Elite Angler Greg Hackney made the most of his rematch with the Three Rivers that run through Pittsburgh, Pa.
Four years ago, fishing in the Bassmaster Classic on Three Rivers, Hackney failed to boat a keeper over two days, missing the cut to the final round and watching Kevin VanDam win his second Classic with a meager 12-pound, 15-ounce three-day total.
This time around, fishing the Forrest Wood Cup on the FLW circuit, Hackney was much, much better. Over four days, he boated better than 24 pounds of bass — mostly smallmouths — edging out fellow Elite Series pro Michael Iaconelli by 2 ounces. The finish was even closer than the 2005 Classic, when VanDam beat Aaron Martens by 6 ounces.
For his efforts, Hackney earned $500,000, his largest payday as a professional angler. Iaconelli received $100,000 for his second place finish.
Part of Hackney's success this time around came from his decision to focus on smallmouth bass, rather than the largemouths in the river which are (at least theoretically) larger. It paid off in more bites, more catches and just slightly more weight than his competitors, some of whom also focused on brown bass, but with decidedly less success.
On the first day of the tournament, Hackney came in with just three bass weighing 3 pounds, 1 ounce. On the second day, though, he shook up the Pittsburgh fishing faithful with a catch that weighed 11 pounds, 12ounces — a little more than a pound less than VanDam caught in three full days of fishing during the 2005 Classic.
Hackney was able to adapt to the changing conditions on the rivers, using a 1/4-ounce Strike King spinnerbait, Aaron Martens Scrounger with a soft plastic shad, a 1/8-ounce buzzbait, a 4-inch Ocho stick rigged wacky style, a jerkbait, a 4-inch Strike King 3X finesse worm on a drop shot rig, a Strike King Rodent and a 3/16-ounce Strike King Mini-King spinnerbait to make his catch.
Hackney, who was the Bassmaster Rookie of the Year in 2004, was also the FLW Tour's Angler of the Year in 2005.
Second place finisher Michael Iaconelli believes Hackney dodged a bullet. Ike not only had the potential winning fish on at the 2005 Classic (he finished 5th — 1 pound, 10 ounces behind VanDam) but he also narrowly missed out on the Forrest Wood Cup trophy with two lost fish on the third day. Since he came to the scales one fish short of a limit, either of the keeper bass he lost would have changed the leaderboard dramatically.
Ike mostly used a Jackall jerkbait, Berkley Gulp! Alive Minnow on a drop shot rig and a 5-inch Gulp! Sinking Minnow rigged on a Tru-Tungsten Ikey Head jig for his bass, covering as much water as possible and looking for cooperative bass. He called the two Pittsburgh tournaments the toughest he's ever fished. The two ounce differential between first and second place made it the tightest FLW championship in history and marked Iaconelli's second straight runner-up finish in major championships. He finished second to Skeet Reese at the 2009 Bassmaster Classic on the Red River in Louisiana.
Rounding out the top five were Cody Meyer of Redding, Calif., Scott Suggs of Bryant, Ark., and Rusty Salewske of Alpine, Calif. Elite pros Tommy Biffle of Wagoner, Okla., and Takahiro Omori of Emory, Texas, also competed, finishing 20th and 21st, respectively.