Greg Hackney offered tons of respect to his Elite Series competitors, right after handing them all defeat in the GEICO Bassmaster BASSfest presented by Choctaw Casino Resort.
“That’s the bad thing,” he said. “You can’t pull against anybody. They’re all such good guys. You want to win, but you want everybody to win.”
Good thoughts and all, but Hackney’s still selfish in that he’d rather he win, which he wasn’t sure would happen Sunday. He started the day in third place, 3 pounds, 2 ounces behind leader Casey Ashley but just a couple ounces back of Gerald Swindle.
It looked to be a three-man race, but Brandon Card climbed and stood in the way. He was nearly 9 pounds out of the lead but busted the big bag of the tournament (21-2), setting the mark to beat at 64-3. Hackney caught 17-15 for a 66-2 total, just 1-15 ahead of Card
“I’m glad it’s over. I really didn’t think it was going to happen today,” Hackney said, adding he even resorted to rationalizing a defeat. “I said I’ll be second or third. I’ll have a good tournament. You always try to make yourself feel better.”
His fifth win and maintaining a lead in the Bassmaster Toyota Angler of the Year standings made him feel pretty good, but he seemed to empathize with Ashley, Swindle (who’s chasing him in the AOY hunt) and Card.
“That’s impressive -- he caught 21 on championship day. We’ve had weather changes and the water went down,” Hackney said, pausing to collect his thoughts. “I’m very proud of those fish.”
The big push for Hackney is winning a second AOY. He came agonizingly close in his rookie season, finishing one place shy on the final day. In 2014, he won the title in nail-biting fashion, and he remains on track this season. At BASSfest, he gained two points on Swindle and leads 572-542
“The other thing is, nobody gained any points on me,” he said. “That’s a big deal. That’s what’s been driving me this week.
“Leading angler the year coming into this, I’ve been thinking about it. I didn’t think about it today. Today I focused on the tournament. But up to that point, it’s what keeps me going. You can’t let anybody get closer. You got to keep going. And so you push hard, and I did. And I was blessed.”