Boyd Duckett – The Last Rodeo, Maybe

Power Pole

DuckettBlogWell, it’s the last rodeo. In my case, this is the last chance I get to make my sixth straight appearance to the Bassmaster Classic.

I’m at the BASS Northern Open on Oneida Lake in Upstate New York. There will be a Bassmaster Classic spot open for the winner of this tournament. With more than a hundred anglers here, and with me not having a good year, I know my chances of winning – which is the only way I can get that berth in the Classic – aren’t great. But I’m not giving up yet.

There are two reasons to think I might have a chance.

The first one is a practical reason. I think it will take 15 pounds a day to win. And to be honest, I’m on a pattern that could give me the 15 I need to be in it on the final day. And when you get to the final day, anything can happen.
Most people reading this blog probably know that smallmouth are going to win this tournament. Oh, there are some largemouth out there, but there’s not the habitat here that there is in Southern water, so a big largemouth is hard to come by. But, man, the smallmouth are out there.

A big smallmouth is three pounds, though, and there are plenty of those. The angler that wins this tournament is going to have a lot of those indigenous, three-pound smallmouth bass in his well.

The second reason I think I have a chance comes right from the heart. Even though my confidence has taken a beating this year, I still know what it’s like to compete when the pressure is on. If I get on a pattern and stay in the game, I know I’ll be able to focus on the last day and make a fight out of it. That’s a road I’ve been down plenty of times in the past six years.

I like this water up here. I’ve done well on Northern water in the past, and I feel good about it. So I’ll give it a hard run. And that’s the mentality I’ll need to have from the start to the finish.

I have one, and only one, example from this year that tells me where my mind needs to be.

At this year’s Classic in South Louisiana, I had a moderately good first day. I took my boat more than 100 miles away from the New Orleans dock and went to the canals off the southern tip of the Mississippi River, where I knew the fish would be. And they were there, but there just weren’t enough big ones there to compete. So I was way behind after Day 1.

On Day 2 I adjusted and stayed closer to home, taking my chances in bigger water. The second day wasn’t great either, but I moved up in the standings to 19th place, and that was good enough to get me on the water for the final day. The bigger picture was that I knew the fish were close, and I was closing in.

On Day 3 I killed them. Biggest fish and biggest bag of the tournament. It wasn’t good enough to win, but it was good enough for a Top 6 finish.

I bring that up because I’m going to have to fish this week with that kind of confidence and that kind of focus. During the Classic, I knew the bass were there, and I knew I could get them. A better decision on the first day might have given me a chance to win.

Sometimes it’s good to remind ourselves how we got into the positions we’re in today. That means we have to take the good and the bad – and learn from both of them. Here on Oneida, I have to remember that the goal is to stay focused, catch a solid bag of fish every day, don’t get rattled if I find the bite elusive for awhile, and make the most of every opportunity. And I have to remember that I’ve been under pressure before, and I’ve caught them when I had to.

And now I have to.

The odds are almost overwhelming that I’ll be on the outside looking in next year when the Classic starts. But it ain’t over yet. There’s still a chance.