CELEBRATION, Fla. — 2004 Toyota Rookie of the Year and three-time CITGO Bassmaster Classic qualifier Greg Hackney, 32, of Gonzales, La., has signed, sealed and delivered his participation agreement for the highly anticipated 2006 CITGO Bassmaster Elite Series.
Elite Series anglers have the opportunity to cash in on more than $11 million in 2006 in the tournament series, the CITGO Bassmaster Classic, the Bassmaster Majors, the CITGO Bassmaster Angler of the Year program and other contingencies.
And that, says Hackney, is his driving force.
"There's so much money involved … and I am most excited about fishing for big money with only a handful of guys," Hackney said.
"This is the most awesome schedule that BASS has ever had. We're fishing all those lakes at peak times of the year. "
Hackney, who began fishing BASS Invitationals in 1998, has taken the bass fishing world by storm in recent years, qualifying for his first Classic in 2003 through the CITGO Bassmaster Open Championship and winning the Toyota Rookie of the Year award in 2004.
In 2005, Hackney won the final CITGO Bassmaster Tour event on Table Rock Lake and has 17 top 10 finishes in his portfolio. He's cashed in on 28 of the 33 tournaments he's competed in, earning more than $460,000 on the BASS circuit.
In the last two years alone, Hackney, affectionately known as "Hack Attack," has successfully positioned himself as one of the sport's top anglers.
"I've been going tournament to tournament the last couple years and had very few breaks," said Hackney. "I'm only fishing BASS next year. I really like the schedule … there are more tournaments because that's what everyone wanted and more time off. It turned out exactly the way I wanted it."
Hackney is most looking forward to the higher level of competition in the Elite Series, as only the top anglers are invited to compete. And the extra time off is simply a bonus.
"The downtime is the icing on the cake for me," he said.
Hackney is currently working out the details for his boat and truck wrap. But with the prestige associated with the Elite Series, he feels confident about his opportunities. Today, his branding includes major endemic sponsors Berkley, Triton Boats, MotorGuide Strike King, Quantum and DriDuds (rainwear).
"Everybody who owns cable has ESPN. If you go in any restaurant or sports bar in the country there's a 99 percent chance it's on ESPN or ESPN2," he said.
That exposure is priceless, according to Hackney.
"The guys that fish the Elite Series will be images and household names in this sport," he said. "For the sponsors getting on board now, they will really be getting something for the money."