By BassFan Staff

Greg Hackney was fairly ticked off earlier this summer when he didn't qualify for the Forrest Wood Cup. Now he thinks that failure, which stemmed from a 138th-place finish in the FLW Tour finale at Kentucky Lake, might've been for the best.

He's won a Cup before, back in 2009, and also an FLW Angler of the Year title 4 years prior to that. He's never won a B.A.S.S. AOY, though, and his victory on Sunday at the Cayuga Lake Bassmaster Elite Series put him a huge step closer to achieving that milestone.

Had he competed in the Cup the week before at South Carolina's Lake Murray (which was right on the heels of the Elite event at the Delaware River) and been forced to make a long, hurried drive to western New York for an abbreviated practice, winning at Cayuga might not have been possible.

"I've thought about that and I hate to say it because I really would've liked to have been there, but I guess it's okay that I didn't make it," he said. "When I had that bad tournament at Beaver (the final event of a 6-week marathon for the two-tour pros), I was burnt out.

"I'm older now (40) and those back-to-back deals can be rough."

With a week of rest, he was dominant at Cayuga. He held a lead of only 10 ounces over Todd Faircloth going into the final day, but caught a tournament-best 23-15 sack to win going away with a 4-day total of 85-00.

Two of his four stringers in the derby topped 23 pounds. Nobody else managed more than 21 1/2.

His second tour-level triumph of 2014 (he also won the FLW stop at Pickwick) boosted his AOY lead from 1 point to 15 heading into next month's championship tournament. Only 50 anglers (less than half of the regular-season field) will compete there and the winner will receive a maximum of 50 points, so Hackney can lock everybody else out by finishing 15th or better.

Faircloth, who shared a primary area throughout the event with 3rd-place finisher Chris Zaldain, managed just 15-06 on day 4. That allowed him to retain his hold on 2nd place, but he ended up more than 9 pounds behind Hackney with a 75-13 aggregate.

Zaldain fared a bit better as he caught an 18 1/2-pound sack to claim 3rd with 74-12. Next was Edwin Evers, whose 19-13 haul pushed him up four places to 4th with 72-09.

Jared Lintner rounded out the Top 5 as he capped off a rock-solid regular campaign with a 17-10 bag for a 71-06 total.

Here are the final numbers for the remainder of the Top 12:

6. Jacob Powroznik: 70-11
7. Brent Chapman: 69-13
8. Brandon Palaniuk: 69-00
9. Kevin Short: 67-10
10. Matt Herren: 66-00
11. Dean Rojas: 64-13
12. Paul Elias: 59-00

The AOY Championship will take place Sept. 18-21 in the smallmouth-rich waters of the Bays de Noc in Michigan. None of the four Michigan residents on the circuit will compete as Kevin VanDam, Jonathon VanDam, Nate Wellman and Chad Pipkens all finished between 53rd and 66th in the regular-season points.

Veteran Terry Scroggins secured the final slot for that event. First out was Fred Roumbanis, whose slide from 12th to 21st on day 3 at Cayuga dropped him below the cutoff.

BassFan
Photo: BassFan

Todd Faircloth's best spot only surrendered on good fish on the morning of day 4.

Hackney's closest pursuer in the points chase is defending AOY Aaron Martens. Faircloth is another 2 points back, then it's a 24-point drop down to Powroznik and Keith Combs, who are tied for 4th. In addition to that quintet, Mark Davis is the only other competitor with even a mathematical chance at the crown.

Near-Perfect Day for Hackney

> Day 4: 5, 23-15 (19, 85-00)

Hackney joined Brett Hite as anglers who won events on both tours this year.

"It's awesome," he said. "Both of them were really special. It's not a totally unique thing, but it's not something that happens all the time."

He went into the day with just a bit of trepidation after catching less than 18 pounds on day 3. He was hoping that lighter haul could be written off to the stiff south wind that blew Saturday, but there was also the possibility that he'd fished out his best area.

He dispelled that fear when he boxed 20 pounds by 8 o'clock and had all of his weight before 11. His sack included a bruiser that registered 6-02.

"I said this morning that it was between me and Faircloth – whoever caught the biggest bag was going to win. I caught a couple 3-pounders and even a 4 later today that didn't help me and when I looked through my fish, I knew it was going to be hard to beat me.

"The day really couldn't have gone any better. For the way I was fishing, the conditions were just perfect."

He flipped a Strike King Hack Attack jig to grass-oriented fish in 14 to 17 feet of water. Full details of his winning pattern, as well as those of the other top finishers, will be published in the coming days.

2nd: Faircloth not Down

> Day 4: 5, 15-06 (20, 75-13)

Faircloth came within one spot of claiming his fifth career Eltie Series win, but his disappointment was mitigated by Hackney's massive bag.

"I'd prefer to get beat by pounds instead of ounces," he said. "That makes it a lot easier to swallow. Hackney really showed out today."

He pulled only one good fish on day 4 from the locale he shared with Zaldain throughout the event. He hit a handful of secondary places and boated at least 20 keepers, but his quality was way down from the previous 3 days when he caught just over 20 pounds.

"Those other places are very similar, but they're just not quite as deep as the first spot," he said.

His weigh-in fish were all enticed by either a Strike King 5XD crankbait or a Texas-rigged Strike King Cutter Worm.

BassFan
Photo: BassFan

Chris Zaldain's 3rd-place finish qualified him for the AOY Championship.

3rd: Zaldain Delivered

> Day 4: 5, 18-08 (20, 74-12)

Zaldain came in at No. 63 in the points and knew he needed a single-digit finish to make the AOY Championship. He got it.

"My back was against the wall," he said. "I made sure I was the first boat in the lot every morning (during practice). I spent 15-hour days graphing grasslines and figuring out what I needed to do under different conditions.

"By the time the tournament started I felt like I already had an edge."

He went through about 18 keepers and the five he took to the scale were all between 3 1/2 and 4 pounds. He didn't lose a bite all day.

"Todd was in 2nd place in the tournament and 2nd in the points and I wanted to kind of give him his space and I think that worked to my benefit. We'd put such a hurtin' on those fish the last 3 days and I thought maybe some had moved out, so I went out a little deeper and just dropshotted the edges."

His dropshot bait was a Strike King ElazTech Super Finesse Worm.

4th: Evers Climbs Again

> Day 4: 5, 19-13 (20, 72-09)

Evers was in 43rd place in the points – well below where the Classic cutoff will eventually fall – coming into the two August events. His 13th at the Delaware River and this finish have pushed him all the way up to 16th.

"That was a long time to be sitting all the way down there," he said, referring to the 2 1/2-month break between points events. "I'm real happy to move up the standings."

He fished a lot of new water on day 4 and boated 10 keepers, the best of which weighed 4 1/2 pounds. He lost a couple that would've pushed his sack past the 20-pound mark.

He caught all of his weigh-in fish flipping a Zoom Z-Hog to milfoil.

5th: Another Good One for Lintner

> Day 4: 5, 17-10 (20, 71-06)

Lintner ended up at No. 7 on the final regular-season points. He concluded 2013 in 79th.

"It's been a good year and the thing I've liked most about it is I've had a good time," he said. "I'm fishing the way I like to fish and I'm not in a panic to get over here and do this or get over there and do that. I'm trusting my instincts.

"Everybody out here knows how to cast and skip and do all that stuff, but the mental part is something that doesn't get talked about a lot. When you're having a good time and fishing the way you like to fish, good things happen. I've taken that approach in every tournament and it's worked out.

He had a limit that included a 6-pounder prior to 8 o'clock and figured he might be headed toward a huge day.

"I thought I was just going to kill them because I hadn't even gone to flip the grass where I'd caught some big ones in practice and on a couple days in the tournament. I don't know what happened, but it didn't happen."

He flipped a jig and a plastic craw and also caught weigh-in fish on a Senko.

Notable

> Day 4 stats – 12 anglers, 11 limits, 1 three.

Day 4 (Final) Standings

1. Greg Hackney -- Gonzales, LA -- 19, 85-00 -- 100 -- $105,500
Day 1: 5, 20-05 -- Day 2: 5, 23-01 -- Day 3: 4, 17-11 -- Day 4: 5, 23-15

2. Todd Faircloth -- Jasper, TX -- 20, 75-13 -- 99 -- $25,000
Day 1: 5, 20-02 -- Day 2: 5, 20-02 -- Day 3: 5, 20-03 -- Day 4: 5, 15-06

3. Chris Zaldain -- San Jose, CA -- 20, 74-12 -- 98 -- $20,000
Day 1: 5, 15-12 -- Day 2: 5, 21-08 -- Day 3: 5, 19-00 -- Day 4: 5, 18-08

4. Edwin Evers -- Talala, OK -- 20, 72-09 -- 97 -- $15,000
Day 1: 5, 19-12 -- Day 2: 5, 19-05 -- Day 3: 5, 13-11 -- Day 4: 5, 19-13

5. Jared Lintner -- Arroyo Grande, CA -- 20, 71-06 -- 96 -- $14,000
Day 1: 5, 17-00 -- Day 2: 5, 19-06 -- Day 3: 5, 17-06 -- Day 4: 5, 17-10

6. Jacob Powroznik -- Port Haywood, VA -- 20, 70-11 -- 95 -- $15,000
Day 1: 5, 20-04 -- Day 2: 5, 18-10 -- Day 3: 5, 16-13 -- Day 4: 5, 15-00

7. Brent Chapman -- Lake Quivira, KS -- 20, 69-13 -- 94 -- $13,000
Day 1: 5, 19-01 -- Day 2: 5, 17-06 -- Day 3: 5, 17-13 -- Day 4: 5, 15-09

8. Brandon Palaniuk -- Hayden, ID -- 20, 69-00 -- 93 -- $12,500
Day 1: 5, 20-10 -- Day 2: 5, 16-05 -- Day 3: 5, 17-08 -- Day 4: 5, 14-09

9. Kevin Short -- Mayflower, AR -- 20, 67-10 -- 92 -- $12,000
Day 1: 5, 19-06 -- Day 2: 5, 19-14 -- Day 3: 5, 12-00 -- Day 4: 5, 16-06

10. Matt Herren -- Ashville, AL -- 20, 66-00 -- 91 -- $11,500
Day 1: 5, 18-11 -- Day 2: 5, 15-12 -- Day 3: 5, 17-00 -- Day 4: 5, 14-09

11. Dean Rojas -- Lake Havasu City, AZ -- 20, 64-13 -- 90 -- $11,000
Day 1: 5, 16-01 -- Day 2: 5, 16-12 -- Day 3: 5, 18-10 -- Day 4: 5, 13-06

12. Paul Elias -- Laurel, MS -- 17, 59-00 -- 89 -- $10,500
Day 1: 5, 17-01 -- Day 2: 4, 15-04 -- Day 3: 5, 19-01 -- Day 4: 3, 07-10