ORANGE, Texas — After catching a big limit of bass in his first spot during Thursday’s opening round of the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Elite at Sabine River presented by Econo Lodge, Greg Hackney promptly left the area in hopes of saving it for later in the tournament.
He had hoped to repeat that process today, but things took a little longer.
Instead, Hackney, a five-time B.A.S.S. tournament winner from Gonzales, La., took all day to land a five-bass limit that weighed 11 pounds, 15 ounces and pushed his two-day weight to 28-2.
He’s still in first place. But now, there’s some maneuvering to be done.
“I probably caught 20 keepers in there today, but I had to burn through them to catch what I weighed in,” said Hackney, whose last B.A.S.S. victory came in 2016 on Lake Texoma on the Texas-Oklahoma border. “I think I could go back in there and catch another limit, maybe 6 pounds. But that’s not what I’m looking for.
“So, I’m going to move around a little bit tomorrow.”
Hackney said his keeper bass today were smaller on average than they were on Thursday, when his catch was anchored by a 5-14 largemouth. He had two bass Friday in the 3-pound range and three more that were about 1 1/2 pounds apiece.
With his best spot now exhausted, he’ll have to move to one of the other areas he found during practice. Though he knows those areas have probably been hit hard by other anglers the last two days, he believes his method will still work.
“I know they’ve been fished, but I’ve watched the guys around me and they’re not fishing like I am,” he said. “I watched guys really catch the little ones around me again today. But I went right behind them this evening and caught a 3-pounder.”
He said fishing in a crowd might actually be helping him make better decisions.
“Sometimes it’s good to fish around other people because I never really throw at anything those other guys are throwing at,” Hackney said. “I attack everything differently, and I was catching, on average, a lot better fish.”
While Hackney’s weight fell off from 16-3 on Day 1 to 11-15 on Day 2, things got better for Auburn, Ala., pro Steve Kennedy.
After catching just 7-5 during the opening round, Kennedy brought a tournament-best 16-5 to the scales today and jumped from 65th place into second with 23-10.
Strangely, he said it was a noise that clued him in to what he should be doing.
“I started hearing these noises that I can’t even really describe — just this grating noise,” Kennedy said. “It was blue crabs. There are a million blue crabs around where I’m fishing, and apparently the bass really like to eat them.
“I switched to a little bait that imitates a blue crab, and it was big for me.”
Kennedy said he always has some of the baits with him when B.A.S.S. visits a tidal fishery where crabs are prevalent. On Friday, there was one incident in particular that told him they were a wise choice.
“I flipped into a place on my first pitch, and when I set the hook I broke off with 25-pound-test fluorocarbon,” Kennedy said. “Then on my next pitch, I caught that fish. It weighed about a pound and a half, and it actually regurgitated that bait into my boat.
“The fact that he bit it twice told me I was using a bait they really want.”
While Kennedy is likely to be sticking with his crab-imitation baits Saturday, third-place angler Keith Poche (23-6) said he’ll be using a little bit of everything — if there’s actually water in the area he wants to fish.
“The area where I caught my fish couldn’t even be fished in practice because the water was so low,” said Poche, who lives in Pike Road, Ala. “Today, I just took a chance, and the water was really high. I may not be able to get in there tomorrow, but I think I’ve at least got to go try.”
Brock Mosley of Collinsville, Miss., took the lead for the $1,500 Phoenix Boats Big Bass award with a largemouth that weighed 6-3.
The tournament continues Saturday and Sunday with daily takeoffs at 6:05 a.m. CT from the City of Orange Boat Ramp and weigh-ins back at the ramp each day at 3 p.m. The Top 50 remaining anglers will fish Saturday with only the Top 12 advancing to Championship Sunday for a chance at the $100,000 first-place prize.
The Orange County River Festival, which features a wide variety of food vendors and the Kids Catch and Release Fish Tank, will open at 11 a.m. each day. Live music will begin Saturday at 5:30 p.m., and country music star John Michael Montgomery will play at 8.
The Bassmaster Elite Series Outdoors Expo will be held in conjunction with the festival at the parkon Saturday and Sunday. The event will feature boat demo rides, kids activities, free prizes and the latest fishing products on the market.