FRISCO, Texas — When Greg Hackney strode across stage on the final day of the Toyota Texas Bass Classic, he didn’t have great news for the bass fishing fans expecting a sizable limit of fish from the “Hack Attack.”
Hackney began the third day of competition with a 30-pound, 4-ounce total, and he ended the TTBC on Lake Ray Roberts north of Dallas with a three-day total of 41-0. The 10-12 catch put the angler from Gonzales in 10th place of the 10 anglers who had survived the cut to fish in this event, which was held Friday through Sunday and is considered one of the most prestigious in professional fishing.
Hackney was far from upset. He signed autographs, posed with fans for pictures, and talked openly about the ones that got away during the TTBC. It’s easier to do those things when you’re enjoying the kind of season he’s having in 2016.
Hackney, 42, leads the Toyota Bassmaster Elite Series Angler of the Year standings by a healthy margin over the likes of other celebrated anglers such as Gerald Swindle and Tak Omori. And with more than half of the Elite Series completed, Hackney is fairly comfortable with just about every remaining body of water on the schedule.
He’s also reached a point in his career where he said he feels comfortable with himself and his game. Hackney made his first Bassmaster Classic in 2003 in New Orleans, and has reached that pinnacle of bass fishing 12 times since. He was the Bassmaster AOY in 2014, which happens to be the year he picked up his last tour victory on Cayuga Lake in New York; a fishery the tour elites will visit later this summer. Consistency and success in each tournament dictates the AOY race, as much as outright victories.
“I’m fishing good, but I really want to win another tournament,” Hackney said after the TTBC. “When I first came into (the professional fishing), I spent a lot of time studying the sport and studying the anglers. Over time, and I don’t know what causes it, maybe it’s maturity, but I’m a lot more settled now than I was earlier in my career. I don’t get in a hurry. I’ve learned a lot.
“I think that’s the big deal. I have experience. Even though I had a lot of fishing experience when I got into this, these guys still have 10 or 15 years of experience on me in tournament fishing. So as time goes on, I gain that experience and I really think that’s helped me.”
Perhaps it was part experience and part instinct that propelled Hackney into the final day of the TTBC in the first place. He was in 19th place of the 38 pros entered in the field, and he had to make some solid adjustments to make the cut to the Tundra 10 on Sunday. He was targeting an area of aquatic vegetation that was holding a lunker bass he spotted and estimated weighed at least 10 pounds, he said.
“It was the biggest fish I’ve ever seen physically swimming in the water,” he said Saturday.
He couldn’t boat the monster Texas bass, however, but Hackney was able to scratch together a 14-pound, 12-ounce bag on Saturday to sneak into the final 10. He fished again for the lunker on Sunday, but couldn’t get a bite from the giant fish that could have earned him a TTBC victory, and the $150,000 in cash and prizes that went with it.
Alabama’s Matt Herren won the 10th annual TTBC, which is a benefit tournament for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s youth fishing and outreach programs. The top 15 pros from both the Elite Series and the FLW Tour’s 2015 anglers of the year standings, as well as eight big-name exemptions, were invited to compete.
“I had the fish that could have put me in first place in this thing,” Hackney said. “I don’t know if I was tired from being on the road so long, or what, but I was around some great fish. I had some bad stuff happen (Saturday) and I had some bad stuff happen (on Sunday) too. ... This is one of the places where the more you fish, the better you get.”
Hackney said he’s confident he can win another AOY award in 2016. After fishing in BASSFest on Lake Texoma in Oklahoma next month, the elites head to Cayuga, to the Potomac River in Maryland, and to the Mississippi River in Wisconsin.
The Toyota Angler of the Year Championship will be held Sept. 15-18 at Mille Lacs Lake in Minnesota.
“I like where I am,” Hackney said. “We’ll just keep working on it, keep fishing. I’m going to make the most of what I have.”