- Tim Tucker
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CELEBRATION, Fla. There have been 37 Bassmaster Classics held in 17 different states, but no angler had ever successfully jumped the psychological hurdles necessary to win the world-championship event in their homestate, until now.
Several came close Woo Daves in three Richmond, Va., Classics (1988-90); Dalton Bobo in Alabama in 1997; David Fritts in North Carolina in 1995; and Paul Chamblee in 1975 in North Carolina.
Boyd Duckett of Demopolis, Ala., accomplished the feat this past weekend with a timely, late-catch bass weighing 6 pounds, 9 ounces on Alabama's Lay Lake that gave him a 6-ounce victory over Skeet Reese.
The record-breaking accomplishment was not lost on him.
"I'm so proud I brought the Classic title to my home state," he said. "There were a lot of good Alabama anglers in this tournament and I feel fortunate to be the one that did this.
"It makes this even more special."
There were nine Alabamians in Classic XXXVIII which was tied for the largest state contingent with Texas.
DAWSON HONORED. James (Pooley) Dawson, a fixture on the Bassmaster Tournament Trail for more than 30 years, was honored with a lifetime achievement award Saturday at the Bass Fishing Hall of Fame banquet in Birmingham, Ala.
Dawson, who was attending his 35th Classic, worked in the tournament department for three decades before retiring. He came out of retirement last year to work as a logistics coordinator for the BASS Communications Department.
VANDAM'S CAUSE. Kevin VanDam's 17th consecutive Classic was perhaps his most special.
While on the Classic stage at the end of the second round, KVD pointed toward an audience member and said, "This one's for you." He was acknowledging David Martin, a Michigan friend who was attending his fifth trip to the Classic.
But, this Classic was different for Martin, who was badly injured in a car accident seven months ago in Kalamazoo. Martin spent three weeks in a coma after the accident and now is a quadriplegic due to injuries sustained in the accident. During his recovery, his goal was to be able to travel to Birmingham for Classic XXXVII.
"This is a family that can tell you what true love is all about," VanDam said in regards to Martin, his wife and three children. "I'd like nothing more than to win this for Dave. It would make it, by far, the most special event of my career."
Martin and VanDam's friendship was featured on the 10 ½ hours of coverage ESPN2 aired over the three-day event.
NEVER TOO OLD. Two-time Classic contender Tom Hamlin has an element to his career that differs from the rest of his fellow competitors.
Hamlin didn't start bass fishing until age 32.
"You hear all those other guys hollering, `Don't ever quit.' I'm living and breathing proof of that in our sport, it's never too late," Hamlin told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.
Hamlin, 51, from Macon, Ga., won the fist tournament he ever fished and he was hooked for life. Hamlin is not unusual in that he is a product of the BASS Federation Nation system. He was the Georgia state champion in 1996 and has competed in the Federation national championship.
"BASS is the only one that the average Joe could start this year and cut him a piece of the pie," Hamlin said.
BIG-TIME EXPOSURE. The pros on the Mercury Marine Women's Bassmaster Tour presented by Triton Boats were profiled last week by an unusual media outlet the Christian Science Monitor.
In a story titled "'Reel' Women Recast a Sport", the WBT Championship was referred to as "a three-day event that's being hailed by the sport-fishing community as a coming of age for professional women anglers."
Among the anglers profiled were reigning Toyota Tundra WBT Angler of the Year Dianna Clark, Sammie Jo Denyes, Robin Babb and co-angler Colleen McKay.
"These are history-makers," Bruce Mathis, WBT director, told the publication. "They've been waiting for years for something at this level."
WRAP RAP. Veteran Arkansas pro Scott Rook's boat will again be wearing the colors and logo of cell service Alltel Wireless during the 2007 Bassmaster Elite Series season. His deal was recently renewed for two years.
"Scott is a tremendous ambassador for Alltel," said Randy Wilbourn, senior vice president of corporate communications for Alltel. "He has not only enjoyed great success and consistency in an increasingly popular sport, he is among the most respected and well-liked individuals on the sport fishing scene."
WEIRDEST CATCH. Classic pro Brent Long recalls one catch that had him completely fooled for a while.
While fishing a lipless crankbait in Lake Wylie, he hooked a bait container that had him yelling for the net.
"I hooked it on the lip so that the open end was coming toward me," the South Carolina angler said. "And it was fighting as it came through the water. I fought it all the way to the boat and told my partner to get the net. It pulled good."
DID YOU KNOW? Kevin VanDam owns the longest consecutive Classic streak at 17. But he has a way to go to match the record Rick Clunn holds the record with 28.
THEY SAID IT. "To actually sit in that boat and have all those people cheer for me ... I don't know, it might be weeks before it sinks in." WBT Champion Pam Martin-Wells on winning the WBT Championship before the Classic crowd inside the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex.
1mEthan Sherwood Strauss