Union Springs, N.Y., is a long, long way from Gonzalez, La., and the bayou grass of the lower Mississippi River Delta. But the instant that Mercury pro Greg Hackney dropped his boat in the water for the ARE Truck Caps Bassmaster Elite on Cayuga Lake, the Louisiana “river rat” knew he was right at home.
Hackney methodically picked apart the grass beds of this deep, clear Finger Lakes jewel and notched his second B.A.S.S. tour-level win of the season with 85 pounds of Cayuga Lake bass in the final regular-season event on the 2014 B.A.S.S. Elite Series schedule.
“I had never been to Cayuga Lake before, but I got real smiley as soon as I saw all that grass,” Hackney joked shortly after hoisting the championship trophy Sunday afternoon. “This fishery really played to my strengths – it set up perfectly for me. I was able to flip the grass and fish the way I love to fish. I can’t think of a better place to be for a week.”
Hackney opened the tournament with a good bag on Day 1 with 20 pounds, five ounces, one of six bags over 20 pounds on a fishery that’s more known for its pike, pickerel and trout. But he used a pattern on Day 2 that produced few bites but bigger fish. Hackney moved out of the 3- to 5-foot grass beds that the rest of the field was fishing and dropped a 1.25-ounce Strike King Hack Attack jig with a Rage Craw trailer into “corners” or breaks in the grass.
The result: 23 pounds, 1 ounce and the lead on only four fish, one short of a limit. Despite the apparent lack of numbers in his primary area, Hackney knew he was onto something.
“The area I was fishing was pretty deep, generally 15 feet or more,” Hackney said. “I fished the shallow grass in practice, but once I found the deep fish, I knew that was going to be the deal for me. I didn’t catch a lot of fish off the deep grass – maybe five or six bites a day – but the quality of those fish was much better than up shallow. I didn’t catch a single pike or pickerel on that spot, either, where other guys were dealing with 50, 60 of those things a day. All I caught were bass, and good ones at that.”
The entire field stumbled slightly on Day 3 as a series of storms rolled through the Finger Lakes. Hackney dropped back to 17-11 – within striking distance of Todd Faircloth and Chris Zaldain, who were sharing a spot in similarly deep water – but by 11 a.m. on championship Sunday, Hackney’s deep bite had paid off to the tune of 23 pounds, 15 ounces, enough Cayuga bass to give him the win.
Hack in control for Angler of the Year: Hackney’s Cayuga win tightened his grip on first place in the Bassmaster Toyota Angler of the Year standings (664 points), and sets him up for a showdown with fellow Mercury pro and reigning AOY Aaron Martens (649), Faircloth (647) and fellow Mercury pro Jacob Powroznik (623). The 2014 Elite season culminates Sept. 18-21 with the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year tournament on the Bays de Noc in Escanaba, Mich., where Hackney and the top 50 square off for the AOY trophy.
“I can’t help but think about the Angler of the Year title,” Hackney admitted. “Frankly, it’s all I think about, and after this week I feel like I truly have a legitimate chance to win it. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me.”
NOTES: Hackney automatically qualifies to fish the 2015 Bassmaster Classic on Lake Hartwell, S.C., after missing the 2014 Classic. The Cayuga win is Hackney’s second tour-level win of the season: he won the FLW Tour Pickwick Lake event in early June. This win is win his first Elite Series victory since 2006.
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Image courtesy Mercury Marine