Photographer James Overstreet and I just caught up with Greg Hackney in Illinois Bayou, just in time to see him catch his second keeper. We're told his first one weighed 2 1/2 pounds and this latest one was probably under 2 pounds.
Hackney can flip his way down a bank as thoroughly as anyone on the Elite Series. That's what he has been doing all week, with a jig and some type of plastic trailer, possibly a Strike King Rage Craw.
The place he's started today isn't where he was yesterday, which was the cove where the slalom water skiing area is set up, but he's not far from there. We'll be following Hackney all day.
We're following Rick Clunn this morning. He sits less than a pound behind leader Greg Hackney. We're in Piney Bay, a wide and beautiful stretch of water with bluffs on one side and big rolling hills all around the other sides. Here's a photo just to set the scene. Sunday dawns brighter and warmer than Saturday. That seems appropriate for God's day. It's dead calm with hints of blue and pink in the sky. Rick is fishing to the right, near the bank in the photo. He's the only angler on the bay.
Of the 12 finalists at Dardanelle, Michael Iaconelli has experienced the longest drought of not making it to Day 4. Ike has not qualified for a finals in more than three years! He last made it to Sunday in 2011 at Lake Murray. Jason Christie hasn't been to the finals since he won at Bull Shoals in April of 2013.
We are now on Keith Combs and he is also cranking rip rap. He has caught 3 shorts and a small keeper. Looked to be keeper number 1. -- Hunter Baughman
The Top 12 at Dardanelle features four former Toyota Bassmaster Anglers of the Year (Clunn, Swindle, Reese and Iaconelli), five former Bassmaster Classic champs (Clunn, Omori, Reese, Iaconelli and Elias), a Rookie of the Year (Hackney), and a B.A.S.S. Nation champ (Iaconelli). Each of them has qualified for at least one Bassmaster Classic and together they've competed in the Classic 127 times.
Reese just caught another small keeper. This time on a buzzbait. He says he has 2 little ones and a big one. -- Hunter Baughman
As we make our first stop of the morning Skeet Reese is cranking a riprap bank and immediately boats a small keeper. It's cloudy and spitting rain with hardly no wind. Should be great conditions to start the morning. -- Hunter Baughman
Greg Hackney last led the AOY standings in April of 2006. If he wins this tournament, he will lead the AOY race going into the next event. If he falls to second place, he will be tied with Mark Davis. If he falls to third or worse, Davis will lead AOY. No matter what happens today, Aaron Martens will trail by no more than 23 points — that's 36 points closer than he was at this time last year when he won the title.