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Boyd Duckett, Major League Fishing put bass in starring role on TV

Boyd Duckett, Major League Fishing put bass in starring role on TV
By Brent Frazee • Issue #25 • View online
Boyd Duckett is a businessman with a plan.
His goal? To create a bass-fishing empire.
Duckett, co-founder (with Gary Klein) of Major League Fishing and current president and CEO of the circuit, appears well on his way. He envisions a day when pro fishing is a wildly popular spectator sport with a following similar to the PGA or NASCAR.
Duckett has the credentials to back up his goals. This isn’t some multimillionaire sitting in an ivory tower in New York, far removed from bass fishing.
His resume includes a long list of businesses that he turned into money-makers, but he also has excelled in fishing. Duckett has four titles in professional bass competition, including the prestigious Bassmaster Classic in 2007.
He has a company, Duckett Fishing, which sells the rods, reels and lures he helped design, and he still competes on the Major League Fishing Bass Pro Tour. But most of his time these days is focused on growing the sport.
We’ll take a look at what makes this guy tick, what he has in store, and even get a few fishing tips.
So hop in and hold on. Time to push the throttle down and leave the dock.
Brent
P.S. Don’t forget to rate the newsletter at the bottom.

The lake is calling. Time to gear up. (Photo by Rob Matsuura/Major League Fishing)
The lake is calling. Time to gear up. (Photo by Rob Matsuura/Major League Fishing)
Let’s talk deals
Each week, we comb the web and look for the best deals.
You won’t see any bias in our reports. We don’t have sponsors, so we’re not beholden to anyone. Just our opinions on the tackle that’s out there.
  • For the traveling angler: If you’re the type who likes to hike far from the crowds when you’re fishing from the bank, check out the Ugly Stik Tackle Backpack that Academy Outdoors is selling. It includes lure trays, a cooler compartment, an ID and fishing license holder, and side loops to carry two rods. No boat? No problem.
  • Hard baits: Discount Tackle is offering a variety of Strike King crankbaits at a reduced price.
  • Fly rod: Looking for a good fly rod? Check out the Orvis Clearwater Travel Fly Rod on sale at Cabela’s. You pay $229, 40 percent off regular price.
Boyd Duckett has an ambitious goal: to turn professional bass fishing into a major spectator sport. (Photo by Josh Gassmann/Major League Fishing)
Boyd Duckett has an ambitious goal: to turn professional bass fishing into a major spectator sport. (Photo by Josh Gassmann/Major League Fishing)
Casting for change
When Duckett and Klein got together in 2010 to form Major League Fishing, they were looking to expand the professional landscape.
Both had found success on the B.A.S.S. tour, the giant of the fishing world, but they envisioned a new circuit that carry the sport further.
“I have no arrows to shoot,” said Duckett, 61, who lives on Guntersville Lake in Alabama. “B.A.S.S. did some great things. But I think the organization reached a plateau. I think the owners were content operating a business based on the same customer base that they had for the last decade.
“Gary and I thought there was a way to expand the sport.”
 How? Through more television exposure.
“Changing the mindset from a participation sport which has a finite audience to a sport that has wide exposure through media platforms has been the goal from the beginning,” Duckett said. “You look at the PGA. A lot of people who enjoy watching it aren’t avid golfers. Same thing with NASCAR. How many people have actually driven a race car?.
“People tune in because it’s televised in such a way that it appeals to them.”
Having some of the sport’s top stars doesn’t hurt. Kevin VanDam, Jacob Wheeler, Edwin Evers, Brent Chapman, Aaron Martens and others moved from B.A.S.S. to Major League Fishing’s Bass Pro Tour, lured by a plan which included lower entry fees, higher paybacks and more exposure.
That plan seems to be working. Major League Fishing tournaments are shown on the Discovery Channel, CBS network, CBS Sports, the Outdoor Channel and the Sportsman Channel. Duckett is proud of the fact that two of those networks, the Discovery Channel and CBS, are not traditional outdoors-oriented networks.
“We’re continually trying to expand our audience,” Duckett said.
When pros such as Kevin VanDam (left) catch bass in the Bass Pro Tour, the fish are immediately weighed by officials, then released. (Photo by Josh Gassmann)
When pros such as Kevin VanDam (left) catch bass in the Bass Pro Tour, the fish are immediately weighed by officials, then released. (Photo by Josh Gassmann)
Changing the face of bass fishing
Traditionally, pro bass tournaments have featured glitzy weigh-ins and fishermen holding up their catch to a crowd of adoring fans.
But the Bass Pro Tour, Major League Fishing’s top rung, does things differently.
Fishermen catch, weigh and release their bass under the supervision of a trained official in their boat. They aren’t restricted to the traditional five bass that are brought to weigh-ins. A minimum standard for a scoreable bass is set before the tournament, and every fish that meets that standard counts.
That bass is weighed and is automatically added to the fisherman’s total for the day. A running scoreboard keeps track of where each competitor stands.
The Bass Pro Tour was criticized in its early days for setting the minimum scorable bass limit at 1 pound. But since then, the standard has been raised to a more respectable level—two pounds in many cases. Nonetheless, fishermen have still tallied some huge totals.
For example, Wheeler recorded 47 bass weighing 165 pounds, 1 ounce in one day on the St. Lawrence River.
 When Major League Fishing bought out the FLW circuit two years ago, it built a system of tournaments all the way from the grassroots anglers to the top pros.
 The lower levels still operate on the traditional bass-tournament structure—a five bass limit, bringing back weigh-ins, etc. That’s mainly because including a trained official in each boat is cost-prohibitive.
But Duckett foresees a day when all levels of Major League fishing go to the catch, weigh, release format. 
“It really does showcase how good some of these pros are,” he said. “Say VanDam goes out and catches 50 scoreable bass in a day and all those fish are weighed. That’s a lot different than limiting him to five bass.
“We’ve had fans who are just amazed at how many bass some of our pros catch. I heard fans say, ‘I don’t catch that much in two weeks.’ “
Pros such as Chapman like the format, too.
“Catch, weigh and release is so much better for the resource,” he said. “After the bass are weighed, they are immediately released.
“I think the days of catching five bass and holding them up in front of a crowd are going away.”
Cole Anderson of Bentonville, Ark., uses big swimbaits to catch big bass. (Photo courtesy of Cole Anderson)
Cole Anderson of Bentonville, Ark., uses big swimbaits to catch big bass. (Photo courtesy of Cole Anderson)
Big swimbait, big bass
Cole Anderson is a big believer in the “big bait, big bass” theory.
When he hits the water, he often has a bait tied on that is as big as the bass some fishermen catch.
He often uses a 9-inch-long Chad Shad or Legend glidebait made by KGB, a small company in northern Arkansas. The lures are made by a retired firefighter in limited amounts. They are so popular that the company will announce a drop of several lures and fishermen will rush to email an order.
Anderson, a 23-year-old fisherman from Bentonville, Ark., can attest to how effective those glidebaits and other oversized swimbaits are. He has caught many bass exceeding 5 pounds on the baits, including one that weighed 12.56 pounds from a lake in northern Arkansas.
“It’s about all I have tied on now,” he said. “I use swimbaits year-round.
"It’s almost like a fishfinder for me. When I retrieve a 9-inch swimbait, bass will just appear out of nowhere to check it out.
"If they won’t hit the large size, I’ll downsize a bit and sometimes catch them.”
The drawback? One of those KGB hand-crafted glidebaits usually cost more than $100.
“I’ve gone swimming a few times to get a lure that’s snagged,” he said.
The Monsterbass Mad Max is small but mighty.
The Monsterbass Mad Max is small but mighty.
Lure of the week
Looking for a new topwater lure to add to your arsenal this fall? Try Monsterbass’ new popper, the Mad Max.
The 2 ½-inch bait is weighted, so it casts farther than some other topwater lures. With its squared, cupped face, it digs in and displaces water when popped. It also includes internal rattles to draw feeding bass.
It is available in six colors, with a realistic look that will attract both largies and smallies.
That’s it for now. Enjoy the weather and the fall color. What a great time to fish.
Brent
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Brent Frazee

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