Two Elite events ago, during a short night of sleep, Greg Hackney’s second Toyota Angler of the Year celebration came in a dream. Tasked with photographing the trophy presentation, a late arrival had the encircled crowd blocking the view all around him. I awoke in a frenzy.
I’m getting here early this time, and the picture is getting pretty clear — Hackney will win a second AOY. Sure, there’s the possibility of a catastrophe — ask Aaron Martens about jackplate bolts and Edwin Evers about bad first days.
On Bassmaster LIVE, Mark Zona even predicted a runaway for Hack. Now, I don’t think it will be mathematically over before the AOY Championship like Martens last year, but Hackney won’t sweat it like he did in 2014. He awoke during one of those wind postponed days frantic that he was late to takeoff.
Hackney has 570 points with Gerald Swindle 27 back, and he will leave Lake Texoma on Sunday with a worst-case 17-point lead. Then the field goes to Cayuga, where Hackney won in 2014 and Swindle was 83rd. Events on the Potomac River and Mississippi River also set up well for Hackney before the AOY event on Mille Lacs Lake.
Hackney was pretty happy Friday despite falling out of the BASSfest lead to third.
“I didn’t get the big bites today,” he said, “but to be honest I’m very happy with how things have gone so far. I came here to finish strong and improve on my Angler of the Year standings, and now I’ve got a shot at winning this thing.”
Swindle knows the drill. He’s been in a heavyweight fight with Hackney before, topping him for the 2004 AOY. He knows he’s close in points with several rounds left.
“I try not to look at the AOY points,” Swindle said. “They’re really irrelevant at this point in the game. I try to go out every day and try to figure out a way to win Lake Texoma and let everything else fall into place.”
SANDBAGGING OR JUST HORRIFIC CONDITIONS?
Sure, during registration the Elites have given the impression a fishery has been crazy hard in practice but then they whack ‘em. An oddity during practice this week left Kevin VanDam and Zona thinking conditions on Lake Texoma were actually as trying as anglers made them out.
The high, muddy waters had Oklahoma’s Tommy Biffle befuddled. KVD told Zona the veteran angler did something quite unusual.
“Biffle rolled up on him and asked, ‘What is the deal? I can’t catch anything.’ KVD said that Biffle has never done that in 25 years,” Zona said.
Talk was 5 pounds might make the 50 cut. It was quadruple that. Several anglers surmised that conditions really did improve with the falling water and clarity, and it wasn’t a collective sandbag.
HOW QUICKLY THEY TURN
The doubts of the all-time B.A.S.S. king ever winning again were put to rest by Kevin VanDam at Toledo Bend last month, and he told Zona that win ranks at the top of the list … at least the regular season victories.
KVD had not won since 2010, and the Michiganders’ conversation hit on how many athletes had naysayers at some point in their careers. VanDam told Zona the only thing that matters is what’s in his mind.
“He said, ‘I don’t think I’m out of gas right now.’”
Tommy Sanders jumped in to say he wouldn’t be surprised if VanDam wins another AOY or a Classic, and quite possibly both. Hey, KVD detractors, sit down.
HIGH WATER, SUNKEN HEART
The high water on Lake Texoma wasn’t want many anglers preferred, but it especially hurt Jeff Kriet. Zona said the tournament normally would have set up as brushpile event, and Kriet knows about a million of them there.
“This crushed his soul,” Zona said.
EVERY RIGHT TO COOK CATCH
Jerry McKinnis, who helped usher in the fishing business along with catch and release, has long said there’s nothing wrong with anglers, from bass pros to weekend hobbyists, keeping their allowable limit of fish to eat.
Along those lines, Dan O’Sullivan has written a piece arguing that perhaps some anglers have become far too serious about their passion. That article comes in response to hatred spewed at a bass fishing brethren who posted a photo of his crew’s fine catch one day. O’Sullivan’s point is those haters shouldn’t be acting like the antis.
THIS IS ONE FINE MESS
During the Swindles move to a new home, Le Ann was left to pack. She came across a piece of Styrofoam screwed to a wall holding about “3 or 4 hundred crankbaits,” about a dozen of which ended up in her hair.
“When she unscrewed it, it just fell on her head,” he said. “It wasn’t good. She was in a panic.”
G-Man wasn’t around to help; no one was. So while there was no blood spilt, there was some hair ripped out and a T-shirt ripped up, but Lulu handled it like a trooper. She snapped these self-incriminating shots and came away, um, more experienced..
“I should have unscrewed the bottom screws first,” she said.