Last week at the Forest L. Wood Cup (FLW Championship), Hackney got off to a slow start, catching only three fish for around 3 pounds. On Day Two he changed his game plan and found some monster smallmouth — by Pittsburgh standards — near a wing dam in some current.
Two bass that weighed more than 3 pounds each pushed Hackney from 35th place to first with an 11-pound, 12-ounce sack. It was the only double-digit bag weighed in the whole event.
Hackney boated the two big smallies on a rock ledge behind a dam with some current in the Allegheny River. He used a 1/4-ounce Strike King Spinner bait for most of his fish. But Hackney said he used several other lures, including a buzzbait, a stick-work 3-inch shad and a drop-shot rig.
The fishing was not all that tough on the anglers, but catching a keeper bass was. The final day saw Hackney with a five-bass limit that weighed only 5-pounds, 6-ounces. The math is pretty simple on that average.
Hackney squeaked by second place finisher Mike Iaconelli, a New Jersey pro, by only 3 ounces. Iaconelli had a five-bass limit on the final day for a whopping 4-pounds, 10-ounces. This was his second time to finish second in a major championship.
For his win, Hackney took home a check for $500,000. FLW offers another $500,000 as a bonus to Ranger owners who win the Cup, however, Hackney is sponsored by Triton. Arkansas' Scott Suggs was bass fishing's first million dollar winner in 2007 at the FLW Championship in his home state. This year, Suggs had another shot, but he ended up in fourth.
Several folks have asked me why they hold a major tournament where the fish are little and the fishing is so tough. I think back in 2005, when the Classic was in Pittsburgh, BASS took a chance on bass fishing fans and they turned out in record numbers. This year, FLW saw similar numbers with the fans, and that makes the event more exciting.
Some anglers said they prefer the tougher bite and actually do better than in a slugfest where everyone is catching a bunch of fish. While the weights might have been small, the anticipation and changes on the leaderboard made for a trilling tournament.
The three Alabama anglers in the event did not fair well. Craig Dowling hit the 46th place and Scott Canterbury and Greg Pugh finished 65th and 67th, respectively.
And next year, the Cup Championship will be on Georgia's Lake Lanier, with the weigh-ins in Atlanta. Lanier is known for some big spotted bass, as well as rush hour boat traffic every day.