Klein, Duckett: The Confrontation
by Randy Coleman
Late in the 2007 B.A.S.S. Elite Series season, anglers were fishing a critical tournament on Kentucky Lake. Early on the first day, legendary angler Gary Klein was fishing an area that he hoped would produce the winning bag, but he had company. Boyd Duckett was there with him.
Unhappy about what he thought shouldn’t have been crowded water, Klein, an accurate caster, took aim and fired a jig that sailed about a foot from Duckett’s face and landed in the water on the far side of Duckett’s boat. Duckett quietly reached down, picked up the line from Klein’s cast, dropped it into the water and continued to fish.
There’s an ironclad lock involved with every high-level fishing tournament. It is this: At some point an angler will stake a spot, then a second angler will move close enough to the first angler’s space that a working arrangement needs to be established. Though such situations are rarely resolved happily, they are often dealt with smoothly.
Other times, well, not so much.
At Kentucky Lake, berths in the Bassmaster Classic were at stake. On the first day of the tournament, Klein, with a favorable boat draw, drove his rig straight to a ledge at the mouth of Sandy Creek. When Klein reached his waypoint, he had the area to himself, so he dropped a buoy and started fishing.
He almost immediately caught a 5-pounder and followed up a few casts later with a 4-pounder.
“I was casting a long way out to 30 feet (of water), bringing it back to 15, and that’s where I was getting the bites. Buddy, I was whacking them from the first cast,” Klein said.
About 20 minutes after Klein staked his spot, Duckett came gliding onto the scene. He pulled his boat within casting range of Klein and actually – according to Klein – nudged the buoy he had tossed out.
Duckett, it should be noted, was on a roll that season. He won the 2007 Classic, and midway through the season he followed that up with a title on Outdoor Channel’s “Ultimate Match Fishing.” Later in the year, he also won the Bassmaster Legends event, the final B.A.S.S. major event before the majors were done away with. That season, Duckett set a new B.A.S.S. single-season earnings record.
Duckett had a history on that exact Kentucky Lake spot where Klein was fishing. It was where he had won the UMF title.
Klein, on the other hand, is one of the top names in pro fishing. His has multiple wins and angler-of-the-year awards. Simply stated, he sports one of the greatest résumés in pro fishing history.
Duckett, though 46 at the time, was technically a newcomer to B.A.S.S.’s highest level of fishing.
Klein had no idea of Duckett’s history on that Kentucky Lake ledge. He merely took offense that Duckett crashed his territory.
“I thought, ‘What’s going on?’” Klein said.
Time for negotiation. Or not.
Duckett idled over in Klein’s direction with the idea of discussing how to split the territory. It was a plan neither angler wanted. Duckett says he intended to talk to Klein about splitting the area into upper and lower tiers. Klein refused to discuss it, feeling he had earned the spot.
“Gary wanted the territory to himself and I don’t blame him,” Duckett said. “I’ve been one of the most vocal critics of how we operate encroachment issues on the tour. Fishing is the only sport I can think of where there are no rules that govern this situation.
“When it comes to getting information about lakes or rivers, we have pages of rules telling us what we can and can’t do. But when it comes to splitting territory, it’s up to the anglers to work it out. So here I was, a relatively new guy riding up on a veteran’s area,” Duckett said. “What happens then?”
The answer is that Klein and Duckett fished close - uncomfortably close - together for three out of four days of the Kentucky Lake event.
Inside B.A.S.S. and FLW, there are simmering feuds that started with just such a scenario, anglers that have been forced to reluctantly share water, sometimes championship water. Most recently, at Douglas Lake in the Elite Series tour, as many as 30 anglers fought for a piece of the six to seven places that were yielding enough quality fish to win the tournament.
Angler Aaron Martens, for example, pre-fished Douglas Lake and charted all the spots that turned out to be high quality. “There were so many guys fighting for them, I never could really get where I needed to be,” Martens said.
Many times, pro anglers just consider fighting for territory a major part of the game. In some cases, though, championships are won and lost over how territorial issues are handled, and resentments take root.
Klein-Duckett seemed headed in that direction.
The two anglers have almost precisely the same recollection of how the next three days played out. There was little to no conversation. There was no plan for divvying up the water. Klein was livid and his actions, body language and the few words that were exchanged let Duckett know as much.
Klein would often cast close to Duckett. Since those were the days where a co-angler fished with the pro competitors, Klein’s line often got tangled with Duckett’s co-angler’s line. Duckett also would cast in Klein’s direction. And neither Duckett nor Klein would budge an inch.
“I’ll tell you what I did at one point. I threw a jig that went flying right past Boyd’s nose. I was steaming,” Klein said. “And I couldn’t believe it then - I understand better now because I know Boyd a lot better – but what he did after I threw that jig was this. He calmly reached down and picked up my line and dropped it off the bow of his boat and into the water. He never even looked at me.
“I thought, dang that is the single most stubborn son-of-a-gun I ever met.”
Now, five years later, Duckett laughs when hearing his friend’s recounting of the Kentucky Lake experience.
“Yes, what Gary said is exactly how it happened. He fired that thing right past me,” Duckett said. “I didn’t even look at him.
“Gary says we were just two stubborn guys that don’t like to lose. And I guess he’s right about that. He stood his ground, and I stood mine.”
And here’s the kicker. Klein and Duckett stubbornly battled the same water for three of the four days on Kentucky Lake. They ended up in a two-way tie in 36th place.
Circumstances have changed dramatically since 2007. Klein and Duckett are now friends and the weekend throw-down they experienced five years ago is long behind them. They’re still fierce competitors, but they now hold a level of respect for one another that indicates they would handle a Kentucky Lake-style scene much differently today. In a nutshell, the two recognize each others’ strengths, which are different.
Since his early teens, Klein’s life has centered around the outdoors, and his primary love and priority have been pro fishing. He is a polished, veteran pro. He thinks and feels deeply, demanding much of himself, while showing tolerance of others’ shortcomings. His hallmark is consistency.
Duckett speaks reverently about Klein’s 29 appearances in the Bassmaster Classic. “Unbelievable,” Duckett says. “The consistency is amazing. How can you be that good for that many years? And he’s not close to done yet.”
Duckett, on the other hand, struggled for decades to get his pro fishing game to the Elite Series level. He fished locally and regionally for more than 20 years, but his albatross was that he had to divide his time between his first love, fishing, and his true gift for business. He has, often reluctantly, been a businessman first and a pro angler second. Duckett sees life through the eyes of a businessman, and as a result, seldom lets day-to-day disputes distract him from at-hand tasks.
(Intro) Major League Masterminds
(Part 1) Boyd Duckett: The Businessman Angler
(Part 2) Gary Klein: The Veteran Angler