Tides   

Bassmaster Elite Series - Inside View by Boyd Duckett

Boyd Duckett is a former Bassmaster Classic champion and the No. 2 all-time Bass Angler Sportsman Society (BASS) single-season earnings leader. Duckett, who lives in Guntersville, Alabama, has won four BASS event titles. Duckett is also a founder of and competitor on Major League Fishing, Outdoor Channel's innovative bass fishing show.

For the 2014 BASS Elite Series, which began a week ago on March 13th, Duckett has set some specific goals. He will write columns after each event, analyzing his personal successes and failures toward accomplishing his goals. His personal review is designed to help educate anglers at all levels of competition. He is calling this year's reports, "The Sunday Scorecard."

The following is Boyd Duckett's first Sunday Scorecard of the year, from the Bassmaster Elite Series season opener in Lake Seminole, GA., held from March 13-16th.

An Interesting Start to the Sunday Scorecard

"Aggressive approach leads to a change of plan."

 This past weekend at Lake Seminole in South Georgia, we fished the first BASS Elite Series event of the year, and it was a strange experience. I was prepared to have a good tournament because I went into the first day of competition knowing that I had found a lot of bedding fish. And that, my friends, is usually a sure path to successful fishing.

So the tournament was setting up nicely. I was going to hammer them – and I wasn't the only angler looking for a big event. But then a funny thing happened on the way to the dock.
We had a cold front the night before the tournament started. And all the fish left. I mean all of them. They scattered – in my case – to points unknown.

BoydDuckett-Mercury4Boyd Duckett brings a big one to the boat.Before I get back to talking about the tournament, let me catch you up on what I'll be doing this year with these columns. They're called the Sunday Scorecard.

The title is basically a catchy way to say that after a 2013 season when I fished conservatively, trying each week to merely make the cut and accrue Angler-of-the-Year points, this year I'm trying to win. Last year's column was called the Saturday Scorecard. Fishing on Saturday meant that you made the cut. This year the stakes are higher. The Sunday Scorecard means I'm trying to make the second cut, the cut to 12 for Sunday's final round. I'm serious about winning this year -- not just finishing respectably. With the Sunday Scorecard, I'll take a close look at whether I actually had a chance to fish on Sunday, and the why and the how. Here's the only problem with this approach: When you fish aggressively and aim for big fish, even though it's a lot more fun, you have more to lose. It's the classic higher-risk / higher-reward scenario.

Back to Lake Seminole

I thought – and I think almost every angler in the event thought – we were in for a sight-fishing tournament. And it sure looked that way, because I absolutely saw them every day in practice. I probably had 75 waypoints to choose from. But a cold front affects Florida bass in a different way than it affects bass in other places around the country. And even though the lake is actually in Georgia, the bass in Lake Seminole are a Florida strain. They're highly susceptible to cold, and the cold front sent them wandering. We all saw it almost immediately, so those of us going after bed-fish had a choice. We could check all the beds we saw in practice, in hopes that some of the fish would still be there. Or we could abandon ship and just go fishing. The boldest choice was to stay with the beds, because some of them were probably still going to be around. I chose to stay with the bedders, or maybe I should say the "alleged" bed fish.

The result was that I only got three fish the first day. By day's end, I was out of the running, in 84th place. During the second day -- because I don't want to be too stubborn for my own good -- I changed my game plan to a more conservative approach. I made a small comeback, picking up 21 points in the standings. Here's the weird thing, though. When the fish scattered, a lot of them went to the banks. That has never happened in the history of Lake Seminole, according to J.Todd Tucker, who is on the Duckett Fishing pro staff and Lake Seminole is his home lake. He said it was the most confounding thing he's ever seen. He said it over and over. He told me, "I've fished this lake forever. I've never seen this."

Rookie Rolls Out Big Win

The result was that Brett Hite, a rookie, just started trolling around and found fish on the banks. In fact, he found them every day and ran away from the field. One of the most experienced guys on our tour, Mark Davis, did the same thing, and he made it sound like a piece of sheer luck. He couldn't find any bedding fish, and he just started riding around. He happened up on a bunch of fish on the bank. I can't emphasize enough that the banks were the last places you'd expect those fish to be. In retrospect, if I had taken the conservative approach I took last year, I would have finished way higher in the standings.
I would have caught a limit on Day 1, and I would've made the cut. Risk. Reward. Or Risk. No reward.

But, to be honest, I'm not disappointed. I tried to hit a winning pattern, and it didn't work.
I re-grouped and recovered enough on Day 2 to make up some ground. Sixty-third place wasn't what I wanted, that's for sure. But it beats 84th.

One last point that I find interesting about sight-fishing events. I'm getting some years on me now, and I can't see the fish as well as the guys in their twenties. And, of course, winning is all about finding the fish. On the other hand, I can catch them a lot better than I could when I was in my twenties. In fact, I'll say that if I can find the fish, I will catch them every time. So it's strange isn't it? When you're young, you can see them. When you're older, you can catch them. Life's not always fair.

Boyd Duckett

Bassmaster Elite Series Comes to Florida from March 20-23

The Bassmaster Elite Series continues on Thursday, March 20th, the first day of spring, on the St. John's River in Palatka, Fla. For those who don't know the place, Palatka is a small town of 10,500 located between Gainesville and St. Augustine, about 20 miles west of St. Augustine and 40 miles east of Gainesville.

The series picks up from last weekend's season opener at Lake Seminole in Georgia, which was won by Rookie Brett Hite, who was competing is his first Bassmaster Elite Series.

Bassmaster-Elite-Series-1Less clear-water in the St. Johns River may bunch the sight-fishermen tighter than usual.

Again, the 108 Elite registered pro anglers will compete for a first-place prize of $100,000 and an instant entry into the 2015 Bassmaster Classic. This tournament, as was Georgia's, is expected to be all about sight-fishing, which is basically looking for spawning bass that are visible on or near nesting beds.

Fans can follow the action on Bassmaster.com.

The daily take-off is set for 7:30 a.m. from Palatka's Riverfront Park. The weigh-in, at the same location, will begin at 4 p.m. The Bassmaster Elite Series Expo will open at noon March 22 and 23. There's no admission charge to any Bassmaster event.

ESPN2 will air coverage of the St. Johns River event on The Bassmasters, Sunday, April 6, at 8 a.m. ET. A re-air is scheduled for Sunday, April 13, also at 8 a.m. ET.



The Online Fisherman

GHM logo