FLORENCE, Ala. – It was show time all day long for Gonzales, La., pro Greg Hackney. The former Forrest Wood Cup champ and FLW millionaire is dialed in on two pieces of structure that are holding schools of Pickwick Lake’s biggest brutes, and through a series of high-intensity flurries, primarily on his first spot, Hackney sacked up a limit of fish that pushed the scale to a staggering 31 pounds, 6 ounces. His two-day total is 53-10. Hackney was tossing back 4-pounders – without even comparing them to the fish in his livewell – before he finally took his foot off the gas today. He now has a 6-pound, 1-ounce two-day lead at the Walmart FLW Tour’s fifth stop, which is presented by Straight Talk Wireless and hosted by the Florence/Lauderdale Tourism Bureau.
“I can’t even explain it,” says Hackney of his day today. “It started slow. I was catching little ones. When I started catching the big ones, they were way bigger than yesterday. When I caught 25 pounds, I thought, ‘I’ll just stay put and see if I can catch 30.’ And then they fired one more time.
“The only other time I’ve found a school better than that was at Falcon, when I set the three-day weight record,” adds Hackney, who set the record with 109-6 at the FLW Series East/West Fish-Off in 2008. Hackney’s original goal this week was to lean on his schools as hard as he could for two days in order to earn as many Angler of the Year points as he could, in hopes of qualifying for the Forrest Wood Cup. He’s accomplished that goal today, and by leaving his school biting, it appears he’s going to have a strong shot at doing a lot more than just make up ground in the standings (he was 37th coming into this event). He has two primary spots and actually located a couple more late in the day today. However, he’s refined his program so well on his primary spot, and has the angle of the cast dialed in so precisely, that Hackney’s not even making “the cast” until he knows the school has turned active. Understandably, Hackney wasn’t revealing all the details of what triggers the school to bite, but he did say that shad sliding up on the spot is very important to getting things started. He’s sitting a long cast away, and when the action starts, he’s using two lures to capitalize. “There’s a way to catch the bigger ones, and I’m hoping I figured it out,” Hackney says. “When it goes down, it is the most awesome fishing. It happens really fast.” There are a couple of other location-based keys to Hackney’s system. First, he hasn’t needed current to activate his fish, something that has helped him keep the action alive during slack periods. In fact, today he quit fishing early and was done before the current ever started flowing. Second, he’s fishing subtle, overlooked main-lake areas that have had very little angler pressure beyond what he’s applying. “They’re on a place they probably shouldn’t be,” says Hackney. “I think that’s what saved them [from the pressure]. I’ve not caught a fish that I caught before, or that’s been caught before by anyone else. Getting on that out-of-the-way stuff is very important.” Throughout his various flurries of activity, Hackney worked through 25 to 30 keepers. When he hit what he estimates was about 25 pounds, he still had a pair of 4-pounders in his livewell. Knowing he could cull out those “little ones,” he decided to mash the gas just a little bit farther. Did he lean on his fish too hard today to stay at the top through the weekend? When asked, Hackney responded with a modest answer of uncertainty, but he was talking through a grin that suggests the Hack Attack Show has only just begun.
2nd place – Michael Neal – 47 pounds, 9 ounces Michael Neal might have jinxed himself this afternoon by predicting that he’s going to continue to waylay Pickwick’s ledge bass this weekend, but if his luck holds up he’s in the best position to try and run down Hackney in what is fast becoming a heavyweight showdown. Today, Neal weighed 24 pounds, 9 ounces to push his two-day total to 47-9. “I’ve found some spots that are off the wall, or a little away from some of the community holes,” Neal says. “Like I said yesterday, they’re called community holes for a reason: They hold big fish. Hopefully tomorrow I can get on some of the community stuff, in addition to my other stuff. “I’m fishing for fish that haven’t been messed with,” he adds. “It [his program] is a little bit different. We’ll have to see if he [Hackney] can do it again. I laid off my fish around 11. It shouldn’t be a problem catching 20 pounds the next two days.” Neal is focusing on five key spots, but with only 20 boats on the lake tomorrow, there’s a lot more real estate open for him to fish. And now that he can pull in on any community ledge and idle around freely until he locates fish, Neal is confident he can find the schools, set up quickly and commence with the catching. Of course, getting access to community ledges also hinges on amount of local boat traffic over the weekend, and there are other factors important to igniting the bite. For instance, an increase in current flow, says Neal, is what helped produce a lot of the big weights we saw today. The sophomore pro is sticking with his usual collection of ledge-fishing lures this week, including a Lunkerhunt swimbait. More important than lure, however, is understanding how to ignite the school and make them bite. “Once you can get one bite and catch it, you’re in good shape,” Neal says. “Then you can catch more.”
3rd place – Brent Ehrler – 45 pounds, 13 ounces Current – it’s what Brent Ehrler identified as the key to the hot bite today that helped 14 of the top 20 anglers surpass the 40-pound two-day mark. It’s also what helped Ehrler sack up the second-heaviest limit of the tournament so far. His 26-pound, 6-ounce limit today propelled him to a two-day total of 45 pounds, 13 ounces. “Something was going on,” he says. “The fishing should’ve gotten worse because of the pressure, but it [the current] started flowing and they started biting.” Ehrler caught a limit on his first spot then proceeded to cull four of those fish by running and gunning on a series of 15 to 20 spots – and he’s saved more for the weekend. Just being able to run was important for Ehrler today. Yesterday, he was nursing a damaged outboard, caused by something he collided with, and he wasn’t confident making a big run. Today, his rig ran in tip-top form, so he was able to hit a few areas he’d been saving and fine-tune his presentations. However, throwing a specific lure really wasn’t all that important. “Today you could pull up and catch them on the first cast,” he says. “It seemed like whichever bait you threw first would get a bite.” Ehrler is among the group of pros targeting out-of-the-way spots this week. In fact, yesterday he fished all alone. Today, he saw a little more traffic, but that shouldn’t be an issue on the weekend. The reduced field can only help his bite. “If a spot rests, it seems like you can come back and catch them,” he says. “If you pull in right after someone, you might have to work awhile to get them to bite.” Considering that Ehrler was culling 4-pounders today, if his bite improves and he has access to more schools, he just might make a weekend run at the title.
4th place – Jason Quinn – 43 pounds, 1 ounce At 141st in the AOY standings, Jason Quinn is out of the running for making the Forrest Wood Cup on Lake Murray in his home state of South Carolina. However, if his insinuation after weigh-in today is spot on, Quinn could cashing a six-figure check this week in Alabama. “They’re replenishing,” he told reporters with a smile when describing the schools of bass he found this week. “They keep coming. I haven’t hurt them at all. I left them biting.” Adding to Quinn’s excitement is that he’s fishing all alone. He’s targeting ledges, but what he calls “inside ledges,” or “backside ledges.” In other words, he’s not on the community holes where everyone else was playing bumper boats this week. Also of note is that Quinn’s bass have been biting all day, current or no current. He’s been heaving big baits in search of big bass, and it’s worked so far. He caught 25 pounds, 5 ounces today. The big ones are mixed in with schools of 3-pounders, so he’s around plenty of keepers, but it’ll take two giant bags this weekend to make up the 10-pound, 9-ounce deficit that separates him from Hackney.
5th place – Troy Hollowell – 42 pounds, 10 ounces Troy Hollowell has a magic spot, and it produced a giant bass for him again today. Hollowell caught a 9-pound, 1-ounce bass off the spot on day one, then landed an 8-pounder in the middle of a thunderstorm on the same place at the end of the day today, using the same casting angle and location. “There’s one big bite there every time,” he says. “I don’t have a clue why.” The big bite contributed to a 22-pound, 14-ounce limit, and Hollowell is excited for his prospects tomorrow. “They’re everywhere,” he says of Pickwick’s bass. “This is a phenomenal lake. “Yesterday I stayed put because I was boat No. 1,” he adds. “Today I ran around a little.” The increase in fishing spots was in reaction to the fishing pressure that many of Hollowell’s schools have received this week, which is also the reason why he waited out the afternoon storm that sent many of his competitors back to weigh-in early. “You have to take advantage of everything you can, like the storm,” he says. “It helped me. That storm’s when the big ones bit.” Tomorrow, Hollowell plans to hit some of the other stuff he’s not been able to get on all week – he’s only fished half his waypoints. His goal is to have fun, to wrench on some of Pickwick’s eager schools and just maybe to pull another pig off his favorite big-fish spot.
The rest of the best 6th place – Michael Wooley – 41 pounds, 13 ounces 7th place – Casey Ashley – 41 pounds, 8 ounces 8th place – Steve Kennedy – 41 pounds, 6 ounces 9th place – Randy Haynes – 41 pounds, 3 ounces 10th place – Shad Schenck – 40 pounds, 12 ounces Jacobs jumps into co-angler lead
One lure has been the hands-down favorite among co-anglers plying Pickwick Lake’s ledges this week, and day-two leader John Jacobs of Birmingham, Ala., is on the bandwagon. He caught 17 pounds, 6 ounces today by slowly dragging a big football jig. Jacobs’ two-day total stands at 35-8, giving him a slim 4-ounce lead over Brandon Edel of Hendersonville, Ky., who weighed in the heaviest co-angler limit of the tournament thus far – 20-13. Jacobs capitalized on an early bite window to take over the lead. “I had my keepers at 10:30,” Jacobs says. “I caught two or three other fish but never got to cull. “I slowed down,” he adds. “I was throwing a big jig, and when I got a bite, it was a good one. I started with a worm, but I was catching too many short fish with it.” Dragging a jig is one of Jacobs’ go-to techniques, and he has no intentions of changing it up for the weekend. If he’s going to with this one, it’ll be a slow drag – his jig presentation, that is – that makes it happen.
Co-angler top 10
1st place – John Jacobs – 35 pounds, 8 ounces 2nd place – Brandon Edel – 35 pounds, 4 ounces 3rd place – Grayson Smith – 32 pounds, 7 ounces 4th place – Daniel Buswell – 31 pounds, 11 ounces 5th place – Cody Kelley – 31 pounds, 9 ounces 6th place – Chad Randles – 31 pounds, 9 ounces 7th place – Braxton Setzer – 30 pounds, 2 ounces 8th place – Kyle Monti – 30 pounds, 2 ounces 9th place – David Lauer – 29 pounds 10th place – JP Sims – 28 pounds, 13 ounces
Editor's note: Co-angler Alan Woodford and pro Rich Dalbey lost credit for their day-two weight due to an inadvertent violation of Walmart FLW Tour Rule 13. Woodford, who was originally listed in ninth place in the day-two standings, returned to weigh-in with both anglers' fish while Dalbey stayed with a broken-down boat. Woodford unintentionally mis-marked his fish. Rule 13 states: "Contestants must leave and return to the check-in by boat. The boat must remain in the tournament waters during the tournament day. No tournament boat may be loaded on a trailer before the weigh-in except with the permission of the tournament director. In the event of equipment failure or emergency the tournament director must be notified as soon as it is safe to do so. There are then two permitted methods of returning to the check-in: (1) by both paired anglers remaining in their boat and being towed by water, or (2) with permission from the tournament director, by one or both paired anglers entering the boat of another tournament contestant. Under these two conditions both contestants’ catches may be counted without a penalty (except for late penalties, dead-fish penalties or other penalties pertaining to other tournament rules) provided that the co-angler’s fish are adequately marked so as to provide clear distinction of the pro’s catch and the co-angler’s catch to the tournament director. Contestants who elect to return to the check-in by any other means than cited above will forfeit their day’s catch to that point in time of the tournament day." Complete results For complete results, click here. Bridgford Big Bass winners Pro: Bill Day – 9 pounds, 8 ounces Co-angler: Chad Randles – 7 pounds, 7 ounces Competition format In Walmart FLW Tour competition, pros and co-anglers are randomly paired each day, with pros supplying the boat, controlling boat movement and competing against other pros. Co-anglers fish from the back deck against other co-anglers. The full field competes in the two-day opening round. After day two the field is pared to the top 20 pros and co-anglers. The co-angler competition concludes at Saturday’s weigh-in, and the top 10 pros continue competition Sunday, with the winner determined by the heaviest accumulated weight from all four days. For more coverage For those who can’t catch the weigh-in action in person, FLWOutdoors.com offers FLW Live, an online application that brings fans real-time weigh-in results, streaming video and audio. In addition to FLW Live, FLWOutdoors.com offers real-time updates from the water. Simply click on the tournament ID within the “On the Water” banner at the top of the FLW or Walmart FLW Tour home pages. Walmart FLW Tour event information Takeoff Location: McFarland Park, 200 James M. Spain Drive, Florence, Ala. Time: 6:30 a.m. Weekend weigh-ins Location: Walmart, 2701 Cloverdale Road, Florence, Ala. Time: 4 p.m. FLW Expo Date: Saturday and Sunday, June 7-8 Location: Walmart, 2701 Cloverdale Road, Florence, Ala. Time: noon to 4 p.m. Admission: FREE Free Concert: See country star Chris Janson live in concert Sunday at 3 p.m. Admission is free. Follow FLW For regular updates, photos, tournament news and more, follow the Walmart FLW Tour on Facebook at Facebook.com/FLWFishing and on Twitter at Twitter.com/FLWFishing.