NATCHEZ, Mississippi – It’s the afternoon before competition in the second Sudden Death Round of the 2018 Lucas Oil Challenge Cup, and Greg Hackney is engaged in an animated discussion in the boat yard. Hackney – who has the day off to prepare for the next round – is running down the list of the eight other anglers he’ll face the following morning on Lake Bruin, and the names on the list have stirred up some spirited conversation.
“Have you seen the list?” Hackney asks as he scrolls through the official email on his phone. “Did (Major League Fishing commissioner) Don Rucks do this on purpose, just stack the field with these guys?”
Admittedly, “These guys” is a pretty astounding list of anglers: Hackney, Kevin VanDam, Skeet Reese, Jason Christie, Edwin Evers, Jacob Wheeler, Brent Ehrler, Takahiro Omori and Kelly Jordon. All told, those nine anglers have accounted for 10 Angler of the Year Awards (B.A.S.S. and FLW), eight Bassmaster Classic wins, two Forrest Wood Cups and seven MLF victories.
They’ve piled up a total of nearly $28 million in tournament winnings, and own four of the top seven spots in the list of all-time money winners on the Bassmaster Elite Series and FLW Tour.
“You go down this list and think to yourself ‘This is the best group of guys to ever fish a single-day competition’,” says VanDam, who has over $6.7 in tournament winnings and eight AOY awards on his resume. “We’ve had some pretty outstanding MLF rounds over the years, but, man, this group is really special. Everybody here loves to compete – well, this round is about as competitive as you can get.”
2018 LUCAS OIL CHALLENGE CUP SUDDEN DEATH ROUND 2
1. Kevin Van Dam: $6,382,476 B.A.S.S.; $370,950 FLW = $6,753,426 (4 Bassmaster Classics, 7 Elite Series AOYs, 1 FLW AOY, 2 MLF wins)
TOTAL CASH WINNINGS $27,550,705; 8 Bassmaster Classics; 2 Forrest Wood Cups; 10 AOYs; 7 MLF events