By John Johnson
BassFan Senior Editor
Unlike the majority of his fellow tour pros, Boyd Duckett's financial well-being is not linked to his performance on the water. The former owner of a highly successful tank-leasing firm who now runs his own rod company and dabbles in real-estate development on the side will eventually leave this game, but in all probability it won't be because he can no longer afford to play it.
He's played it extremely well in the past – having won a Bassmaster Classic and two Elite Series events. At the moment, however, he's playing the role of "donator," as he's fished eight straight Elite events with no finishes higher than 56th, including four consecutive placements in the 90s.
That futility may not be affecting his household bottom line, but it's starting to wear on his psyche. As he put it, "It's not any fun to suck."
He indicated that even though he could afford it, he won't continue in the sport indefinitely if the lackluster finishes continue to pile up. He's confident he can get things turned around and he's vowed to make some changes to ensure that happens.
"If I thought I was going to finish 80th or 90th every time, I wouldn't (compete)," he said. "That's not really an option even though it's not an economic burden – I'm a competitive person, I love fishing and I want to be the best I can be.
"I'm not going to be a guy who's out of (contention for) the Classic year after year. If I can't make the commitment to be a Top-30 guy, win a tournament every so often and make a few Top 12s, then I'll just stay here at Guntersville and catch them whenever I want to."
Duckett has never been in a position in which he had to fish for paychecks. Winning tournaments has been his lone objective since he launched his career following his 2007 Classic triumph, and that approach has produced finishes that have run the gamut.
The high placements have been nonexistent over the past 12 months, though, and he's mired in the 105th slot out of 108 anglers in this year's Toyota Tundra B.A.S.S. Angler of the Year (AOY) race. He has no chance of qualifying for next year's Classic via the points list, so he must win one of the remaining events to be among the field at Lake Hartwell next February.
However, winning won't be on his mind when he goes to Lake Chickamauga next week to compete in the inaugural BASSFest.
"I think maybe what I need to do is fall back to obtainable goals – for instance, making a 50-cut," he said. "If I can just do what it takes to accomplish that, I could get my confidence back up and start moving in the right direction."
He said such an approach is much easier to talk about than to actually adopt.
"What I feel like I need to do when I'm sucking so bad is try to win every one I enter, and that's probably not the solution. Hopefully I can make a 50-cut, then do a little better in the next one, then maybe make a Top 12 before the season's over – just get back to catching them again
"I hate to waste the rest of the season doing that, but if I don't, then I might have to start next season in the same bad groove."
Not Time for Everything
Whether or not it's an underlying reason for his poor performance, there's no question that Duckett's attention has been greatly divided over the past several years. First he launched his rod company, then brought his Major League Fishing idea to reality, then sold the tank-leasing business, then moved the expanded rod company (it's now producing reels, too) from Demopolis, Ala. to Guntersville and began building his dream house on the shore of the lake.
Duckett made his most recent appearance on the Bassmaster Classic stage in 2013 – he failed to qualify for this year's edition and will need to win one of the remaining Elite Series tournaments to get into the 2015 event.
He recently dove headlong into the real-estate sector, developing 33 lakefront lots at Guntersville. He's considering another big play in that realm – a 360-acre tract on Buck Island.
"That'd be another 2 or 3 years of serious time trying to develop it," he said. "I have fun doing that stuff – I love to work and be successful – but I don't want to kill my fishing to do it.
"I'm going to have to change gears. I've got so many projects going on and I have to readjust my time commitments. I'm older now (54) and I don't have the energy I used to. It's going to mean bringing on additional employees and stopping taking on new projects. I can't do all of it, apparently."
He'll try to follow the lead of Mark Davis, the three-time AOY who's leading this year's points race after several lackluster campaigns.
"What Mark has done is really recommit himself to the sport. He's gone back to doing a lot of things that realistically don't matter, like cleaning crankbaits and sharpening hooks and keeping all the trash out of the boat, but doing them makes you mentally live in the sport. It's everything we did when we were young and eager.
"In reality, we don't lose many fish because our hooks aren't sharp enough, but doing all that stuff is part of the full, all-in commitment that it takes to be 'that guy.' Week in and week out, you immerse yourself in the sport and it digs inside you and brings out some things that you already knew, but had maybe slipped out of your consciousness. That's something that a lot of veterans get away from, and some of them fall right out of the sport. If they can live with that, then that's the choice."
Duckett can't live with it – not at this point, at least.
"I'm going to go to Chickamauga and work real hard toward making the cut and see if I can't get some momentum built up. What I have to keep in mind is that momentum is not a car, it's a train.
"You can't just start it up and take off and get right up to full speed. It takes a while to get rolling, just like it took some time to slow down."
> To further illustrate just how off-kilter his season has been, Duckett related a story of throwing back a 4-pounder from his livewell on day 1 at the St. Johns River before he had a limit. "There was a 4-pound male and a 9-pound female on a bed, and I caught the male and threw him in the box with an 8-pounder and two dinks, which gave me about 15 1/2 pounds," he said. "After that the big one swam off the bed and wouldn't come back. I decided to put the male back to see if that would entice her – I've seen that work in the past – but neither one ever went back. I fished the rest of the day and lost everything I hooked and ended up weighing three for 11 1/2 pounds."