ORANGE, Texas — Fishing in a crowd isn’t for everyone unless you are fishing for $100,000 at the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Elite at Sabine presented by Econo Lodge.
Greg Hackney, who leads the tournament after three days, is an exception to seeking the peace and quiet craved by most anglers. The Louisiana pro is very much used to fishing in a crowd on the Elite Series tour.
That is the case on the Sabine River and it’s maze of backwaters. The best fishing areas are condensed in small areas, and the low tide makes spots fish even smaller. Hackney is in for the win, so there is no other choice.
So how is Hackney fishing the shared water? The answer is different than you might expect. He embraces it, rolls with the punches.
“Sometimes fishing around other people is good, because you can see what they are doing differently than you,” he said. “When that happens I make a point to avoid following anything they might be doing.”
Hackney keeps an eye on his lure while using the other to observe the competition. That strategy is working this week.
“What I’m doing is completely different than the other guys,” he continued. “I have even gone in behind them and caught fish, again doing something completely different.”
That approach is safe until, or if, the crowd dials into Hackney’s secrets. What is also working well this week is adding another layer of precaution. That is disappearing when the crowd shows up, assuming enough keepers are in the livewell.
He did that on Thursday after catching an early limit, including two quality bass weighing over 3 pounds.
“I caught what I believed to be my best weight for the day and got out of there,” he explained. “I didn’t think the other guys were keyed in on what I was doing, so I just rolled off that spot.”
Hackney rationalized it was a good idea. An early arriver watched him catch a quality bass, but that angler was unaware there were four fish in Hackney’s livewell. On Friday Hackney returned to the productive spot, choosing to remain there for the day. He followed through on Saturday, switching lures to keep the bass biting.
“I wanted to try and catch everything else that was in there, and it worked,” he added.
How it worked was catching a missed 4-pounder from the previous day. Hackney then disappeared again, believing the area needed time to replenish with more bass. Today he caught another key big bass that secured his lead going into Championship Sunday.
“What I learned from previous experience here is not to burn out an area in practice,” he said. “Here, if you catch a three or four pounder in practice you risk not catching it again during the tournament.”
You need at least one fish like that, every day, during this kind of tournament,” he added
During practice, Hackney avoided fishing through an area until encountering quality bites, for that very reason.
Adding to the complexity of the shared water here is factoring in the tide. Inside the tournament waters the preferred high tide is about an hour later each day.
“The tide is definitely a factor here, because the fish are in different areas, a junk fishing kind of thing,” said John Crews Jr. “When fishing in the crowds like we have here it’s a must to know how timing works in a given area.”
Crews, who learned the skilled trade of fishing the tidal waters of Virginia, timed his stops based on the tide.
“It got later every day so you could plan ahead of time where to be,” he explained. “During practice I made a schedule based on it being about 3 hours later by Saturday in a given area.”
With that knowledge he put together a day of fishing on the best spots, at the best times.
“It worked really well in a crowd, because you could plan ahead and skip an area if it got pressured,” said Crews.
During summer, crowded boat ramps and fishing areas are givens. That makes thick skin, staying cool, lots of patience and thinking ahead wise strategies when fishing in a crowd.