By John Johnson
BassFan Senior Editor
Covering a tremendous amount of water during a day of fishing isn't Kevin Hawk's fortι. Growing up in the extreme southern portion of California, where most of the lakes are quite small, he grew accustomed to making a lot of casts in a single place.
The former Forrest Wood Cup champion thinks he needs to become more mobile, though, in order to become a regular check-casher on the Bassmaster Elite Series. His first year on the circuit resulted in just two paydays in eight outings and he ended up at No. 71 on the points least nowhere near the cutoff for entry into the 2014 Classic.
"I took the same approach I always have; I did a lot of homework and took scouting trips to look at the water, especially the venues I hadn't been to," he said. "I think what it comes down to is I need to cover water quicker once (official) practice starts and be efficient and make sure I'm not overlooking anything.
"It's an area where I need to improve a lot and I do feel like I'm getting better. I have to have the mindset to keep reminding myself that if I'm in an area that's not going to produce what I need to make the Top 12, then I need to move on. A lot of times you don't realize the full potential of an area until it unfolds in the tournament, but I need to be able to find the best areas by looking at a lot of different parts of a lake or river."
Not a Gambler at Heart
BassFans may recall that when Hawk won the Cup in 2010, he spent nearly a year at Georgia's Lake Lanier after qualifying for the event via the now-defunct Western FLW Series. He had all the time he needed to visit every piece of fish-holding cover on the lake several times over.
Tour anglers aren't afforded that kind of time, though not even 1 percent of it (they get only 3 days of official practice for each event). Using that available time more wisely is the biggest challenge confronting him.
"I think sometimes I actually talk myself out of looking at more areas," the 34-year-old said. "The Alabama River (where he finished 77th in May) was a perfect example of that. I was fishing the southern part while a lot of guys were running north to the tailwaters of the Jordan dam. I convinced myself that the whitewater was too treacherous and I wrote it off.
"The thing was that I should've known the fishing there was going to be good with all that current, but rather than taking a day or even half a day to run up there, I decided to stay in an area that was mediocre. And some of the guys who fished a ways downstream from (the tailrace), not even in the whitewater, ended up doing real well.
"By nature I'm a little more cautious than some guys," he continued, "and sometimes I'll take the sure route of catching a limit someplace, knowing deep down that it won't be enough to make the Top 12. Taking more risks is the only way I can give myself the opportunity to make the final-day cut."
New Venture Ahead
Hawk, who now resides in Guntersville, Ala., is preparing for what he hopes will be a busy off-season. Beginning Monday, he'll spend 7 days in Mobile, Ala. taking a course to become certified as a U.S. Coast Guard captain (the exam will be administered on the eighth day).
He plans to start guiding clients on Lake Guntersville by the first of November.
"It'll be primarily on Guntersville, but I'll also do trips to Smith Lake, which is only an hour and 15 minutes away," he said. "That's a great place for somebody to learn to dropshot or improve that technique."
He's still debating whether to spend the time and money that will be required to compete in the Bassmaster Wildcard in December at Florida's Lake Okeechobee, which would represent his final opportunity to compete in next year's Classic at Guntersville (the winner of that event will gain a berth). Shortly thereafter, it'll be time to focus on the 2014 campaign, and he likes the make-up of the Elite schedule.
"A lot of times when a season's over and I look back at the schedule, I end up doing the poorest in the events where I thought I'd do the best, and vice versa, so now I just take it for what it is. I will say that next year's schedule is very diverse, which is good, and we'll be going to places that will test a lot of different skills.
"There'll be a lot of things to consider current, depth, tide and things like that, and that'll make it interesting. I'm definitely looking forward to it."