Duckett: The Businessman Angler
by Randy Coleman
When Boyd Duckett hit the highest-level of competitive bass fishing in 2007, he did it with dumbfounding efficiency. The bass fishing public seemed to offer a collective response - What just happened here? – after Duckett won the Bassmaster Classic, won the final Elite Series on Lake Dardanelle and captured a title on the Outdoor Channel’s “Ultimate Match Fishing” series. By year’s end, he had earned more money in one season than any B.A.S.S. competitor in history.
He was 46 at the time.
Although he had a reputation throughout the Southeast, especially in Alabama and Tennessee, because he had been fishing B.A.S.S. Open tournaments and other local and regional events there for two decades, Duckett was essentially unknown in many parts of the country.
His Classic victory came on Lay Lake, 140 miles from his Demopolis, Ala., home. He led the tournament after the first day of competition, yet as he sat before the media that day, he was treated as sort of a novelty, one-day wonder. Adding to the one-day wonder argument was the fact that anglers rarely win the Classic on their home turf.
Kevin VanDam, the world’s No. 1 angler, who was in second place, set the record straight.
“Kevin basically told the writers that they needed to pay attention,” Duckett said. “Kevin said that I know Lay Lake as well as anybody, and that I had enough experience that I probably wasn’t gonna go away.”
In other words, the world’s No. 1 angler didn’t see a Cinderella story in progress.
On the final day of the 2007 Classic, Duckett caught a 6-pound, 9-ounce largemouth – the day’s largest fish - roughly one hour before check-in time, allowing him to sneak past Skeet Reese and VanDam to take the Classic title. Duckett, as fellow anglers will tell you, has a flair for the dramatic.
Though not as successful as he was in 2007, during his next three-plus seasons Duckett showed a remarkable steadiness by qualifying each year for the Classic. He displayed an amazing ability to catch fish when needed. In 2008 and 2010, he entered the final two tournaments outside the Classic cutline only to close out both seasons with strong finishes and Classic berths. He followed that pattern in 2011 at the New Orleans Classic, making the final-day cut, starting the final day in a respectable 19th place. Then he put together a 29-pound limit that was the final day’s best.
“Still wouldn’t have been good enough to make a run at (Classic champion) Kevin (VanDam), but it would have added a little spice,” Duckett said.
The public got to know Duckett better after his Classic victory and during the rest of 2007 as he strung together his remarkable year. Through regular interviews, blog postings on his own website and ESPN Outdoors’ site, Duckett poured out his thoughts on a variety of subjects. Duckett offers the picture of a savvy, cerebral angler who has been around the block more than a few times. Many of his blog postings, not surprisingly, refer to business.
His peers and bass fishing fans seem amazed that Duckett is able to compete at such a high level, considering his day-to-day involvement in a wide array of businesses and interests. He owns and manages Southern Tank Leasing, a multi-million-dollar tank-trailer company, and helps manage a second tank-trailer operation, Duckett Tanks, which he co-owns and helps manage with his brother, Errol. By his own estimation, Duckett has been an owner or partner in more than two-dozen businesses.
“No matter what I do, I’m still probably most comfortable in the tank-trailer business,” Duckett says. “I’ve been working in that industry my entire adult life. But I’ve started plenty of businesses. Some made it, some didn’t.”
Before moving to Demopolis, Ala., Duckett spent roughly a decade in Nashville, Tenn. There, in addition to running a tank-trailer business, Duckett was heavily into the music industry. He was a partner in a corporation called Affiliated Publishers Image Inc., which had songwriters’ services and talent management branches. During Duckett’s time in Nashville, his companies managed three artists with No. 1 country hits, which included Tim McGraw, Ty Herndon and Joe Diffie.
“I really enjoyed living in Nashville; It was a great town,” Duckett said. “One thing I enjoyed was that a lot of country music performers loved fishing.
“We used to have midnight fishing tournaments at J Percy Priest Reservoir. A lot of country music performers would come out to those tournaments after they performed,” Duckett said. “I don’t think Porter Waggoner ever missed one.”
Gary Klein said he is constantly surprised by Duckett’s anecdotes.
“My introduction to Boyd came through his fishing. I really had no idea who he was until the he was in the final six at the 2007 Classic. Kevin and Skeet and couple of other guys and I were in the finals with Boyd. We sat back behind the stage, and we were there for quite a while. Boyd’s a great story-teller, so I got to listen to a lot of stories and jokes, but it was pretty evident that Boyd was somebody who’s a little different – and I mean that in a good way,” said Gary Klein.
Klein says Duckett “never backs off.” And that not-backing-off approach is precisely the story behind his latest business success – Duckett Fishing. In 2009, Duckett parted ways with his rod sponsor, E21. The company had produced a widely successful campaign around the product Carrot Stix, a rod that Duckett helped develop and promote.
By early 2009, however, Duckett was preparing to split with E21 over what he will only describe as “extreme philosophical differences.”
Duckett did the unprecedented. He dropped his E21 sponsorship, forfeiting considerable income and decided that instead of seeking an existing manufacturer’s sponsorship as a replacement, he would just make his own rods.
That, in a nutshell, is the first chapter in the evolution of Duckett Fishing, one of the hottest fishing properties on the market. Duckett, through his company, created and introduced the rod he had been personally seeking, an ultra-light, highly sensitive rod that utilizes micro guides. Always with an eye for the dramatic, Duckett decided to make his rods white.
Duckett Fishing has taken off, to put it mildly. Projected initially to turn a profit in perhaps three years, Duckett Fishing has outsold projections three-fold. The company is fighting every day to keep production up with the swelling load of orders. Online and specialty store sales were strong early. The rods are sold in more than 200 independent retail outlets and in larger box stores, such as Bass Pro Shops, Cabela’s and Gander Mountain. A highly anticipated new fishing line, called White Ice, is due in retail stores this year and is available through his Duckett Fishing web site now.
Former angler-of-the-year Tim Horton, who recently joined Duckett’s pro staff, went further.
“With Boyd, every rod model gets broken down. He’s concerned about every aspect of his product,” Horton said.
“I was working with a company a few years ago, and I tried to tell them that it would be a good idea to change the cosmetics, to do something that would distinguish their rods. In our business, we’ve always been tied to dark rods, and it’s hard to tell what anybody is using,” Horton said. “But when I suggested doing something that would make the rods stand out, nobody wanted to hear it.
“Now I’m with a company that understands even the cosmetics. They just ‘get it’ when it comes to details.”
There is seldom a hitch in Duckett’s schedule, but one occurred in 2011. This hitch wasn’t one occurrence; it happened over a span of six months.
“For the first time in my fishing career, I lost my game,” Duckett said. “It would be easy to blame work schedules, the start of a new business and the demands on my time that came from creating Major League Fishing. People have been really nice to cut me a break, and tell me that I had no chance last year.
“And I bought that for a long time. But then I thought, you know, I’ve always had demands on my time. It took a while, but I had to eventually admit that it was deeper than that. I’d lost focus and confidence, and my game was shot. It was time to start from scratch, examine everything I’m doing. Keep what works, throw out what doesn’t, and work every day to regain my mental edge.”
What evolved was the “Boyd Duckett Comeback Tour.” Each week Duckett utilizes the web sites Bass Zone and Advanced Angler, as well as his Facebook page, to chart every step of the trek.
“The purpose of the comeback tour is this. I realize I’ve been around awhile, and I’ve fished at a lot of levels. I probably know just about every struggle a competitive angler can go through,” Duckett said.
“This is sort of my way of giving back. I lay the cards out there. I let anglers at all levels see the struggles I’m going through and the physical and psychological approaches I’m taking to fixing the problems. Maybe what I’m going through and what I’m doing will help other anglers see things that might help them in their performance.”
Duckett’s season started in Florida, a place he has never performed well. On the final day of the two events, one on the St. John’s River and the other at Lake Okeechobee, Duckett was close to the cutline only to lose his focus during the final fishing hour of both tournaments.
“I was disappointed in myself after those two events. I did something I hadn’t done before. I didn’t fish hard until the last cast,” Duckett said. “It was better than most other tournaments, but it wasn’t good enough.”
Next was an event at Bull Shoals. On Day 2, Duckett jumped from 64th place to 9th. It was the largest jump he had ever taken in one day of an Elite Series event. A tough Day 3 dropped Duckett to 28th, but he wasn’t disappointed.
“Some days you fish well, but you don’t get the bites,” he said. “Bull Shoals was a good tournament.”
Duckett made another cut at Douglas Lake but wasn’t pleased with his practice sessions.
When asked if the comeback tour is on schedule, he said, “I think so. But time will tell for sure. We’ve got four more Elite Series events remaining.”
(Intro) Major League Masterminds
(Part 2) Gary Klein: The Veteran Angler
(Part 3) Duckett, Klein: The Confrontation