MANNING, S.C. - It's official: the race for the CITGO Bassmaster Angler of the Year title is Greg Hackney's to lose.

The Louisiana rookie was the highest-ranked angler in the season point standings to make Friday's cut at the CITGO Bassmaster Tour presented by Busch Beer, easily making the event's top 12 with 39 pounds, 14 ounces of bass that put him in the tournament's second place.

If Hackney finishes in eighth place or higher, he will take home the Angler of the Year trophy and a check for $111,550, plus invitations to the upcoming Bassmaster Elite 50 series and the CITGO Bassmaster Classic presented by Busch Beer. The field will cut to six after Saturday's round, so Hackney has one final do-or-die shot.

"I'm not really putting a lot of pressure on myself," Hackney said. "I mean, later in the day today I did put a lot of pressure on myself but, regardless of how it turns out, it's been awesome.

"I've been in that position (first) before in tournaments, and it's a bad place to be sitting because there's only one place you can go and it's down. You can't go any farther up. I always feel like I fish a little better when I'm down a little bit. If I'm leading a tournament, my wife always tells me, don't call her. She doesn't want to know about it. Normally, I don't do that well. I usually go down instead of up."

If Hackney finishes below eighth on Saturday, Alabama's Gerald Swindle will be crowned season points champion.

Swindle finished 39th in the tournament, adding 197 points to his previous sum of 1,129, bringing his season points total to 1,326. Eighth place in the tournament would give Hackney 268 points, bringing his previous 1,059 up to 1,327.

"It's one of those deals where the pressure is, like, at some point I just want to see what happens," Swindle said. "There's that one point where you're just like, 'Give me one more day. Give me one more day with the competitors.' In my heart, I think I can do it. I think I've fished well enough to win Angler of the Year no matter how it turns out, but I wouldn't be scared to go another day, I can tell you that."

Hackney locked up a different trophy on Friday, acing out Arkansas's Scott Suggs for the Bassmaster Rookie of the Year trophy and $10,000 prize. As Rookie of the Year, Hackney also earned a berth in the upcoming Bassmaster Elite 50 tournaments, a $1.6 million, no-entry-fee series that begins in April on Arkansas's Lake Dardanelle.

"Really, Rookie of the Year was my main goal coming into the season," Hackney said. "That was a big goal of mine, and really the main reason for that was one of the (Elite 50) tournaments is on a place that I really like."

Saturday's competition begins at 6:30 a.m. when anglers launch from John C. Land III Landing. The Top 12 weigh-in begins at 3:30 p.m. at the landing, where the BASS Sponsor Expo will go into full swing beginning at 10 a.m.

BASS is the world's largest fishing organization, sanctioning more than 20,000 tournaments worldwide through its Federation. In 2004, BASS will introduce the all-new Bassmaster Elite 50 Series, a four-event, no-entry-fee circuit featuring a $1.6 million prize purse for the world's best anglers. The CITGO Bassmaster Tournament Trail presented by Busch Beer is the oldest and most prestigious pro bass-fishing tournament circuit and continues to set the standard for credibility, professionalism and sportsmanship as it has since 1968.

Sponsors of the CITGO Bassmaster Tour presented by Busch Beer include CITGO Petroleum Corp., Busch Beer, Purolator, Triton Boats, Skeeter Boats, Mercury Marine, Yamaha Outtboards, Berkley, Abu Garcia, Lowrance Electronics, Flowmaster Exhaust Systems, Motorguide Trolling Motors, Bass Pro Shops, Progressive Insurance, and Bank One.

Associate Sponsors include G3 Boats and Bryant Heating and Cooling.

For more information, contact BASS Communications at (334) 551-2375 or visit www.bassmaster.com.