Louisiana’s Greg Hackney has succeeded at every level since he began competing in bass tournaments as a teen growing up in Arkansas. At the end of 2019 he found himself at a crossroads. He had fished with MLF the previous two seasons and had won one of their championships. But he longed to return to the Bassmaster Elite Series, which he had forsaken for MLF.
“Our sport’s history begins with B.A.S.S.,” Hackney said. “I had worked hard to be a part of that and I didn’t want to give it up.”
However, he didn’t feel comfortable with B.A.S.S. simply allowing him to rejoin the Elite Series.
“I felt that I was no different than any other guy who was trying to qualify for the Elites,” Hackney said. “I was fully the one at fault for making the decision to leave.”
With his heart and mind focused on returning to the Elite Series, Hackney left MLF and signed up for the 2020 Bassmaster Central Opens. If he failed to finish among the top four in any of the Angler of the Year standings, he would not be fishing any professional tour in 2021.
It was a huge career gamble, but when the final Central Open at Lake Lewisville was over, Hackney was second in the division's AOY standings. The Hack Attack had impressively reclaimed his Elite status.
“I’ve been fishing since before I can remember,” Hackney said. “I fished at every opportunity growing up.”
Given that his parents and grandparents on both sides of the family enjoyed fishing and taking him fishing, those opportunities were bountiful. When a parent or grandparent wasn’t available, Hackney would cast into the pond on his parents’ property.
During the summer he would spend the weekdays at the grandparents’ home that was next to the White River National Wildlife Refuge. They fished the refuge’s oxbows nearly every day.
“My grandparents would bring a 10-foot aluminum boat for me,” Hackney said. “They’d crappie fish while I bass fished.”
At age 11 Hackney was exposed to bass tournament fishing when his father took him to the final day of the 1984 Bassmaster Classic at Pine Bluff, Ark. The hullabaloo around the Classic and the $45,500 check that Ricky Clunn received for winning the tournament was a life-changing event for him.
“That was the day I decided what I wanted to do for a living,” Hackney said.
He fished his first tournament that year, a youth event, and he and his father began fishing local team tournaments together. He joined the Dumas Bass Club in Dumas, Ark., when he was 16.
“Our bass club had guys who were as good a fishermen as I fish against now,” Hackney said. “They took a liking to me and would tell me things they wouldn’t tell each other about how to catch bass.”
Besides fishing club events, Hackney competed regularly in local tournaments. He did especially well on the lower Arkansas River, his home water.
“That’s where I learned to tournament fish,” Hackney said.
In the early to late 90s, Hackney fished Red Man tournaments and other large bass derbies throughout the state of Arkansas. The Arkansas River fine-tuned his ability to fish shallow wood and grass. Greers Ferry, Beaver Lake and other highland impoundments taught him how to dupe bass in clear water.
In 1998 Hackney won a Red Man Regional and its cash award of $50,000. That same year he pocketed $100,000 by winning an OMC World Championship. This provided the grubstake he needed to pursue a professional bass fishing career the following year.
As if embarking on a risky bass fishing career wasn’t enough, he married Julie on May 8, 1999. Julie’s parents had no idea what a bass tournament was. When Hackney went to New Orleans to meet his future mother- and father-in-law, they asked him what he did for a living.
“When I told them I was a professional fisherman, they asked me if I fished for shrimp or crab. My father-in-law is now a member of B.A.S.S., and he’s one of my biggest supporters.”
Initially, Hackney tested the waters of the Everstarts and the Bassmaster Invitationals. Boaters drew out with boaters in the Invitationals and conflicts regarding whose boat to take and where to fish were common. Hackney settled on fishing the Everstarts, which had a friendlier boater/co-angler format.
He qualified for the FLW Tour in 2001. In 2005 he claimed the FLW AOY title. He won the last FLW event he fished in 2009. It was the Forest Wood Cup at Three Rivers in Pittsburgh, Pa., which awarded Hackney a $500,000 payday. His FLW record includes five wins, five Cup appearances and nearly $1.2 million in winnings.
When the Bassmaster Opens adopted the boater/co-angler format in 2002 Hackney added these events to his tournament schedule. He qualified for the 2003 Classic. In 2004 he fished the FLW Tour and the Elite Series. He finished second in the AOY standings of both tours.
After winning the Forest Wood Cup in 2009 Hackney put all his chips into the Elite Series until he opted for MLF. His B.A.S.S. record includes 15 Classic appearances, six tournament victories and nearly $2.5 million in winnings.
The first stop on the 2021 Elite Series schedule is the St. Johns River. Despite years of fishing professionally, Hackney feels “pretty giddy about it.”
“I am so looking forward to next year,” he said. “It’s kind of like starting over. You don’t know how something is until you leave it. I truly love fishing the five-bass format. It’s more me.”
Hackney’s sponsors include Huk, Mercury, Phoenix Boats, Garmin, Gamma Fishing Line, T-H Marine, Strike King Lure Company, BassMafia, Academy Sports & Outdoors, Lew’s, Mossy Oak, Motorguide and Power-Pole.