The curse has been broken.
For the first time in the 37-year history of the Bassmaster Classic, a fisherman has won the championship tournament in his home state.
Boyd Duckett of Demopolis, Ala., is the toast of the South today. Fishing on Lay Lake in Birmingham, Ala., which he considers his home water, Duckett pulled out some final-round heroics Sunday to win the prestigious tournament and take home $500,000.
He caught five bass weighing 17 pounds, 13 ounces on the last day, lifting his three-day total to 48 pounds, 10 ounces. That was enough to edge second-place finisher Skeet Reese of Auburn, Calif., by 6 ounces, and ensure that the Classic trophy won't be leaving Alabama this year.
"I worked so hard this week," said Duckett, who was fishing in his first Classic. "I wanted to break this 36-year curse. It was time for a home-state fisherman to win this tournament.
"I've fished Lay Lake a lot, and I know what it can produce. It has a lot of big bass and a lot of places to fish for them. I figured that would give me an advantage, and that's the way things worked out."
Duckett started and ended well in the tournament but had an off-day sandwiched in between. He led after the first round but went into the final round in fourth place, trailing leader Kevin VanDam, one of the legends of the sport.
Despite the poor showing Saturday, Duckett warned, "Don't count me out." And he was right.
He used his knowledge of the lake Sunday to not only catch the final round's heaviest stringer but also the biggest fish, a 6-pound, 9-ounce largemouth.
He used two methods. He caught big spotted bass on a Rat-L-Trap off gravel points. But his biggest bass several trophy largemouths came on a Berkley Chigger Craw, a plastic crawdad imitation, that he flipped to the edges of flooded grass.
That combination also worked in the first round when Duckett jumped into the lead with 19 pounds, 14 ounces of bass and the tournament's biggest fish, an 8-pound, 2-ounce largemouth.
"This is every fisherman's dream," he said. "To be able to fish with pros like Kevin VanDam that you have looked up to for all your life and then to win the Classic on your home water, it doesn't get any better than that."
For VanDam, it was a disappointing finish. He had his sights set on his third Classic title, but things didn't work out.
He caught a limit of five bass, but they weighed only 12 pounds, 5 ounces, and he fell to third place.
"I gave it all I had," he said. "I went 100 miles an hour. I've been fighting a cold, and I have nothing left. I'm out of gas.
"I really wanted to win this tournament, but I just came up short."