As One of Sport's Current Kings, Hackney Aims at First MLF World Title
By Lynn Burkhead
July 20, 2017
There isn't much that Major League Fishing pro Greg Hackney hasn't done in his legendary career.
After all, in a career spanning 16-plus years, Hackney has been there, done that, seen it all, and has the t-shirt to prove it.
Consider these career accolades as proof of that statement: 2014 B.A.S.S. Angler of the Year, 2009 Forrest Wood Cup champion, 2005 FLW Tour Angler of the Year, and 2004 B.A.S.S. Rookie of the Year.
Oh, and don't forget the 10 tour level victories, five on the B.A.S.S. side of things and five more on the FLW Tour side. That includes Hackney's big 2016 Bassmaster Elite Series BASSfest win last year on Lake Texoma, a place where the $100,000 top prize helped push the Hack Attack's career earnings well past the $2.1 million mark.
In fact, when you look at Hackney's storied career, there's really only a couple of things that "The Natural" hasn't done - yet, that is.
One is winning a Bassmaster Classic championship, an accomplishment that eludes Hackney despite 14 appearances in the event (including a fifth place finish in 2008).
And the other is winning a Major League Fishing Cup level event, a trophy that Hackney remains in search of after two Championship Day appearances in nine events.
While Hackney will have to wait another year to try and win a Classic, he appears to be dialed in with laser sharp focus this week in Nacogdoches, Texas as the first ever MLF General Tire World Championship event unfolds.
Why is that?
"Basically, the time of year," said Hackney, who finished second to Kevin VanDam at the 2014 MLF Summit Cup in Alpena, Mich. when KVD put on a smallmouth bass catching clinic for the ages.
"At MLF, we're basically more summer and fall oriented and here we are at prime time, the time you want to be on a lake (in the spring) and we're here."
While much of the talk leading into the first round today on Lake Nacogdoches has been about the ShareLunker sized double-digit fish that the East Texas area can produce, the Gonzalez, La. angler refuses to fall into the trap of thinking only big ones have to be caught.
"I don't know how good this place is, but it's not going to take just all big ones, you're going to have to catch them all," said Hackney. "It's going to be a normal [MLF event]. Here's the deal, 50 one-pounders is still 50-pounds. You [want] to mix in some big ones with them, but you have to fish for all of them."
As Hackney surveyed the 2,212-acre Lake Nacogdoches where his quest for a MLF world title would start, he did wryly smile and note one key element of bass fishing tackle that was missing from his front deck.
"The cool thing about this event when they scheduled it in this part of the country, I didn't bring any smallmouth gear," laughed Hackney. "None."
On the surface, Hackney appeared to be unflappable as the opening bell to round one prepared to sound.
So I couldn't help but ask about his nerves, especially with the CBS Sports network television cameras rolling this week.
After all, MLF Commissioner Don Rucks is a bit of a mad angling scientist, always seeming to have a wild card up his sleeve designed to keep the MLF anglers on the edge and guessing.
As one of the sport's most unflappable anglers, Hackney shrugged a bit and gave a nonchalant answer.
"This is the most skilled group of anglers on the planet," he said. "I think they'll be pretty laid back and do what they do. This is the deal, it's hard to throw this bunch a curve. They just work right through it and you don't even notice the curve being there."
"We know what we've got to do, we know the job at hand," he added. "We know what to expect and there's no doubt in my mind that they are going to light them up today. So I want to be a part of that deal."
With famed East Texas big bass fisheries Toledo Bend and Sam Rayburn laying just a short drive away from Nacogdoches, I had to ask if Hackney thought area lakes like the one being fished today would prove to be simply smaller versions of T-Bend and Big Sam.
"They probably won't be nearly as diverse since they are smaller," said Hack Attack.
But he did acknowledge that there would probably be one key similarity - the potential for giant double-digit bass.
"They still have that big fish wild [card] factor that all Texas lakes have," said Hackney. "If it comes down to catching a 10-pounder, this is the best state to do so. Florida is good, California is good, but day in and day out, it would be hard for me to believe that there are more 10-pounders caught in any other state in the United States than there are in Texas. And we're here at prime time."
Given that potential big fish aspect, and given the type of East Texas fisheries that Hackney is so good at fishing with his Strike King Hack Attack jig, is this week setting up to be very much in his wheelhouse?
He quickly grinned and shook his head no.
"This group that we have, it's so strong that it's in everybody's wheelhouse," chuckled Hackney. "A lot of times, we'll have a couple of extra competitors [in an MLF Cup event] that you might [think] you have an advantage over.
"But there's no advantage in this group. They've been everywhere and done everything and they probably have as much experience in this part of the country as I do, or even more."
But aside from one or two of the other MLF pros in the World Championship field this week near Nacogdoches, there aren't many anglers that have as much hardware and career accolades as Hackney does.
And since he's looking for one of the few firsts remaining to be checked off his career bucket list this week, that almost certainly makes the Hack Attack one of the anglers to beat.
In other words, don't bet against Greg Hackney in East Texas. Because he's one of the sport's all-time bests and without any doubt, one of bass fishing's current kings.