Hackney, of Gonzales, took the lead of the four-day tournament on Sam Rayburn Reservoir with 22 pounds, 2 ounces. VanDam of Kalamazoo was right behind him with 22-1.
Their performance, as well as the other 103 Elite anglers will be featured on ESPN2’s The CITGO Bassmasters on Saturday, March 25, at 10 a.m. ET.
Hackney, who catches an average of 31 pounds, 5 ounces per tournament and is fourth on the Bassmaster Elite Series Power Index, and was the 2004 Toyota Rookie of the Year, said he’s missing his wife Julie and three young children, but knows he has a job to do out on the road. “My wife takes care of everything and all I do is fish,” he said. “I have it made.”
Hackney made his creel Thursday– which was the BUSCH Heavyweight Bag of the Day – in one of four locations he had planned to rotate before finding success in the first he visited.
Two-time CITGO Bassmaster Classic winner Kevin VanDam couldn’t spend much time relishing in his second-place position. He instead wanted to call his wife and twin sons to check in on his family.
VanDam, who leads the Power Index and is generally regarded as one of the best power fishermen in the world, brought in 22-1. He said he made more than 1,000 casts to bring in the weight, but finding that strength was much easier than dealing with his bout of homesickness.
“I miss my family tremendously,” said the all-time BASS money winner. “I talk to them at least five times before launch and then again once I’m back in. My family is very into what I do.”
Though VanDam is a well-seasoned tour veteran, he’s spending one month away from his home and family in Kalamazoo, Mich., a longer stint than ever before. VanDam was in Del Rio, Texas, last week to kick off the first Elite Series event, where he placed sixth. He’s fishing the Lone Star Shootout now and will drive directly to South Carolina for the Santee-Cooper Showdown presented by MotorGuide at the end of March.
Meanwhile, VanDam’s wife and business manager Sherry is deep into tax season and his 9-year-old sons Jackson and Nicolas are beginning little league baseball. “It’s really hard, but it’s something we’ve got to do,” he said.
Michael Iaconelli of New Jersey was in third with 21-8. Iaconelli, who fished the middle of the lake for deep pre-spawning fishing in the morning, said he, too, was homesick for his daughters, Drew and Riley. The girls wait for their nightly call from Iaconelli, who is more interested in hearing about the family’s pet cats than telling them how he performed on the water. “Getting home to see my girls is better than winning a tournament, but I can tell you that right now, I’m in the zone,” said Iaconelli, who is set on the winning the CITGO Bassmaster Angler of the Year award. Iaconelli also is ranked third on the Power Index, catching an average of 31 pounds, 6 ounces per tournament.
Dean Rojas of Lake Havasu, Ariz., took fourth with 21 pounds. He said he’s fished Sam Rayburn nearly a dozen times before, but this was his heaviest sack of the visits. He targeted both the main lake as well as smaller creeks to catch his limit. “Now it’s a matter of going out and doing it again tomorrow,” he said.
Other Elite anglers agreed.
Rick Clunn of Missouri, Ray Sedgwick of South Carolina and Jimmy Mize of Arkansas all brought in sacks in the 12-to 14-pound range and hoped those performances would boost them Friday and help make tomorrow evening’s cut, when only the top 50 anglers continue to fish on Saturday. After Day 3, the field is cut to the Elite 12.
“Big Show” Terry Scoggins, who is eighth on the Power Index and catches an average of 26-6 per tournament, said he was “disgusted” after fighting for an hour with a nearly 4-pound fish that he hooked outside the mouth while sight-fishing. Scoggins, adhering to BASS rules, had to throw the bass back. He was in 19th place with 18-3 at the end of the tournament. “I’m still upset about it,” he said.
Co-anglers also worked the lake today, with Chad Kallina of Texas leading the pack with 12-11. Tri Brewer of Louisiana followed with 11-3; Steven Oliver of California was in third with 11; Howard Stephens of South Carolina was in fourth with 10-5; and Texan Rick Hill rounded out the top five with 9-12.
In that mix was Robbie Floyd, a well-known personality on ESPN2’s BASS Saturday. At his first-ever tournament, Floyd weighed one fish 1-4, good enough for 94th place. He said fishing with Battle on the Border winner and friend Ish Monroe was helpful. “I like the West Coast style of fishing we have,” he said. Floyd will appear on the new, upcoming ESPN2 show ESPN Mad Fin Shark Series, which chronicles catch and release shark fishing in Key West, Fla.
Lastly, Kelly Jordon of Mineola, Texas, brought in the Purolator Big Bass weighing 8-3 and earning him a bonus of $1,000.
Local sponsors: Local sponsors include the Jasper-Lake Sam Rayburn Area Chamber of Commerce.
CITGO Bassmaster Elite Series sponsors: Sponsors of the CITGO Bassmaster Elite Series include CITGO Petroleum Corp., Toyota, Busch Beer, Purolator, Triton Boats, Mercury Marine, Berkley, Lowrance Electronics, MotorGuide, Advanced Auto Parts and Theraseed®.
BASS is the worldwide authority on bass fishing, sanctioning more than 20,000 events through the BASS Federation annually. Guided by its mission to serve all fishing fans, BASS sets the standard for credibility, professionalism, sportsmanship and conservation, as it has for nearly 40 years.
BASS stages bass fishing tournaments for every skill level and culminates with the CITGO Bassmaster Classic. Through its clubs, youth programs, aquatic resource advocacy, magazine publishing and multimedia platforms, BASS offers the industry's widest array of services and support to its nearly 550,000 members. The organization is headquartered in Celebration, Fla.
For more information, contact BASS Communications at (407) 566-2208 or visit www.bassmaster.com.