Classic Countdown: 35

Welcome to our Classic Countdown!

Welcome to our Classic Countdown! With 35 days left until the first day of the 2009 Bassmaster Classic, we're taking a look at what that number means to the tournament. This time, it's all about one angler.

Three anglers in this year's field are 35 years of age as the championship rolls around: Scott Parker, Randy Howell and Greg Hackney.

To be blunt, one of them (Parker) is a long shot. Coming out of the Federation Nation, it's tough to adapt to the three-day tournament format and compete against the best in the world.

Another (Howell) has never fared well in the Classic. In seven previous appearances, his best finish is 11th.

But the third is the consensus pre-tournament favorite to win his first Classic.

Greg Hackney is no stranger to the Bassmaster Classic. In seven years on the Bassmaster Tournament Trail, he's qualified for the Classic each and every time.

But the Classic hasn't always been his friend. In fact, in his first six championships he never finished better than 19th and in five of those Classics, he was 30th or worse.

Hackney's approach to the Classic simply wasn't working. He was going for broke and winding up ... well, broke.

But in 2008 he turned a corner and finished fifth at Lake Hartwell. He seemed to have changed his approach to the Classic and, with it, changed his fortunes, too.

The Classic is not a tournament that you can win on the first day, but you can definitely lose it then. By swinging for the fences on the first day — before you really find out where you are relative to the rest of the field — you can cripple yourself for the final two days.

It's kind of like going "all in" playing Texas Hold 'Em before getting your hole cards. It just might work, but it just might cost you everything you have. If you can lay back for a day in the Classic, do your best but not panic if your livewell isn't full of 5-pounders, you just might find yourself in a position to win after two more days.

And Hackney has the game to be successful on the Red River. He's the consummate river rat, having grown up in Arkansas fishing for bass in the rivers of the Natural State, and he's as good a flipper and pitcher as there is on the tournament trail.

The first quality should help him find bass that others might miss. The second will help him catch them.

And he's excited about fishing the Red River. Not only does it play to his strengths, he simply likes the fishery. After the announcement came out that the 2009 Classic would be there, he said, "If we catch it right, the three-day Classic weight record is going to fall."

Right now, that record belongs to Luke Clausen, who bagged 56-2 at Florida's Lake Tohopekaliga in 2006. Hackney would like nothing more than to erase Clausen's entry and put his own name in the record books.

Find out tomorrow why the number 34 has an international ring to it.