By John Johnson
BassFan Senior Editor
"The spot of a lifetime."
That's what Greg Hackney called the mussel-laden shallow bar that he exploited en route to winning the Pickwick Lake FLW Tour. There were so many bass there that he could feel his bait bouncing across their backs and no other competitor in the 165-angler field knew they existed.
A dream scenario, for sure.
The veteran two-tour pro from Louisiana broke a winless drought that reached back to the 2009 Forrest Wood Cup by catching a 4-day total of 97-07 from the Tennessee River impoundment. He defeated a field full of offshore standouts who spent much of the event rotating in and out of the various community holes by staying in water that would've barely cleared the top of his head.
"I think it's probably safe to say I'm the only guy who made the Top 10 (for whom) Power-Poles were a big factor," he said.
He took charge of the derby with a gargantuan 31-06 bag on day 2 and never let anybody get close the rest of the way. The victory moved him up to 22nd in the Angler of the Year race, well inside the cutoff for the Forrest Wood Cup with just one regular-season tournament to go.
Here's how he did it.
Before the first hour of the 3-day practice session expired, Hackney had found his winning locale. He'd noticed a "high spot" on his Lowrance Enhanced Lake Map and felt it was worthy of investigation on the outside chance that shad would still be spawning on it.
It was a long bar about 200 yards from the bank with just a subtle drop (5 to 7 feet) positioned about halfway between the shore and the main-river channel.
"I started in a drain that was a little ways over from it and then went over and checked it out," he said. "There were shad there, but they weren't spawning and they were gizzard shad, not threadfins. Some of them weighed about a pound.
"There were so many (bass) that there was actually on oil slick from them eating the shad. I do a lot of saltwater fishing and I'd seen that with speckled trout and redfish before, but never with bass."
He pulled out of there immediately to avoid being seen by other competitors.
"I spent the rest of practice looking for that same deal in other places and I never found it. Everywhere else I found that had fish was just typical ledge stuff."
> Day 1: 5, 22-04
> Day 2: 5, 31-06
> Day 3: 5, 22-04
> Day 4: 5, 21-09
> Total = 20, 97-07
Hackney's main objective coming into the event was to solidify his place in the points race. He was right on the Cup cutline (37th) and hoped to move up at least a few slots to alleviate some of the pressure at the finale.
His day-1 bag put him in a great position to do that as it left him in 5th place, just 2 1/4 pounds behind leader Jeff Gustafson. His haul on the following day set him up to do much more.
"When I caught that 31 1/2 pounds on day 2, that changed everything," he said. "Now I was in it to win it."
His area was up to the challenge as well as he continued to pound the same 75-yard stretch of the bar, and it continued to replenish by the next day. His first-day bag was comprised entirely of 4 1/2-pounders, but on day 2 he popped four that were all well over 6.
The shad went away on day 3, but the bass remained – although they became a bit more difficult to catch. He'd been hammering them on a Strike King KVD HC 2.5 square-bill crankbait and a Strike King Shadalicious swimbait attached to a 3/4-ounce jighead. With the big wad of baitfish out of the picture, he switched to a 3/4-ounce Strike King Denny Brauer Structure Jig.
Hackney caught every fish he weighed at Pickwick from water that was no deeper than 6 feet.
He boosted his 6-pound advantage to nearly 8 on day 3. His final-day stringer was his smallest of the event, but was more than enough to keep the rest of the Top 10 at bay.
"I was about 95 percent sure that was going to be enough. It meant somebody was going to have to catch 30 pounds, and if somebody did that, then it wasn't meant for me to win."
> Hackney employed all three presentations on each day of the event, switching them up periodically.
> The most productive stretch of bar held fish all along it, but there were three key places that had super-heavy concentrations of living mussels. "I've fished a lot of shell beds, but this one was different," he said. "Usually you find them were the mussels have moved on and the ones that died, their shells are still there. This place was alive.
Two of the three mussel masses were located on subtle corners of the bar and he could cast to either from the same boat position. "Extremely long casts were the deal in that clear, shallow water."
> The key to the jig bite was putting his boat on top of the bar and fishing uphill. The biggest fish were sitting right on the lip of the drop.
Winning Gear Notes
> Jig gear: 7'6" heavy-action Quantum EXO PT flipping stick, same reel and line, 1/2- or 3/4-ounce Strike King Denny Brauer Structure Jig (black and blue or green-pumpkin), Strike King Rage Craw trailer (plum crazy or double header).
> The double header color consists of watermelon-red on one side and green-pumpkin on the other. He paired it with the green-pumpkin jig to create a bluegill imitation.
> Swimbait gear: Same rod, reel and line as jig, 3/4-ounce homemade jighead, 5" Strike King Shadalicious swimbait (natural shad).
The Bottom Line
> Main factor in his success – "Thinking outside the box and looking for something off the wall. If I hadn't found that place, I'd have been out on the channel with everybody else. This deep-water stuff on the Tennessee River has turned into a big video game because everybody's so good at using their electronics, and that can occasionally leave some other stuff untapped. I got geared toward going shallow and just stayed there."
> Performance edge – "Probably my Lowrance unit and my Power-Poles. You can't make it work at a place like this without good electronics – even if you're fishing shallow, you need the maps to show you where everything is. And because I was fishing shallow enough to use the Power-Poles, boat positioning was real easy."
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