Maybe it’s because you’ve been around baseball players for most of your young, then into your working life that’s it’s difficult to write about what Greg Hackney is tackling this week.
Hackney is one of two touring pro anglers from these parts. He lives with Julie, his wife, and their three children in Gonzales. Pierre Part born-and-raised Cliff Crochet is the other.
Writing or talking to Hackney this week is akin to sitting next to your pitcher in the dugout and mentioning to him that he’s throwing a perfect game through seven innings, or to the clean-up hitter who needs a double in his next at-bat to hit for the cycle, or letting your place-kicker know he’s trotting onto the field to make a game-winning kick with two seconds remaining on the game clock.
Some things just aren’t done, not in sports anyway.
That’s why writing about Hackney today carries a burden on this end. It’s not because he’s climbing to the top of the bass-fishing world — which he is — but because he’s just three bass-tournament days short of becoming the first Louisiana guy to claim Bassmaster’s Toyota Tundra Angler of the Year title.
Nope, never been done, and while a giant like Kevin VanDam has seven to his credit, and wily pro Roland Martin has a record nine, nobody from Louisiana has been this close to this prestigious title — well, nobody since Hackney finished second in the AOY race in his 2004 “rookie” season.
Somehow you don’t want to mess with his shot at bass-fishing immortality.
Come Thursday morning, Hackney will take a 15-point AOY lead onto the far northern waters of Little Bay de Noc off Lake Michigan. Going from Escanaba, Michigan. It’s about as far north as you can fish and still be in the continental U.S.
Hackney has 664 points, and 2013’s AOY Aaron Martens came through the same eight Elite Series events with 649. Texas angler Todd Faircloth is at 647 to set up this showdown in a place so totally opposite of our climate that you’d have trouble convincing anyone we live in the same country.
Escanaba’s Thursday predicted 50-59 temperature range means snow isn’t that far in that town’s future.
It’s a challenge, sure, and Martens, Faircloth and three others have a shot at taking the AOY title and the $100,000 that goes with it. But one thing none of them faces is the lurking presence of VanDam. The AOY Championship is new this year and limited to the top 50 qualifiers from the eight Elite Series events. VanDam finished No. 53. He’s not fishing this week, and, for the first time in 24 years, will not be in February’s Bassmaster Classic.
As for Crochet, B.A.S.S. confirmed that the top 22 in the AOY standings have qualified for the 2015 Classic. He’s No. 22. Thursday is big for him, too. Even bigger is an early November wedding date with his beloved Sarah. It’s Hackney’s time this week: For Crochet and November, it’s about time.