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Close but no cigar

2/23/2009

Well, I guess you could call it close. It really wasn't close enough for me. I said Saturday that I could win the Classic with a 22-pound day. It would have happened. But there wasn't a 22-pound day out there for me. A tough road.

Before I talk about it being a great day for sport, because it was, I have to say one thing. I finished 12th, but it just doesn't matter that it was 12th. If it had been second, I don't think I would have felt any better. Two through 25 were all the same to me. You don't play for a good finish and points in the Classic. This one is the one to win.

Skeet Reese took care of business. And I congratulate him for it.

Two years ago when I won the Classic, Skeet finished second by six ounces. He thought he was in position to win, and I caught a big fish late. And that stuck in Skeet's craw for awhile. I don't blame him; I would have felt the same way.

Being perfectly honest about it, I think the way that Classic ended caused Skeet to be a little tense around me for awhile. But I think we've gotten to know each other better during the past year. And I'll tell you this: he's a tremendous angler, and I respect the heck out of him. I congratulate him, but, as I indicated, I would have been even happier if I'd caught a big one late again and I'd won instead of Skeet.

But, as I mentioned, it was a great day for our sport, for a couple of reasons.

One reason was that this Shreveport Classic had to have been one of the biggest Classics ever in terms of crowds and enthusiasm. Greenville was great last year, Birmingham was great the year before. But this was something extra special. I was on the water when the big crowds hit the Expo they held downtown, but some of my friends who went said you could hardly get around, there were so many people. That's the kind of problem you want to have.

Even on the water, the crowds were amazing. It even put a lot of the anglers in kind of a tough spot. There wasn't a lot of room to maneuver in the first place, because all the anglers had a pretty good idea where the best fish were. And there were also a lot of spectators.

It made it hard to fish, but that's not the kind of thing you want to spend time complaining about. The crowds were appreciative and respectful, and we sure like the fact that they wanted to be there.

The second reason this was a great day for our sport was battle at the top between two really solid anglers — Mike Iaconelli and Skeet. And not far behind them were a bunch of other good, consistent anglers.

As everybody that follows our sport closely knows, Skeet and Ike have lively personalities and a lot of fans. Apparently, the numbers at the top were close most of the day.

There were a lot of others in the hunt, me included. But for most of the afternoon, it looked like Ike and Skeet were in the driver's seat, separated by an ounce or so. The fans and the media had estimates of the weights, but nothing was official until the anglers reached the stage for the weigh-in.

Let me say here that I'm real fond of Ike. That's nothing against Skeet. It's just that Ike is not always the guy people think they know, the crazy guy screaming on the water. I've spent a lot of time around him the past year or so, and he's a hard worker who's a nice guy and a hell of an angler. I like him and I respect him, and whereas I'm pleased for Skeet, I'm disappointed for Ike.

I've suggested to some of our B.A.S.S. and ESPN folks that I think we should have monitors in the boats on the final day. I realize the monitors would only give us estimates, but I think it would add some real drama to the final day if we actually had an idea what was happening with the other anglers.

Let's say we're out on the water and we hear Ike screaming. Maybe we'd wonder whether he caught one or lost one, but then we could look at the monitor and perhaps watch his weight total go up — now that would be some drama. You might immediately see engines firing up and people moving as fast as possible to new spots to find some hopefully bigger fish.

We're one of the rare sports that the players don't know what our competitors are doing because we have no visible scoreboard. In you're a pro golfer playing in the Masters, you've got a leaderboard right in front of you. If you're a tennis player, you know the score. The point is, wouldn't it be cool if we knew what the rest of the field was doing, at least on the final day?

One more point, it was nice to be in contention in the Classic. It was fun in a way, it was certainly exciting. It was nerve-wracking. But it was also frustrating to be in contention at another Classic and to miss out on the title and, let's be honest, the half-million-dollar first prize. Close was not close enough.

For more information on 2007 Classic champion Boyd Duckett, visit his Web site.