B.A.S.S. takes a moment to look back with annual Night of Champions dinner

GREENVILLE, S.C. -Before turning its full attention to this week's GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by GoPro, B.A.S.S. took time to honor last year’s winners with the annual “Night of Champions” dinner Wednesday at the Hyatt Regency.

Greg Hackney, the 2014 Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year, took center stage and received two standing ovations before the event drew to a close.

“Fishing’s always been fun for me, and then I got to fish against his bunch,” said Hackney, who had four Top 10 finishes on the 2014 Bassmaster Elite Series. “They have a tendency to take the fun out of it. People go fishing every day and think they had a great day fishing until they get to fish against this bunch.”

Hackney, who looked a little out of place wearing a sport coat, didn’t use a prepared speech. Instead, he used the time to speak from his heart and praise his fellow anglers.

“This whole group out here, these are my heroes,” Hackney said. “I’ve watched these people my whole life, and now I have an opportunity to stand up here and say, ‘Man, last year I was that guy.’ I really don’t know what to say.”

Hackney thanked members of his family, including his wife, Julie, for their support. Then he recognized a few anglers individually.

“I’m sitting at the table with Kevin VanDam,” Hackney said. “I was impressed with him before I fished professionally. But after fishing professionally and seeing what people go through to do this, I’m thinking the dude is not human.

“This whole room is like that – Aaron Martens that won this award last year, Skeet Reese.”

 Hackney brought the house down with his acknowledgement of Michael Iaconelli.

“Iaconelli sitting right there looks like a young Abe Lincoln,” said Hackney, gesturing toward the famed New Jersey angler, who is sporting a Lincloln-style beard. “He does. I mean, it is what it is.”

Before Hackney’s speech, Randy Howell was recognized as winner of the 2014 GEICO Bassmaster Classic on Lake Guntersville and several video awards were handed out to members of the Classic field.

The award that drew the biggest response from the crowd was John Crews’ win for “Best Impersonation” of a fellow angler for his spot-on impression of Aaron Martens. Crews repeated the performance live for those in attendance, even drawing a smile from Martens himself.