Starting 2009 with a different feel

I was having lunch with some friends in West Virginia recently. We were at a little grill, one one of the those places with televisions along the walls, and ESPN was on playing some old NBA highlights. Michael Jordan was on the screen. They were showing a playoff game where he hit his first six or seven shots, The last one was a long, three-point jump shot, and you knew, he knew, everybody knew when it left his hand it was going in. After he released the ball, he kept his arm extended and he kind of bounced on the balls of his feet a few times. I think he was backing up while he was bouncing.

Michael Jordan is amazing. He had all the talent in the world. But he also had way more than talent. He had other things that great athletes have: work ethic and motivation. You could tell when he took the court that he was prepared.

As far as preparation goes, we're no different on our Elite Series Tour. Whether you're a basketball player or NASCAR driver or an angler, you've got to be motivated and you better prepare. If not, you're going to fail.

We're starting our season this week at Lake Amistad, and it's my goal to start better in 2009 than I did in 2008. Last year, I was tired and I did what a pro angler should never do - I let distractions get to me. I over-scheduled, and I tried to think about too many things. I would have sworn I was ready for the Classic, but I fished my way out of the tournament on the first day.

After that, it didn't get much better until late in the year. With a few tournament left, I found myself in 51st place and in danger of missing the Classic. I had to ask myself: Why am I not getting it done?

Well, there were a lot of reasons. But when you boil it down, I think it was mostly two things: I wasn't as motivated as I needed to be, and I wasn't as sharp preparing for tournaments as I should have been.

I've had ups and downs in my 30 years or so of tournament fishing. You'd think after 30 years, I would have learned not to let that happened. But I did, and as a result I had to scramble near the end of the season to get into the Classic.

You know, in my opinion the best angler on our tour is Kevin VanDam. We've got a lot of great anglers, but I still think KVD sets the bar. But even Kevin struggles occasionally. I think if there is anything that he struggles with, it's motivation. Kevin's been so good for so long that sometimes it's hard to get as motivated as he needs to be.

But here's the thing about Kevin. When he has a bad day, he won't have a second one. I can't ever remember Kevin having two bad ones in a row.

At the Classic in Shreveport, I had a decent tournament but an especially good first day. I led. Kevin had one of the worst days of his career. He was in 45th place; he caught just a little more than 4 pounds. A reporter asked me about that. What did I think about Kevin's bad day? I told him, "Watch what he does today." And he did. KVD had better than 18 pounds the second day.

Failure depresses some people. It beats them down. But failure motivates other people.

Anyway, last year I had to get back to a point where I was motivated and preparing the way I should for tournaments. I ended the season well. And I started this year with a decent run at the Classic. Now it's on to Lake Amistad for our first event.

I've never done especially well on Amistad. I guess we'll see what happens.

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