fish into the boat. In fact, I’ve never lost so many fish in one tournament. I had 32 pounds HOOKED on the first day. I don’t mean I had a chance to catch them. I mean they were on the hook.

In fact, it was such a good day that I caught a four-pounder and put him back in the water. It was that kind of tournament.

In the end, the weight wasn’t  there, though.

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Let me run through some of the highlights.

Most of the field was fishing Lake George. But four of us – me, Chris Lane, Kevin Short and Brian Snowden – went all the way from Palatka through the full length of Lake George, and down the river another 30 minutes or so.

In practice, I had found bedding fish and canals with a million of them. I had the choice of going for the bedders or flipping lily pads.

When the tournament started, my first stop was on a schooling hole that had a million fish.  They evaporated. The second stop was to a bed that had an eight pounder in practice.  When I got there all I saw was  a one-pounder. But I made several casts to the bed anyway. On about the fourth one, I caught an eight-and-a-half pounder. Right after that, I caught a one-pounder.

So right off the bat, I’ve had the best start I’ve ever had in the state of Florida.

From there, it got a little strange.

That’s all I caught at the first stop, so I headed to a canal where I know there are some bucks. When I get to my hole, Brian and Kevin had cleaned them out.

So I leave there and go to a dirty canal where I saw a few in practice. I knew there had been three-pound bedders, so I go to pick them off. When I got the spot, they were gone. A one-pound buck was in their place. But I looked off to the right of the bed and there’s a five-pounder.

I start fishing for the five-pounder and get the fish on the line, but when I start reeling her to the boat, she pulls off.

That’s how day went from there.

Before the day was over, I had hooked a 10-pounder, a six-pounder, a four-pounder and several other fish that totaled 24-and-a-half pounds. I lost them all. Add 10-and-a-half pounds I had in the boat and that’s 32+  pounds of fish I hooked. Out of those, with just the big fish, I would have had enough to lead the tournament.

By the way, that 10-pounder I mentioned just crushed the jig I threw and swam off with it.

I actually caught a four-pound buck, but I made the choice to pull that fish out of the live well and put it back in the water, because I didn’t want the big female to leave.

I know that seems like a curious strategy to some people. It was certainly a gamble, but it’s a gamble that would pay off probably 50 percent of the time. And, as I’ve said, I’m going to fish aggressively this season, so I made the move.

Needless to say, I felt pretty good about my chances going into the second day.

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I can tell you in a nutshell what happened the second day. I go back to the canal, and they’re gone. So I go to flipping lily pads, which felt like the right thing to do.

When I start flipping, I run into Chris Lane, and he’s covered a lot of territory that I had marked. In fact, he winds up the day with 37 pounds. He’s pretty much cleaned it out.

 

That was good fortune for Chris and bad luck for me. I think I just got caught in the merry-go-round behind Chris. I’m in the right spots at the wrong time.

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Once or twice a year, you’ll recognize that you’ve got the right stuff, but for one reason or another you don’t get them in the boat. For most of my career, a tournament like that would have eaten me up.

But here’s the way I’m looking at the event: I think it was the best I’ve ever fished in Florida, because I found them. I used to never find them there, and I’ve said on record that I hate Florida fishing. Now maybe I don’t feel that way.

Believe it or not, it was a confidence booster. The results seemed horrible. But I can honestly say that I could just as easily have been in the Top 10, maybe even won the event.

It was so close to a great tournament that I refuse to get down about it.

Next up is Table Rock. I’ll catch them there.