Hackney enters 11 pound territory

Greg Hackney just upgraded with a 3 and a half pound bass. "I missed
the mark I was aiming for by two feet," he said. "But that one shot
out from a tree 10 feet away and just swallowed my jig." This fish
means he's getting close to 11 pounds for the day. "I should have 16
pounds now," he said, referring to two or three good bass he has lost.

"I came in today thinking if I had 15 pounds I could move up to 4th.
Now I'm just trying to salvage the day. Worst case scenario, I don't
want to fall back in AOY."

Swindle scrapping...again

Gerald Swindle had one little keeper in the boat at this time yesterday. Today he's got 12 pounds. The fact that Swindle was able to scrap his way into today's top 12 is a testament to his willingness to grind it out until the last minute every day this season. Swindle's early swimbait bite, which had been key to him being in 12th place after Day 2, completely dried up Saturday.

"I caught one at 6:45, and it was noon before I caught my second fish," Swindle said. "I caught a limit in about 45 minutes, but it was five that wouldn't weigh five pounds. I went into a pocket I hadn't fished since I was a kid in an aluminum boat. I just had a gut feeling to get a buzzbait out and get as far away from the bank as possible. Instead of throwing parallel to the bank, I wanted to see if the fish were way out in front of the bank.

"Five casts later I caught a three-pounder, and 20 minutes later I caught a 6-14. They were 30 yards off the bank out in the middle of nowhere."

That 6-14 matched Casey Ashley's from Day 1 for big bass of the tournament so far. Swindle weighed 13-14 Saturday to finish in eighth place. He's finished 40th or better in all four tournaments this season, and this is his second top 12. Swindle is fifth in Angler of the Year points entering the day.

"I haven't been on anything all year," Swindle said. "There's tournaments where you think you're on the winning fish if you can put it together. I haven't had one of those yet. I've literally made chicken salad out of chicken s**t in every tournament. But I'm learning more about fishing areas and not running around as much, not trying to burn 50 gallons of gas every day."

Hackney with a limit

Greg Hackey, our Toyota AOY leader, just put bass number five into the
livewell. That gives him in the neighborhood of nine pounds. He caught
this one on a jig, up near the bank. We're on a tributary of the Elk
River now, some skinny water. To get here Hackey moved about two miles
closer to the Tennessee border. We're less than five miles away from
the Volunteer state now.

It's sunny and 75 degrees. Any semblance of those thunderstorms we've
been expecting have been pushed to later in the afternoon.

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Surprise! Crochet frogging

It will surprise no one familiar with Cliff Crochet to know that he's been catching his fish on a frog this week. It's the Cajun Baby's favorite bait. It took Crochet a day to get dialed into exactly where to throw the topwater lure.

"The key was fishing reeds, isolated patches of reeds," Crochet said yesterday. "I figured it out about 11 o'clock the first day, but I really hadn't totally committed to it. Then Friday I had another good bag, and I sold out to it, concentrating on that. (Saturday) with the water up, the fish pulled up on cypress trees, and I caught a couple of good ones on cypress trees. I hope Mr. TVA pumps two feet of water into this lake."

That's not going to happen, but Crochet is making the most of a day that he didn't think he'd be fishing at the close of Saturday's weigh-in. The potential rules violation and appeals process concerning Luke Clausen put 13th place Crochet into today's finale, making it a baker's dozen instead of the usual top 12.

And Crochet is making the most of it. BASSTrakk currently has him in seventh place with 12-4 today. So he's continuing his four-day climb in the standings from 64th place on Day 1 with 11-2, to 46th place on Day 2 with 13-13 to 13th place yesterday with 18-1.

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Hackney finds success in channels

Greg Hackney, the current Toyota AOY leader, just told his Marshal he
studied Google Earth to see if there's a pattern to where he's
catching fish this week. And there was. He's been landing most of his
fish in or near channels. He just spent 30 minutes fishing a flat,
with nary a bite. Now he's back near a channel. Just part of the
process for a successful Elite angler. Man, his Marshal is getting an
education today.

Hackney writes one of the best how-to columns on Bassmaster.com, with
pearls of wisdom every week. It's clear the relishes teaching.

Crews on a culling run

Here’s a mouthful. Crews just culled again, this time using a wacky-rigged tube jig on a drop shot rig.

He’s still in the narrow creek and spun around to catch this bass after it blew up on a topwater. He dropped the PowerPole, stowed the topwater and then finessed the reluctant bass into biting.

“That one could’ve been a five-pounder,” he said.

Schedule lining up for a Hackney AOY run?

When you look at the remaining Elite Series schedule it looks tailor-made for a strong Greg Hackney run at the Toyota Angler Of the Year title. Toledo Bend, Texoma, Cayuga, and Potomac are all in his wheelhouse. They fit his style, though he's versatile enough to do well anywhere. Any time you put him somewhere with medium to shallow cover, especially with vegetation, he's got a shot at a good day. Particularly with a jig in his hand.

Hackney won his first AOY title in 2014, and that season included a win on Cayuga. He currently sits atop the Elite field with 394 AOY points. Takahiro Omori is in second, 27 points back, with 367 points.

Crews culls again, Overstreet overboard

The move to the back of the creek is worthwhile as John Crews culls up his weight with another keeper.

Meanwhile, I’ve lost my partner. He’s gone overboard, sort of, to continue providing the best on-water tournament coverage.

James Overstreet transferred over to Crews’ boat to join JM cameraman Eric Kaffka. Where he’s going its way too narrow for both boats. Overstreet switched to a fish-eye, wide angle lens to capture whatever comes next.

What’s neat about all this is the technology and skills we can bring to the coverage. Before 8 a.m. we published to the website a gallery of Crews’ early limit. When Overstreet returns I’ll take his memory card, process that gallery and post it, too. All the while by keeping the blog going and while Overstreet adds to the action. Fun job, for sure.

D-Bombing a creek

John Crews ventured into a creek after the shad action subsided on the main river. He’s also switched from a reaction bite, appropriately, to a keenly focused pitching-and-flipping tactic. The lure is a Missile Baits D-Bomb and the targets are brushpiles along a flooded shoreline. It’s the kind of spot that everywhere you look can produce a bite.

We’re idling to the back end of this creek and it’s a narrow passage to the back. Yesterday he didn’t fish here, but it’s worth a shot at this point.