Boyd Duckett – Crowded water, a different mindset at Dardanelle

Bucks Skeeter Yamaha
Lews Fishing
Power Pole
Bucks Falcon Mercury
Strike King

by Boyd Duckett

The Elite Series is on Lake Dardanelle this coming weekend, and under normal circumstances that would be good news for me.

I love river systems, and I especially appreciate Dardanelle. I won the last Elite Series Major event on this water. That was in 2007. It was sweet.

When I circled events this year that I was looking forward to, Dardanelle was either at or near the top of the list. But weather has changed everything. It’s been raining for months, and this place won’t fish at its best. Not even close. We’re lucky to even get this one in.

It’s really muddy. Although it’s not quite as bad as I expected it could be, most of the open channels are unfishable.

Which brings me to a second issue.


This season, I haven’t fished as smart as I want to. After two good events to start the season, I’ve made a series of bad decisions in the past few tournaments that have cost me.

Because my bad decisions made for bad finishes, I’ve got a long way to go to get back into the Classic picture. I’m not panicking. Not even close, because I’ve been 25 to 30 spots out of the Classic cutline before and made it. But I should be a lot higher up in the Angler-of-the-Year standings, and I can only blame myself.

The primary mistake I’ve made is to refuse to get into the areas where all the boats are. Well, let me be more clear. I refused until it was too late.

I mentioned this in a recent column. If you run to an area where you know you can catch them, and you find 30 or 40 boats already on the scene and on your fish, you’ve got two basic choices. You can either give that spot up and go find fish somewhere else, or you can start out on the edges of the pack and wait on an opportunity to move into the circle.

The past few tournaments I’ve been forced to make that decision on Day 1, and I’ve chosen to go elsewhere when the wise move would have been to fish with the crowd.

Let me say for the record that that kind of sucks. Nobody wants to fish elbow-to-elbow with a pack of competitors, especially when those other anglers are some of the best in the world.

But sometimes – make that most of the time – you’ve got to do it.


A bunch of us were talking about that the other day. I can’t remember who asked it, it might have been Jeff Kreit, but somebody asked: When was the last time you went to a tournament and some guy went off fishing by himself and won the tournament?

It just doesn’t happen any more.

Several guys even said they can pull up on an area they think is good, but if there aren’t 15 other anglers around, they begin to doubt their decisions.

This has, for some reason, been the worst year for this that most of us have ever seen. There are a million boats everywhere. The water is fishing small, and you’ve not only got our Elite Series anglers looking for bites, you’ve got non-tournament anglers.

Believe me, I’m not complaining about people that have the same right to fish that we do.

I am, saying, though, that we’ve never experienced water this crowded. And we need to learn to adapt.


I chose to avoid the crowds on the first day at Ross Barnett and Rayburn. It was a mistake, because the second day of both events I joined the thousand others anglers in the pack and had good days. Needless to say, Day 1 was not good to me.

That brings me back to Dardanelle. It won’t be anything like it has been in the past. I usually have a ton of waypoints at Dardanelle. This time, everybody is looking for clear water. There are two creeks, and I think everybody will on themc.

So, once again, it’s going to be close quarters. You’ve just got to make up your mind to get in there and do it with the rest of them.

I’m ok with that, as long as I know it’s going to be that way.

In the end, the practices might give me a few surprises, but I doubt it.

I figure that even if I find some really productive, out-of-the-way “hidden” spot and decide to take a gamble on it, I’ll drive my boat to it and 25 anglers will already be fishing it.