Hackney's Bass Tackle Attack on Salt, Part I

Bass anglers already own the necessary rods and reels to chase saltwater fish, but there are a few things to consider before making the first cast in the brine

Greg Hackney is an incredibly accomplished angler in the world of professional bass fishing. Considering he has won the Angler-of-the-Year award in both the Bassmaster Elite Series and FLW Tour, owns a Forrest Wood Cup and is one of the top anglers in the Major League Fishing Cup Series, it’s safe to say he knows his way around freshwater lakes pretty well.

But freshwater bass are not the only fish Hackney likes to hunt down. As a resident of Louisiana, he likes to bring the “Hack Attack” to saltwater as well.

These days, when I get a chance to chat with Hackney, we spend more time discussing saltwater than freshwater. As I have alluded to many times in the Saltier Side, the crossover potential between bass fishing and saltwater fishing is enormous. Hackney agrees with this notion, so given his immense knowledge of both fresh and salt, the next two Saltier Sides will be dedicated to his thoughts on applying bass fishing knowledge, tackle and lures to saltwater species.

In part 1, we will get a few of Hackney’s thoughts on taking bass tackle to nearshore waters beyond the marshes, where bigger species like snapper, grouper, tarpon, amberjack, kingfish, sharks, bull reds and cobia live. In part 2, we’ll get Hackney to reveal a few of his favorite crossover lures he takes from his bass box out to the mouth of Mississippi River.

For starters, Hackney contends if you are a freshwater bass fisherman, you already have a lot of the right mindset, skillset and equipment set to have an absolute blast in saltwater.

“Because bass fishermen, especially tournament bass fishermen, come from such a competitive fishing environment and target fish almost exclusively with lures, it’s second nature for them to start experimenting and trying different things quickly to get responses from fish,” Hackney says.

“It’s nothing for a bass angler to start changing lure sizes, colors, leader sizes – anything and everything – to get reactions because that’s what they’re programmed to do in bass fishing. And that’s a good thing because if you experiment enough in salt, you’ll find all kinds of artificials that will work.”

The other asset that bass anglers already posses is a skillset of casting and retrieving lures in different ways to see what fish like.

“Most bass anglers know how to walk-the-dog with a topwater, or work a jerkbait erratically to produce a lot of flash, or burn and hesitate a bait, or stroke a jig for a reaction bite off the bottom,” Hackney says. “Reading how saltwater fish respond to these lure actions and adjusting accordingly are a perfect fit for bass anglers.

“One thing most bass anglers pick up on almost immediately in saltwater is that fish in the ocean love speed,” he adds. “You can gurgle a chugger on the surface or slow roll a spinnerbait and nothing will touch it. You take that same bait and ski it across the surface or bulge it as fast as you possibly can under the surface and you will get your rod taken away from you.

“Everything in the ocean is basically running for its life all the time,” he adds. “The better you can mimic that with lures, the more interest you’re going to draw to your lures.”

As for taking bass grade tackle to nearshore waters, Hackney says it’s certainly fun, but some fish are going to get away.

“Bass tackle in saltwater is a light-tackle angler’s dream,” Hackney says. “Even if you go to the heaviest ends of bass tackle – say size 300 casting reels and heavy flipping sticks with 65-pound braid; or maybe a heavy-action spinning rod with 50-pound-test braid – that’s still somewhat light tackle when you start battling kingfish, tarpon, snapper and big bull reds.”

Hackney contends that while bass tackle is better suited for casting and working lures properly to draw strikes from saltwater fish, getting the fish to the boat is a different story.

“Bass tackle is sort of a double-edge sword,” Hackney explains. “It’s perfect for making long casts and giving lures the speed, flash and action that saltwater fish crave. But reeling in a smoker kingfish or a tarpon on that same tackle?

“Good luck with that,” Hackney laughs. “Let’s just say you’re not going to get them all to the boat, but I’ll guarantee you, you’ll have fun trying.

“And the converse is true,” he adds. “Sure, you can haul in a big king or tarpon on conventional salt gear, but you’re going to have to troll the lures to get bites because you just can’t sling lures around on 100-pound test on a pool cue. You can bring lures to life a lot easier with bass grade tackle.

“It’s all about what your intention is out there,” he continues. “If you’re just in it to catch meat for dinner, then bass tackle is probably not the deal. Drop live bait to the bottom on conventional offshore gear and have at it. But if you want to do it for the sport of it, take your bass tackle to the saltwater and get your string stretched because trust me, saltwater fish will eat your bass lures everyday of the week.”

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