Editor's Note: Seven-time Bassmaster Classic qualifier and Louisiana resident Greg Hackney has agreed to allow us to follow along with him as he prepares for the 2009 Bassmaster Classic.
Greg Hackney is approaching this tournament with an attitude that says he'll win or he'll lose, but he won't be an also ran ... not if he can help it.
"My boat is full of heavy line and big poles. I also have lots of full-grown crankbaits, heavy jigs, stout spinnerbaits and bulky plastics. I see no reason to take a finesse worm along on this outing. The Red River is a power fisherman's dream — big fish, lots of cover, stained water — and we're fishing it at the right time of year.
"Fishing a Bassmaster Classic isn't about catching a limit. It's about catching a limit of big, heavyweight bass that outweighs the competition. A limit will get you nothing except a butt whipping. Everybody will have one on the Red River.
"Now, I'm not going to lie about it. I do have some smaller stuff — and a couple of spinning rods and reels — in the truck but that's just to keep the fish honest. If they try to fool me, I'll be ready. But I can't imagine that happening ... not this year."
Asked to be more specific about his bait choice, he politely declines. His explanation is that he may or may not know something about what it'll take to win. If he does know, he doesn't want to share. And if he doesn't know he doesn't want anybody to know he doesn't know.
He theorizes that much of professional bass fishing is attitude — that a man must know himself to be successful at the top of this sport. He says without hesitation that he's going to fish this Classic as if it were just another tournament. He'll not get wrapped up in all the hype and emotion by viewing it as something special, even though he knows full well that it is.
"I've been thinking about my performance as an angler over the years. Every multi-day tournament I've ever won I did so with one or two lures. I'd catch most of my fish on one bait and a couple of others on another. It's always been a matter of getting into a groove with me. This Classic might be the same.
"As of today (Sunday) I think I could pick a couple of baits that'll catch them, but I don't want to get too far ahead of myself. I mean, it's fine to get dialed in, but you don't want to get ignorant about it. It's best to wait until the official practice and let the fish tell me what they want. I don't want to jump the gun.
"In the meantime I'll spend three days on the Arkansas River before official practice starts this Friday. That's where I grew up and started my career. It's a sentimental place for me. I'll be able to get back in touch with my roots as well as try out a few things. The water temperature in the Arkansas should be almost identical to that in the Red. And I should be able to find similar structure and cover."
Hackney has another reason for his trip to the Arkansas River, however. It isn't all about singing Kum-Ba-Yah and watching the sun set. He hasn't bass fished since December — not one day or even one hour. He wants to start fishing early so he can build a rhythm and routine that he hopes will extend through competition.
"I want to get into a routine. I need to fish, and I need to wear myself out. Whenever I fish several days in a row I always fish better on the last day than I did on the first day. I honestly don't know why that is, but I know it's true. It's been that way for as long as I can remember. I want this year's Classic to fish like the last day.
"And I don't sleep well unless I'm tired. Hopefully, I'll be able to wear myself out between the Arkansas River and official practice. Then I'll run full-bore until the Thursday night before the first day of competition. That way I'll get plenty of sleep and be ready to go when it counts.