"The surface temperatures are 36 degrees," Hackney said. "That's down from 43.9 degrees when we first got out on the lake."
That's on top of having to practice Friday as snow fell.
"We had 6 inches of snow that first day," he said.
Hackney said the three days of practice that ended Sunday (Feb. 14) were simply tough.
"This is the coldest water I've every fished in on consecutive days," he said. "I've fished water this cold before, but I've put the boat on the trailer and driven home to wait for a warmer day."
And that could set up this year's Super Bowl of fishing to be pretty ugly, although he still said .
One of the biggest problems the anglers face is a massive shad die-off.
"They're swimming around like they're on drugs," Hackney said. "I can go into a cove that a mile deep, and (the shad) will black my fish finder out for a mile.
"I've never seen anything like this."
That means the bass that are active don't have to work very hard to get a meal.
"All they've got to do is ease up and just open their mouths and eat something," Hackney explained. "They've got a choice: Do I want to eat something that can't get away or do I want to eat something with a rubber skirt and hooks?
"(The bass) just aren't going to chase a bait; you've got to hit them on the nose."
He said it's the perfect situation for the Classic.
"These guys are the pros, and there's not a better place to test them," Hackney said. "This is when they amaze me most."
Although he said on the final day of practice tomorrow he was going to check out the upper Coosa River where many of the field has found warm water, his strategy right now is to lock downriver of Lay Lake.
"I'm just going to lock into one of the lower pools and just go fishing," Hackney said.
What will it take to win? Hackney said he's convinced someone will put together a solid three-day limit to earn the Classic title.
"There's one of these guys really dialed in," he said. "The last time (the Classic was on Lay Lake in 2007), it took 48 pounds (10 ounces) to win.
"I think it'll take that again. OK, so maybe not 48 pounds, but it might 40 pounds."
Ironically, the key to building that weight ties back into that cold water that is making the fishing so difficult.
"This is the time of year when, historically, the biggest fish of the year are caught – at least in the Southeast," Hackney said. "I see on average the quality being good, but the bites are going to be fewer."
And that means that this time around on Lay Lake, many in the field will struggle.
"Last time (on Lay Lake) it took 48 pounds to win and everybody and his brother had 12 pounds," he said. "It's not going to be like that this year.
"It might only take 18 pounds to make the top-25 (final-day) cut."
The big questions are: 1) who will be keyed in and 2) what will the weather do.
That first variable will be an unknown until competition gets started on Friday, but Hackney said the weather forecast could mean improved fishing as the event ages.
Intellicast.com calls for a gradual warming trend, with highs climbing into the low 50s by Friday and the overnight lows moving into the upper 30s.
"I think if somebody struggles through the first two days, the last day should be really good," Hackney said.
LouisianaSportsman.com will carry daily coverage of the Bassmaster Classic, including interviews with Hackney, Pierre Part's Cliff Crochet and other competitors.
Competition begins Friday, with the weigh-in beginning at 3 p.m. in the Birmingham Jefferson Convention Complex.