Two years ago I wrote about how Huk wisely capitalized on Greg Hackney’s inner arms and armpits, branding their logo in places where it would likely only be seen as he raised his arms in victory. Apparently his other sponsors have caught on, because during the recently-concluded Kentucky Lake Elite event I saw several pics of Hack wearing gloves with a prominently displayed TH Marine emblem on the back.
It seems that I couldn’t have written a more piss poor prediction had I invented the Sports Illustrated curse myself. Just a few days after I blogged about Greg Hackney being one of three anglers who’d leapfrogged KVD and two others to become the top three on the Elite Series, the Cayuga event concluded with KVD on top and the Hack Attack dead last.
It’s clearly unfair to state that this represents some sort of career plummet for Hackney. His Day One catch was disqualified, and but for that he would’ve garnered some valuable points despite losing his previously substantial lead in the AOY race. The individual tournament result doesn’t reflect any decline in his fishing ability, just a lapse in his decision making ability. He’s still in 5th place in the AOY race, and while this poor finish might ultimately doom his chances of earning his second such Elite Series title, he’s still within range.
By Pete Robbins
Depending on your cultural frame of reference, it either sounds like something out of “High Fidelity” or a recent Chris Rock rom-com, but who do you think the top three anglers are on the Elite Series?
In 2011, you probably would’ve said Kevin VanDam, Skeet Reese and Mike Iaconelli. They were dominant, expected to contend in every tournament and for every title. Consequently, they garnered the most attention, the most media and the most praise.
Now, five years later, I think you can make a colorable case that it’s Edwin Evers, Aaron Martens and Greg Hackney. Post-2011, VanDam has won one Elite Series tournament (this year’s Toledo Bend). Skeet had won two Elite events in that time frame. Ike has won one, plus an Open. None of them have won a Classic or an AOY.
Meanwhile, Aaron has won two AOYs and three Elite Series tournaments. Hackney has won two Elite events, an AOY, and is currently on track to add another AOY. Evers has won four Elite events and a Classic. While the accomplishments of these three in that time period seem greater than those of the other three, numbers alone don’t tell the story. It’s also the perception – at least on my part – that they are at the top of their game and the others, while still incredible anglers, aren’t firing with every cylinder they have. Of course any of them could fire up at any time and reassert their dominance, but Aaron, Hack and Edwin are certainly no shrinking violets.
Normally if you see a regime change of this sort, there’s some sort of compelling theme driving it. Either there’s a generational shift or a technological change or just the plain old aging process that pushes one group out and lets another one in. Here, though, the two sets of pros are generationally indistinguishable. VanDam is almost 49, Skeet turns 47 next week (Happy Birthday, Skeet) and Ike turned 44 last week. Meanwhile, Aaron is nearly 34, Hackney is nearly 43 and Edwin is nearly 42. While on its face the average age difference of four years might suggest a tipping point, I think that it is a distinction without a difference. In fact, I don’t think that it’s so much that KVD, Skeet and Ike have faltered in any way – rather the explanation for the shift is merely that the other three are fishing at an unbelievably high level.