Lay Lake smackdown

It's back to the scene of the crime as far as Skeet Reese is concerned.

In 2007, Reese had a Bassmaster Classic victory within his reach, only to have it ripped from his mitts by Boyd Duckett's last-minute catch, which Reese now calls "pathetic." Despite securing his first Classic title last year on the Red River, Reese still holds a bit of a grudge that he doesn't have twins.

"Do I like getting beat by sloppy fishing like that, like Boyd caught?" Reese said. "No. It was an embarrassing fish catch for all of us as professional anglers. I like Boyd, but that was like the most pathetic fish catch ever."

Reese speaks ill of Duckett's 6-pound, 9-ounce largemouth that gave the Opens qualifier a 48-10 total and a home-state Classic title, while dealing Reese a 6-ounce loss worth six tons of heartbreak. It hurt even more once Reese saw the catch that beat him.

"It was horrible," he said. "Boyd is kind of spastic as is. He can catch fish, but when you watch him from a mechanical standpoint, it's not like watching a Gerald Swindle or a Kevin VanDam. He's little more relaxed and nonchalant out there.

"But when he caught that fish, the wind was blowing 20 mph into a point. It was on grass. He throws a 1-ounce sinker and chigger craw in the middle of open water. And he has no idea he even had a bite. And just starts reeling on this fish. Never set the hook. Just starts reeling. And it's like 'Oh, there's one.' And it winds up being a 6-pounder -- that won it!"

Funny thing is, Duckett completely agrees with Reese on his style points.


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"The catch was horrible. I had just told the camera operator he's going to have to swim off with it because I'll never feel it with a 10-foot bow in the line," Duckett said. "And 60 seconds later, that's exactly what happened. I pitched in, and I'm lifting the bow out of the water and as I do the fish is swimming off with it. It was ugly."

Now Reese and Duckett say they are friends, but maybe not so much on the water, and definitely not for the 2010 Classic on Lay Lake.

"I guess there's a little bit of grudge against Boyd, so I want to kick Boyd's ass there. I know that," Reese said. "That's just a little personal thing I have. I like Boyd. I guess the ultimate scenario this year is I win and he finishes second."

Duckett's sentiment regarding Skeet is "Right back at ya."

"Is that what he said? Beat Boyd and win the Classic?" Duckett said with a chuckle. "That's a good goal, that's an admirable goal from my old buddy.

"Honestly, I would love to see it go the other way, only I'm not as concerned who I beat. But if Skeet was second again, nothing would make me happier. I didn't mean it like that. I wish him a good tournament, but I wish he was second."

The two have become somewhat connected in the past three Classics. On Lake Hartwell in 2008, neither was much of a factor after subpar first days. Reese did make the cut and finished 12th, while Duckett ended 33rd.

But last year on the Red River, Duckett held the Day 1 lead, then watched Reese bring in the big sack on Day 2 and hold off Mike Iaconelli to win his first Classic by 11 ounces. Duckett finished 12th.

Now they come back to where the battle began, Lay Lake, not far from Duckett's home in Demopolis, Ala.

"I've really pushed hard for all my Classics," Duckett said, while sitting in his boat in the garage preparing his tackle. "I thought I could win last year at the Red River. I started strong.

"Skeet had to watch me catch all those fish the first day and get ahead of him, and I had to watch Skeet catch all the fish the last day and get ahead of me. We both watched each other win now, and maybe we've got that out of system."

Not a chance. There's still something there. It could even play a part in Reese's wish for nasty conditions, which might take some of the fortuitous big catches from his competition -- umm, like Duckett -- out of play.

In 2007, Reese went upriver and fished for spotted bass, smaller but more reliable in frigid conditions. Duckett remained in mid-lake and pulled in an 8-2 largemouth, which with his other lunker easily topped his Day 2 total of 10-15.

It's been an unusually cold winter at Lay Lake, and the forecasted warming to the 50s on Classic competition days might not be enough to ignite much of a largemouth bite.

"If I had a choice, I would like to have the most brutal, grueling, ugly event ever as far as weather," Reese said. "It can be 10 degrees out and snowing and all that, and I think I have a better chance. I like tough conditions. I think I can excel in tougher conditions."

Duckett -- who said he's never seen Lay Lake water temperatures fall into the 30s as they have this winter -- said it looks as if Reese might get that wish.

"He'll be very happy because it will be just as nasty and grueling as possible," he said. "Unless I beat him by 6 or 8 ounces, then he won't get happy again.

"Oh, he's lightened up a lot since he won the [Classic] last year. We're tied on them now, so we'll be friends again going into this one. But it's time to break the tie."

A Skeet-Boyd grudge match? Sure is sounding like it. Yet neither is counting out the rest of the 51-angler field that takes to Lay Lake on Friday for three days of competition. Especially each other, despite their disagreeable discourse.

Reese did back off, momentarily.

"Bottom line, he caught the fish. He won," he said. "I had the opportunity to come close to winning. That was then. This is now. It was his time. I give him credit. He caught two big ones that week.

"On style and all that, he scored like a 2, or a 1, on a 1 to 10 scale."

Duckett claimed first laughs on Lay Lake -- "Tell Skeet that ugly performance he rated at 1 was worth a half-million bucks" -- but Reese is out for last laughs.

"As long I beat him by 1 or 2 ounces, it's cool," he said. "Beating Boyd by 1 ounce and winning the Classic would be like true redemption."