Hack Attacks Texoma for 2016 BASSfest Win
Greg Hackney's final-day limit of 17 pounds, 15 ounces was enough to hold off a hard-charging Brandon Card
As Bassmaster Elite Series pro Greg Hackney headed back to Denison Dam at the end of Sunday's fourth and final round of the $700,000 BASSfest on Lake Texoma, he thought he had given it all away.
It being the BASSfest championship trophy, not to mention the winner's $100,000 paycheck and an automatic berth in next spring's Bassmaster Classic on Houston's Lake Conroe.
Despite a solid day of fishing on the slowly receding lake, the loss of a couple of key fish on Sunday had Hackney thinking the bag limit of five bass in his livewell would be close, but not close enough to take one of the sport's most prestigious titles.
"I thought I'd be second or third and I tried to tell myself, well, you've had a good tournament," said Hackney, a Gonzalez, La., resident. "You always try to make yourself feel better (in that situation, even) though you can't."
On a day that saw the 89,000-acre reservoir more than a foot lower than the way that pros left it after Friday's third round, Hackney watched as several other pros went to the weigh-in stage at Choctaw Casino Resort in Durant to take their run at the tournament's final day lead.
And one by one, as the top-12 anglers went to tournament director and weigh-master Trip Weldon's scales, Hackney thought more and more that he'd fall just short in the end.
Especially when Tennessee pro Brandon Card, a former Bassmaster College Series competitor, wowed the crowd with the biggest bag limit of the tournament, a sack of five bass that tipped the scales at 21 pounds, 2 ounces.
"That's impressive that he (Card) caught 21 pounds on a championship day," said Hackney.
But as Card sat on the Championship Day hot seat to see if his weight would be enough, Hackney came to the scales as emcee Dave Mercer revved up the crowd.
As Hackney's five bass finally settled down, the numbers on the scale locked in at 17 pounds, 15 ounces, good enough to give Hack Attack the lead for good, something that he punctuated with a couple of double fist-pumps into the air and a big Cajun yell of excited relief.
When it was all over, Hackney was the angler at the top of the BASSfest standings, holding a four-day total of 20 bass that weighed in at 66 pounds, 2 ounces, nearly 2 pounds better than Card's mark of 64-03.
Alabama pro Gerald Swindle finished in the third pace at 60-06; Chad Morgenthaler finished fourth at 57-09; and Ott DeFoe finished in fifth at 56-11. First and third round leader Casey Ashley was next (56-08), followed by Rick Clunn (56-03); Dean Rojas (56-02); Jordan Lee (54-10); Randall Tharp (54-02); Keith Poche (53-15); and Bradley Roy (53-04) as they rounded out the remainder of the Top 12.
But the day's biggest weigh-in stage showdown was contested between Hackney and Card. Given the seriousness of the day with the horrific terrorist shooting in Florida, Card took his runner-up finish to Hackney in stride.
"Oh man, what a day," said Card, who had been looking for his first-ever BASS win. "It was one of those days that you dream about and I just want to give all of the glory to God.
"And you know, as happy as I am now, my heart is with all of the people in Orlando and I just want to pray for them."
While Card didn't earn his first-ever BASS win, he said he had a great day on the water as he changed things up from the flipping techniques that had carried him during the first three rounds.
"Today was an epic day of topwater fishing," he said. "I grew up fishing walking baits and I just kind of had a hunch (about Sunday) with the cloud cover and the water dropping."
But in the end, Card's big bag limit wasn't quite enough as Hackney prevailed at the weigh-in scale.
"I didn't (even) know what my fish weighed," said Hackney, the 2014 BASS Angler of the Year and the current leader in the 2016 AOY points race. "But this is a big relief."
After weighing in his fish and moving into the Hot Seat, Hackney had to wait as 2004 Angler of the Year Gerald Swindle and 2015 Bassmaster Classic champ Casey Ashley, came to the scales.
But both of those Elite Series pros fell short of Hackney's benchmark, giving him the prestigious big blue trophy that is awarded to the winner of Elite Series events.
Hackney admitted that he had focused on maintaining his points lead all week ong although he did note that on Sunday, he finally allowed himself to start thinking about actually winning the tournament in addition to his solid finish.
"You push hard (in a situation) like this and I did and I was blessed," he smiled.
While Hackney said that he threw a KVD topwater frog a couple of times on Sunday, it was the jig that did most of his damage all week.
"I was really doing a lot of the same (things) that Rick Clunn was doing, following the old bank line, that seemed to be the deal," said Hackney, a Major League Fishing pro and a winner of five BASS events. "All of the shad were staying out. You know, it's that time of the year and they've lost that loving feeling."
Meaning that the shad spawn is all but over on Texoma and the bass have noticed. So had Hackney.
"Even though that water came up big, they don't want to move," he said. "It's getting to be summertime and they want to be in their summertime pattern."
Hackney said that he flipped a Strike King Hack Attack jig all week with a rodent style trailer on the back end to give the bait a faster rate of fall.
"I've (also) been keying on all of the little turns and ditches," he added. "All of the (flooded) bushes look alike (out there) but it was all about (those that were) on the old bank line."
Hack Attack then added: "I would catch some in the back of the drain and some out on the main lake, but the big deal seemed to be when (the drains) made a hard turn."
Added to his two FLW Tour triumphs - a pair of wins that includes the 2009 Forrest Wood Cup championship - and Hackney has now earned more than $3 million in total career earnings.
What's more, he remains the BASS Angler of the Year points leader over Swindle and others as the Elite Series heads north for the second half of the 2016 season.
"Nobody gained any (Angler of the Year) points on me (this week)," smiled Hackney. "That's a big deal, that's what has been driving me honestly."
All in all, it was a perfect ending to a less than perfect week for Hackney as he battled high water, falling water, muddy water and even the summer's first stretch of hot weather.
With such topsy-turvy conditions, this fishing derby was a challenging kind of week that brought sweet victory to Hackney.
"It's been tough out there this week," he said with a big grin. "It's been a grind."
Perhaps so, but no one could tell on Sunday afternoon as the man of the hour on Lake Texoma celebrated the day with one of his career's biggest wins.
Even if Hackney spent most of his final round boat ride back in to the Denison Dam boat ramp thinking otherwise.