ESCANABA, Mich. — Greg Hackney stood in the warm Michigan sun, talking about the pressure he’s been feeling since leading the Toyota Angler of the Year race.
“The past few weeks the pressure crushes me when I’m not fishing,” he said. “When I’m on the water is the only time that soothes me.”
Hackney said he’s the one applying the pressure. “I want this so bad,” he admitted. And no doubt, he feels some pressure from having some very good anglers chasing him.
Canceling the fishing the past two days has added an additional stress element. “As anglers, we all get our heads prepared to fish a tournament day. We go through certain rituals early in the morning,” Hackney said. “These past two days I’ve had to go back to the hotel, close the door for an hour, be by myself and unwind.”
Hackney has certainly had a fantastic year so far, though his Elite season didn’t start that way. “The first day at Seminole I did terrible, even though I had a good practice,” he said. “I thought, ‘what a way to start the Elite season.’ But then I started listening to my instincts, caught 24 pounds the second day and boom, the whole season has been good.” Since then, Hackney's won an FLW tournament at Pickwick and the Elite tournament at Cayuga.
Hackney said the more he fishes the better he gets. In fact, he has fished the Elites (or its previous iteration) and FLW tours since 2002. “It’s all about time on the water,” he said. “I want to fish more next year. But I’m not going to start thinking about that until after this event.”
He also talked about the competition on the Elite series getting stronger. “It was really good when I started, but it’s stronger now.” And he anticipates it getting even better in the years ahead.
When he’s not fishing, Hackney, who is 40 years old, most wants to spend time with his family: wife Julie and their four kids, the youngest just 3. The two older boys and Julie are with him in Escanaba.
“I travel so much,” he said. “When I’m home I don’t fish much because I want to be with them.” The boys have never caught a smallmouth bass, so Hackney plans to take them fishing in Michigan after the AOY Championship is finished. Will he be toting the AOY trophy? We should know soon.