Major League Fishing pro Greg Hackney

SEBASTIAN, Florida – The first words out of Greg Hackney’s mouth in the boatyard spoke volumes about the pressure cooker of a day he’d just been through.

“I can’t take it anymore!” Hackney exclaimed as he unloaded his competition boat following the first Elimination Round of the 2018 General Tire World Championship in Indian River County, Florida. “This fishing thing, it’s a love/hate thing: either you’re way high and you love it, or way low and you hate it. Today, I was as high as high can be and as low as low can be. I’m serious. I can’t take it, I’m done.”

He was joking, of course, but judging by the easygoing Louisianan’s animated expressions and body language, maybe not joking that much.

Just 45 minutes earlier, Hackney had fished his way into the WC’s Sudden Death Round thanks to a 47-pound, 5-ounce day on Stickmarsh/Farm 13; that weight gave him a two-day combined total of 74-7, which – even though it was second to Takahiro Omori’s 86-14 – turned out to be a comfortable 12-plus-pound cushion over Edwin Evers for the second of two Sudden Death berths.

But as the Louisiana native’s anxiety level clearly demonstrated, the day was far from easy.

Hackney had started the morning with some hearty ground to make up after the first Shotgun Round 48 hours earlier, a day in which he had caught 27 pounds, 2 ounces to lag behind Evers (37-12), Omori (35-6), Ish Monroe (35-3) and Jeff Kriet (30-5).

As the morning unfolded, it was clear that Hackney was on the right pattern as he scored four of the first six bass of the day to make up 8-15 in the first 30 minutes of competition.

But then Hackney’s bite stalled, and all he could do for the next two hours was keep flipping a jig while Evers and Monroe chipped away, and while Omori up the SCORETRACKER with 14-5 in one 30-minute flurry.

“Takahiro was on ‘em, and I was not,” Hackney said of his mid-morning lag, shaking his head.

Hackney eventually broke out with a 5-15 and a 4-14, and finished out by catching six of the final 12 fish of the day to finally open up the distance between himself and Evers. He ended the afternoon with 20 fish for 47-5, more than doubling Evers’ weight for the round.

But not before a few more grey hairs had shown up in Hackney’s beard.

“You can’t imagine the stress of grinding my teeth, listening to every single fish that Edwin and Takahiro caught,” he said. “We have how many more rounds left, two? I can’t imagine those being any more stressful that what I just went through.”