Quantum pro Greg Hackney has every reason to be emotionally rattled to begin competition at the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year Championship today.

His father passed away unexpectedly a couple of weeks ago. They were very close friends. And on top of that sadness, Hackney finds himself fighting to make the Bassmaster Classic. He needs a really good finish at Chatuge to assure himself a place in pro bass fishing’s biggest dance next spring.

But the Louisiana pro with auger-like eyes and intimidating confidence is not shaken or stirred. In fact, he’s embracing this little 7,000-acre reservoir with more enthusiasm than most, and celebrating the fact it “fishes way larger” that it looks.

“Here the deal, if you think about it, everybody gets about 2-acres of water to make their first cast into this morning, so that leaves me about 6,900 other acres to go to work in,” reasons Hackney.

“I mean look, to be honest, last year there were 50 of us on 132,000 massive acres at Lake Mille Lacs, Minnesota, and yet there were 25 of us all trying to fish the same small rocky under water bar. But here at Chatuge there’s way more good stuff to fish in my mind,” says Hackney.

“I mean this place has all kind of little creek arms, coves, boat docks, clay points, rocky points, underwater brushpiles, and there’s tons of baitfish living in water from 6” to 60 feet deep – it doesn’t take three days of practice to figure out this is a fishy place,” says the devoted family man, and father of four.

Should anybody doubt there’s plenty of fishable habitat, look no further than the front deck of Hackney’s Phoenix boat where 11 different lures were tied to a mix of both Quantum spinning and baitcasting units.

“It’s obviously going to be kind of a “junk fishing” pattern for me, but also, I think this will be a week to be an opportunist. What I mean by that is, you may be pitching a jig shallow, and all of the sudden fish start busting shad on the surface behind you, so you turn around and take advantage of that unexpected opportunity,” he explains.

By no means is Hackney too naïve to realize this pack of 50 fish-catchin animals hasn’t looked under every proverbial rock in this 7,000 acre pond in search of something different, but his ultra common sense logic dictates that no matter how small Chatuge may be – 50 guys can’t cover it all.

“We know one thing for sure – when I make that first cast today, it will be into a patch of water where nobody else has fished this morning,” concluded the always intimidatingly cool Hackney, even at a time when life has been saturated with unexpected loss and struggle in recent days.