Sometimes there's no place but first place — that's when you go for broke

Greg Hackney prepares to take the stage with his catch.
Ken Duke
Greg Hackney has a reputation for going for broke, but the Hack Attack is judicious about when he does it.

About the author

Dan O'Sullivan

Dan O'Sullivan

Dan O’Sullivan is an outdoor journalist from Loomis, Calif., and a member of the California Federation Nation board of directors. He and his wife have three daughters. He's the managing editor of

When B.A.S.S. announced a change to the Bassmaster Classic qualifying rules that granted each regular season Elite Series winning angler a berth in the Classic, the term “going for broke” came into play. Now that the season is halfway through, and the point standings have begun to take shape, the approach is en vogue again.

We’ve all heard anglers say they’re “fishing for the win,” but that usually applies to the Bassmaster Classic, when there are no points and second place truly is first loser. So, what does it mean to go for broke? What does it mean to leave all caution to the wind and swing for the fences?

Several Elite Series pros have a reputation for fishing with an all or nothing approach. Greg Hackney, James Niggemeyer and Dean Rojas all have a gambling mentality that’s part of their game plan.

“We all want to win for sure,” Niggemeyer said. “For anglers on this level, it requires knowing what you’re best at and being able to find the right conditions to take a chance at glory. When those things come together, the equation can be victory.”

For Niggemeyer, who won the Central Open on Toledo Bend in 2010, taking a chance on new water was a big part of his “go for the win” attitude. Niggemeyer won the event in a fish-off after finding himself tied for the lead on the final day of the event. He had been sight fishing and was forced to go to new water for the fish off because his primary areas had been exhausted.

Hackney, who has earned a reputation on tour as the Elite’s largest risk taker, said that his choice to take a flyer on an area may come down to one bite.

“I may be on a solid pattern of three and a half pounders, but I know I need five pounders in order to win,” he said. “I may have only gotten one big bit in an area, but I’ll make that my focus for the tournament because I know it holds the quality I need to win.”

For Rojas, it means sticking to a program that he knows like the back of his hand and choosing areas that he believes will provide him the right bites.

“I make decisions at a tournament like the Bassmaster Classic to fish in areas that I know the right bites live in,” he said. “I also try to throw lures that will attract the bigger bite — like my Spro Bronzeye Frog or Kicker Frog — but, I’m not really a giant risk taker otherwise.”

Rojas even admits to hedging his bets at the Bassmaster Classic. He said that his early career struggles to keep fishing forced him to take very calculated risks and making Day Three of the Classic is something that’s important for his sponsors.

“Even today I try to make sure that the gambles are good ones,” he said. “If I’m catching 16 pounds, when I know I need 22 pounds to win, I’ll still try and get the limit early and go after the bigger bites later.”

Hackney said that lure choices or techniques play into going for broke.

“I might be on a dock pattern where I can cash a check on a shaky head,” said Hackney. “But, if I can make five of those fish bite my Hack Attack Jig and Rage Craw, then I’ll have a chance to win. That’s when I’ll pick up my flipping stick.”

Niggemeyer, also a flipper, echoed Hackney: “I’m comfortable with fishing for five or six bites a day,” he said. “So, if that means I pick up the big Strike King Rodent or a Shadalicious swimbait and get seven bites instead of weeding through 25 fish to get a limit, then I’m ready to do that.”

Everyone likes to win, but for anglers who make their living on the water, missing a paycheck by taking a flyer on a gamble can be detrimental. But, a thorough understanding of when to take a risk gives the best anglers greater potential of hitting a home run once in a while.

“I try to take my biggest risks when I know I can afford to,” said Hackney. “When I’ve got a cushion in the points and the body of water suits my style is when I really take a risk at a big tournament.”