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.
"I'm disappointed," says an obviously dejected Greg Hackney after three days on the water. "I really thought the fishing would be better than it has been. I had a decent day on Friday and then every day after that got worse. I mean, I was really struggling by Sunday. It was tough out there, at least for me."
He attributes his difficulties — and those of nearly every other Classic qualifier — to a couple of things. First, there's the water level. It's down. That's made a high percentage of the shallow, backwater areas inaccessible. Not only does that take a lot of the Red River out of the equation, but it has increased the pressure on the fish by forcing the boats to bunch up and fish the same spots.You just can't get to a lot of areas that I thought would be real fish producers. The water's too low. As a result the areas you can fish are covered over with boats — both Classic competitors and local anglers.Just about everywhere I went in practice was a mess. It looked like there were hundreds of us out there instead of only 51. I wasn't expecting this. I've never fished here in February but, still, it doesn't make one bit of sense to me. There should be more water available and the bite should be better."Hackney continues by pointing out that some of the guys are running aluminum boats in an attempt to access water they couldn't get into with their fiberglass boats. But, even that has its problems. Several of them were stuck in the mud off and on during practice, just like their fellow competitors fishing out of bigger, heavier boats.
Despite the shallow draft and narrower beams of their aluminum rigs they were standing in the water, pushing and pulling on their boats. Waders and push poles were standard equipment for everyone.
Hackney also believes the recent weather pattern has had a negative impact on the fish.
"I think it might have gotten too warm, too quick last week. You know, that might have had a negative effect on them. Nothing else makes any sense to me. It's been warm, the water level has been stable and it's early spring. Why aren't they biting like crazy out there? Don't they know this is perfect weather for fish?"
Ever the optimist, however, this Louisiana resident and seven-time Classic qualifier believes better days may be coming. Heavy rains are supposed to arrive by the middle of the week along with wind, cold nights and sunny days.
"Maybe the rain and wind will help. It should push the water up and cool it down. I can't say that'll help the bite any, but I can say it won't hurt it. I know it'll help me as an angler. I like tough weather for big tournaments. Maybe we'll get some, the nastier the better as far as I'm concerned.
"My kind of weather might move them out a ways. If that happens, guys will be able to locate and pattern them better. Really, I think this weather change might be the best thing that could happen."
Now, you might think that with Red River bass fishing tough and the weather unstable Hackney would back off his earlier prediction that it'll take 60 pounds to win this year's Classic. But, if you do think that you're wrong — dead wrong.
"I loaded my boat on Monday afternoon with all baitcasting tackle. This is still a big bite tournament. The ugly conditions and tough bite will reduce the number of anglers in the hunt come Sunday. But it won't reduce the winning weight. It'll take 60 pounds to win. I stand by that prediction.
"This is the 2009 Bassmaster Classic. It's a winner's tournament on a big bass venue. Somebody will whack them. Heavy line, big poles and huge baits are what it'll take to win."