Greg Hackney Wins FLW Tour Pickwick Lake

Greg Hackney's Winning Pattern, Baits & Gear

"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. 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."


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. 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."

Winning Pattern:

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:

Cranking gear: 7'4" medium-heavy Quantum Tour KVD Cranking rod, Quantum EXO PT casting reel (6.1:1 ratio), 20-pound Gamma Edge fluorocarbon line, Strike King KVD HC 2.5 crankbait (sexy shad).

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).

Main factor: "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."

Pickwick Lake Winning Pattern Bassfan 6/10/14 (John Johnson

Michael Neal's Pattern, Baits & Gear

Tennessean Michael Neal is only 22 years old, but he's already one of the most feared ledge-fishermen on the FLW circuit. His runner-up finish was his best to date at the Tour level as he'd previously logged a pair of 3rds. He focused on five different locales - two inside a creek, two on main-river drops and one on the inside of a ditch turn. The vast majority of his fish were pulled from the 15- to 18-foot depth range. "They were eating shad up on shell beds or behind any kind of a depression where they could get a break from the current," he said. "Sometimes there were shad flying out of the water trying to get away from them. "I never did sit on a school for very long if I wasn't getting bites - I'd pull up and go. Then I'd come back later and hopefully get them to bite then." A swimbait was his primary offering, but a football-head jig produced two good fish on the final day and he got one other on a crankbait.

Swimbait gear: 7'6" heavy-action Cashion rod, Lew's BB1 Pro casting reel (6.3:1 ratio), 20-pound Sunline Super FC Sniper fluorocarbon line, 1-ounce homemade jighead, 5 1/2-inch Lunkerhunt Saltwater Swim Bento (anchovy).

Jig gear: 7'6" medium-heavy Cashion rod, Lew's Tournament Pro casting reel (7:1 ratio), same line, 1-ounce homemade football-head jig (green-pumpkin), unnamed twin-tail trailer (green-pumpkin). His lone crankbait fish was enticed by a Strike King 6XD in green gizzard.

Main factor: "Knowing when to leave those schools and not sitting on fish that weren't biting."

Performance edge: "I'd say the Cashion rods for their sensitivity in that strong wind and current."

Pickwick Lake 2-5 Patterns Bassfan 6/11/14 (John Johnson)

Brent Ehrler's Pattern, Baits & Gear

Ehrler spent almost all of his practice time graphing for schools of ledge-fish because he wanted to avoid having to seek them once the event got under way. He rotated through 10 to 15 locations on each of the first 3 days, but was down to about half a dozen by day 4. "In practice I basically just went around staring at my Humminbird (depthfinder)," he said. "I was looking for areas that had concentrations of fish. I didn't find that many giant schools, so I don't know if they were coming out there during the tournament or if some of them were suspended. I never made a cast unless I saw a fish down there (on the graph). "I like the Tennessee River-type stuff, but on a place that's going to fish pretty small you're always worried about boat pressure and other people finding the same fish and it's hard to feel real comfortable about it. I was able to grind it out and do okay, but practice wasn't spectacular and I didn't have real high hopes." He worked depths ranging from 15 to 20 feet. One place featured a rock bottom and the rest had mussel beds. He could get the fish to take reaction baits frequently. When those didn't work, he resorted to bottom-bouncing methods.

Jig gear: 7'2" heavy-action Daiwa Tatula rod, Daiwa Tatula Type R casting reel (8.1:1 ratio), 16-pound Sunline Super FC Sniper fluorocarbon line, 3/4-ounce Boss jig (green-pumpkin), Yamamoto Twin Tail trailer (green-pumpkin).

Texas-rig gear: Same rod, Daiwa Steez EX casting reel (7.9:1 ratio), 14-pound Sunline Sniper fluorocarbon, 5/16-ounce Reins tungsten weight, 5/0 Gamakatsu offset-shank hook, 10" Yamamoto Curly Tail worm. He cut the curled part off of the worm to make it resemble the Yamamoto Kut Tail Worm, which he was out of.

Dropshot gear: 7'1" medium-action Daiwa Lexa rod, Daiwa Steez 301 EX spinning reel, 12-pound Sunline SX1 braided line with 8-pound Sunline Sniper fluorocarbon leader, 1/4-ounce Reins dropshot weight, 1/0 Gamakatsu Splitshot/Dropshot hook, 6" Roboworm (morning dawn).

Cranking gear: 7'2" medium-heavy composite Daiwa Cielo rod, Daiwa Tatula casting reel (5.4:1 ratio), 10-pound Sunline FC Sniper fluorocarbon, Lucky Craft Flat CB D20 (pearl threadfin shad).

Main factor: "Running around and looking at my graph until I found fish."

Performance edge: "My Mercury (motor) for getting me around to all those places and the Humminbird for allowing me to see everything I needed to see."

Pickwick Lake 2-5 Patterns Bassfan 6/11/14 (John Johnson)

Troy Morrow's Pattern, Baits & Gear

Troy Morrow stockpiled a bunch of waypoints during practice the best ones he color-coded red on his GPS and he tagged the mediocre ones yellow. His game plan for the tournament was to never bypass a red locale that was not already occupied by one or more competitors. He stopped at a vacant red place at mid-morning on day and quickly boated all of his weight. He burned $105 worth of gas over the remainder of the day as he sought to upgrade, but was unable to do so. On day 2, he went back to that place and stayed for the duration of the derby. "It's just a big community hole with a pipeline crossing and it has some bigger rock," he said. "I just figured out the exact places where I needed to be and the exact casts I needed to make." He was limited to one side of the spot until the first cut was made because seven other anglers camped on the other side. "They were sitting on top of the fish and I didn't want to go over there and show them how to catch them. I figured I could get on it if I made the cut and it ended up working out that way." He threw a big Texas-rigged worm early in the morning and switched to a shaky-head during the mid-day lulls. He also picked up a couple of weigh-in fish on crankbaits.

Texas rig gear: 7'6" heavy-action Duckett Fishing rod, Lew's Tournament Pro casting reel (7.1:1 ratio), 20-pound Sunline Super FC Sniper fluorocarbon line, 1/2-ounce Eco Pro tungsten weight (unpegged), 6/0 Gamakatsu offset-shank hook, 10 1/2" Zoom Ol' Monster worm (California 420).

Shaky-head gear: 7' medium-heavy Duckett Fishing rod, unnamed spinning reel, 16-pound Sunline SX1 braided line, 8-pound Sunline Sniper fluorocarbon leader, unnamed 3/16-ounce shaky-head jig, Zoom Trick Worm (plum apple). One of the crankbaits he used was from the Spro Little John series. It was custom-painted to a green shad hue by Extreme Lure Creations.

Main factor: "Figuring out that I needed to stay in that one place."

Performance edge: "My electronics were a big factor. At a couple of the places I marked I dropped a camera down to see the size of the fish and that gave me a very good clue that this was a different type of spot."

Pickwick Lake 2-5 Patterns Bassfan 6/11/14 (John Johnson)

Robbie Dobson's Pattern, Baits & Gear

Robbie Dodson found about 30 places in practice that he thought had potential, but he discovered once the tournament started that only three of them weren't being pounded by other competitors. He focused his efforts on those. "Two of them were pretty shallow - 8 or 10 feet on top with a 4-foot drop," he said. "The other one was about 20 feet on top and fell of into the river channel." He did most of his work with a football-head jig - estimating that it accounted for 14 of his 20 weigh-in fish. He caught several on a worm and one on a Strike King spoon (sexy shad).

Jig gear: 7' heavy action Daiwa Light & Tough rod, Lew's Super Duty Speed Spool casting reel (6.2:1 ratio), 15-pound Maxima fluorocarbon line, 3/4-ounce PJ's Finesse Baits football-head jig (watermelon or green-pumpkin), Luck-E-Strike Ringmaster trailer.

Shaky-head gear: Same rod, reel and line, 1/4-ounce homemade jighead, Luck-E-Strike Jogger Worm (green-pumpkin).

Main factor: "Having three schools of fish with not more than a couple people fishing for them."

Performance edge: "My Lowrance HDS 8 - I used it to find every one of my fish before I caught them."

Pickwick Lake 2-5 Patterns Bassfan 6/11/14 (John Johnson)

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