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Classic qualification made easy ... sort of

With the completion of the 2014 Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year Championship, 48 of the 56 Bassmaster Classic berths for Lake Hartwell, Feb. 20-22, 2015, are in the books. Remaining are one spot from the final Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Southern Open presented by Allstate (to be decided on Oct. 4), six spots from the B.A.S.S. Nation Championship (Nov. 8) and one spot from the Bassmaster Team Series (Dec. 13).Classic qualifiers come from seven sources.Defending Champion(s)Randy Howell Cliff PaceOrdinarily, only one defending Classic champ has a berth in the Classic, and it would be Randy Howell, who won earlier this year. The 2013 champ, Cliff Pace, however, was unable to defend his title after suffering a hunting injury that forced him to sit out the Elite Series season. As a result, he'll be back in the Classic in 2015. What's more, Pace finished second to Alton Jones at the 2008 Classic on Hartwell, so he'll certainly be one of the pre-tournament favorites.Elite WinnersBrett Hite Chris Lane Mike McClelland Jacob Powroznik Jason Christie Jacob Wheeler Michael Iaconelli Greg HackneyWheeler isn't fishing the Elite Series, but he won BASSfest on Chickamauga Lake and fished the full season of Northern Opens to earn his spot.Top-Ranking Anglers in the AOY StandingsThe top 29 anglers in the AOY race all earn a berth in the Classic. You've seen some of these names already above.Greg Hackney Todd Faircloth Jacob Powroznik Aaron Martens Mark Davis Keith Combs Skeet Reese Jared Lintner Dean Rojas Casey Ashley Justin Lucas Chris Lane Randall Tharp Gerald Swindle Jason Christie Matt Herren Brandon Palaniuk Chad Morgenthaler John Crews David Walker Scott Rook Edwin Evers Paul Elias Cliff Crochet Michael Iaconelli Mike McClelland James Niggemeyer Brandon Lester Randy Howell

Hackney survives a brutal wait off the water to win AOY

his was like some evil psychological experiment: Take the man who is leading the Bassmaster Elite Series Toyota Angler of the Year race and, after one day on Lake Michigan, put him in a hotel room for three days before he can fish again.

Greg Hackney was the lab rat for this test. He barely survived.

"The break was killing me," said Hackney, after he – finally – won the AOY title Monday in Escanaba, Mich. "I thought I was getting sick one day. I don't know what day it was; we were off so many."

For three days, Hackney was as nervous as a fish out of water. It was Friday when his mental health got its first big test. Hackney didn't start the scheduled three-day tournament like he'd hoped. He caught 18 pounds, which put him in 21st place, on Thursday.

Entering the event, Aaron Martens and Todd Faircloth had the best chances of overtaking Hackney for the AOY title. Martens was 15 points behind and Faircloth was 17 points back.

And on Day 1, Faircloth made a move. His five-bass limit of 20 pounds, 2 ounces put him in 7th place and gave him a real chance to overtake Hackney.

That’s what Hackney had to sleep on Thursday night. He was already uptight. All the Top 50 anglers had their boats in the water Friday when high southerly winds – the worst possible on Lake Michigan's Bays de Noc – caused cancellation of the day.

"I went and ate breakfast," Hackney said. "About 1 o'clock I felt like I could take a nap. I don't nap because I typically don't get a chance to nap. I go sound to sleep and wake up about 3 o'clock."

Hackney had a dream during his nap. Everyone has had a dream like this, where you wake up in a cold sweat. It might be the one where snakes are slithering toward you, and you can't move. Or it might be the one where you're being chased by evil men with guns, and you're running in slow motion. Whatever. None are fun.

But Hackney's dream was more nightmarish in this respect: It occurred during the biggest week of his professional bass fishing career. He dreamt he'd slept through Day 2 of the tournament.

"I about completely jumped out of the bed," he said. "I could see the light out the (hotel room) window, and I'm like, 'I'm late. My God, it's 3 o'clock, and I've been here all day.'

"It was horrible when I woke up. I didn't have a clue where I was."

Hackney's wife, Julie, had their boys – the two oldest of the Hackneys' four children – in another hotel room.

"I was not there when he woke up, but he called me," Julie said. "I don't know how to describe his mood. He was just all over the place. Then he told me that he'd dreamt that he'd overslept, and he was just a wreck. I think it stayed with him until he went to bed that night."

Remember, that incident occurred on Friday. Hackney would have the rest of the weekend to get wound even tighter before he'd get to fish again, on Monday.

Hackney noted before the tournament began that he was handling the pressure just fine as long as he was fishing. It was the time when he was off the water that was so draining. So three days off mid-tournament, when it went from a three-day event to two-day tournament, was pure torture.

2014 PAA TOURNAMENT SERIES SCHEDULE

Professional Anglers Association (PAA) announced the final details of the 2014 PAA Tournament Series this week.

Three outstanding fisheries will be the scene of some of the best competition the industry has to offer when the 2014 PAA Tournament Series visits Douglas Lake, Dandridge, Tennessee; Kentucky Lake, Gilbertsville, Kentucky; and Toledo Bend Reservoir, Hemphill, Texas.

The 2014 PAA Tournament Series schedule will be as follows:
September 22 -27, 2014 - Douglas Lake, Dandridge, Tenn.
October 6 - 11, 2014 - Kentucky Lake, Gilbertsville, Ky.
November 17 - 22, 2014 - Toledo Bend Reservoir, Hemphill, Tex.

Douglas Lake
To kick off the 2014 season, PAA will return to beautiful Douglas Lake in Dandridge, Tennessee. Hosted by the Town of Dandridge and Jefferson County Tourism, competition days will be September 25 - 27. Also known as Douglas Reservoir, the lake was created by impounding the French Broad River in the early 1940s. With over 555 miles of shoreline, Douglas Lake offers a variety of structure and is quickly becoming known as a big bass impoundment within the angling world. Douglas Lake was the host of the PAA Tournament Series opener in March 2013 and saw PAA pro Shinichi Fukae win the event with a whopping 67.73 lbs. over the three (3) day event.

Adele Sensing, Director of Tourism, Jefferson County offered, “The Town of Dandridge is excited to be hosting the best pro tournament anglers on Douglas Lake. We have a community that is excited the PAA is coming to town again and will be showing the anglers true Southern hospitality. We enjoy all the exposure that comes along with a large scale national event like this. This lets the rest of the world know we have great fishing on Douglas Lake.”

Kentucky Lake
The second venue, Kentucky Lake, is new to PAA but it is no stranger to the bass fishing world as it has long been considered one of the top lakes in the United States for bass fishing. Kentucky Lake CVB and the Moors Resort and Marina have joined forces to host event two of the 2014 PAA Tournament Series the week of October 6 - 11, 2014. Competition days will be October 9 - 11.

Toledo Bend Reservoir
To close out the season with a bang, the 2014 PAA Tournament Series will see its first return to beautiful Toledo Bend Reservoir in Hemphill, Texas since 2009. The 2014 season will close on Toledo Bend the week of November 17 - 22, 2014. Hosted by Fin and Feather Resort and Hemphill Tourism, competition days will be November 20 - 22.

Entry fees and format remain the same.

Pro division entry fees for the 2014 PAA Tournament Series events will remain at $1,500. Deposits will remain at $500 per tournament and are due upon registration. The full field of pros will compete on days one and two and we will cut to the tops pros on day three. A Champion will be crowned at the conclusion of day three based upon the total weight of five fish per day across all three days of competition.

Co-Angler division entry fees will remain at $250 per tournament and deposits will remain at $50. Co-Anglers will fish the first two days of each event. A Champion will be crowned after the day two weigh-in based upon total weight of a three fish per day limit.

Pros advancing to the final day will fish with a non-fishing Observer.

Top three pros in the PAA Angler of the Year race will qualify for the Toyota Texas Bass Classic.

The 2015 Toyota Texas Bass Classic will feature three PAA qualifiers to its coveted world championship event on Lake Fork, Quitman, Texas May 23-25, 2015. The three PAA qualifiers will be decided following our third and final 2014 PAA Tournament Series event on Toledo Bend. The top three anglers in the 2014 Angler of the Year point standings who have fished all three 2014 events and not previously qualified for the Toyota Texas Bass Classic will earn berths into the 2015 Toyota Texas Bass Classic.

The Toyota Texas Bass Classic, often referred to as the TTBC, is a world championship event pitting the top anglers from the B.A.S.S. Elite Series, FLW Tour and the PAA Tournament Series in head to head competition. It is a no-entry fee event with a guaranteed check.

2014 Rule Updates - Our anglers spoke and we listened.

Life and lives on the Tournament Trail

When I became a touring professional angler, I thought I had a pretty good idea of what my life would be like — lots of driving, lots of fishing, fast food, laundromats and more driving. One of the things I didn't anticipate was the relationships that would develop out of circumstances I could never imagine.In January 2003, I was at a campsite getting ready for a Bassmaster Tour event on the Harris Chain in Florida. Fishing was tough, but what I remember most about that tournament was meeting Lee and Carol Flint. They're New Yorkers who winter in Central Florida, and we struck up a conversation one day at that campground that started a friendship that still exists.The Flints are big fans of the sport, but more importantly they're great people. They never miss an event in Florida or New York, so I'm looking forward to seeing them when we're fishing at Cayuga next week. Sometimes they even show up at weigh-ins with a sign that reads, "Go E2" or something like that. They're also big supporters of Matt Reed, Randy Howell and some of the other pros they've met at the campgrounds through the years.

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ON-LOCATION VIDEO: DAY ONE CONDITIONS AT CAYUGA

The BASS ZONE is on-location at the Elite Series tournament on New York's Cayuga Lake

Keeping the Biffle Family in Our Thoughts

Sharon Biffle, the wife of MLF and B.A.S.S. angler Tommy Biffle, recently had quadruple bypass open heart surgery. Her situation remains touch-and-go at this time. Residents of Wagoner, Okla., Sharon and Tommy have been married 34 years and have one daughter, Jennifer.Tommy is known as a strong competitor on the water. We can only hope this same will be helpful to him and his family during this tough time.The professional bass fishing family asks that you keep the Biffle family in your thoughts and prayers to provide Sharon the strength needed for a full recovery.- See more at: http://majorleaguefishing.com/news_details.aspx?id=8130#sthash.RpDCuRoJ....

Back to the bank

Every year about this time, I start to shift my focus from deep water to shallow water. I know that might not make a lot of sense — it's the hottest time of year and you'd think most bass would escape that by staying offshore and deep — but bass don't have to explain themselves.In some ways I can understand why they'd move shallow. For one, there's more fishing pressure in deep water at this time of year, so the big groups of fish that held together in June and July might break up and go shallow to escape that pressure. For another, I think water quality might be better in the shallows; incoming current and wind can keep oxygen levels comfortable even when temperatures are high.You might ask, "How shallow is 'shallow' for bass in the heat of summer?" It's a great question, and the answer depends on the lake you're fishing. I've learned that if the water is even a little bit stained (maybe three to four feet of visibility), the bass will often hold on cover that's just knee deep. In fact, I've often been amazed at how shallow I can find bass — good bass ... big bass! — in August. The dirtier the water, the shallower you'll likely find them.Not only is it often more fun to catch bass when they're shallow and you can sometimes see the bite, it's also a lot easier because you're generally casting to cover you can see. Boat docks, laydowns and overhanging trees are some of my favorite cover types now. And they can be productive almost anywhere on the lake — from the main body to the backs of creeks where you caught them spawning a few months ago.

Finding the right balance

Fishing and life are all about balance ... at least that's the way it seems to me. I know that when I've got my personal and work lives in balance, both are better, I'm happier and my family is better off. On the fishing side of things, when my gear is organized and balanced, I do better on the water.

While I can't offer any advice on the delicate balance between work and personal life, I'd like to take this opportunity to share some things I've learned about balancing my fishing tackle — in particular, my rods and reels.

Years ago I read how Rick Clunn simplified his approach to bass fishing by using the same rod and reel combos for a wide variety of baits and methods. When he went from casting a spinnerbait to throwing a crankbait, he wanted that transition to be seamless and maintaining consistency between rods and reels gave him that. He may have been setting down the spinnerbait and picking up the crankbait, but the rod and reel were the same. He didn't waste several casts getting the feel of a new combo.

I tried doing the same thing — more or less — and found that I couldn't use the same gear for as many methods as Clunn did. It just didn't work for me, but the effort streamlined my approach quite a bit and let me focus more on my fishing and less on those little adjustments that can be distracting.

Using rods and reels from the same manufacturers can help. Whatever brands you like, if you stick with them for all (or nearly all) of your techniques, you'll find that your casting gets better, your focus improves and you catch more bass.

I use Bass Pro Shops rods and reels and have grown extremely comfortable with them over the years. I tend to use the same models for a long time — probably a lot longer than most pros — because I develop a comfort level with them that I would lose by changing more often. It takes me a while to warm up to new equipment, and that adjustment period can be costly when you fish for a living.

Right now, all of my rods are Bass Pro Shops CarbonLite models. They're light, strong, sensitive and I love the P-Tec polyfoam grips.

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The Elites at ICAST

Edwin Evers chats with Kelly Jordon

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ICast

Orlando FL – Over the course of the last two days, The BASS ZONE has been on-location at ICAST in Orlando, Florida, where the bass fishing worlds gets a first look at the lineup of new products for the 2015 season.

After traversing isle after isle of the latest and greatest the industry has to offer, The BZ has compiled a list of some things that stood out at this year’s show.

Megabass MAGDRAFT - The cool thing about this 6 inch swimbait is the MAGhold that holds the treble hook in place so that you don’t have to tear the plastic in order to keep the hook flush with the belly of the bait.

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