By John Johnson
BassFan Senior Editor
After a strong first year on the Bassmaster Elite Series in 2018, Roy Hawk accepted an invitation to compete on the MLF Bass Pro Tour for its inaugural season. From a competitive standpoint, things didn't go well.
The longtime western ace finished no better than 43rd among the 80-angler field in any of the eight BPT events, which meant he earned $0 for his efforts. He's fared much better in traditional five-fish limit events on other circuits (i.e. 11th in the Bassmaster Classic, 4th in the Lake Mead Western FLW Series), but nonetheless, his zeal for the BPT format remains off the charts.
"It's so much fun and I hope it never changes," said the always-upbeat resident of Lake Havasu City, Ariz. "Some people think we should go to a five-fish limit (from the "every scoreable fish counts" system) or a 2-pound minimum (instead of 1 pound), but I don't think so. Anything that would reduce the pace is not favorable to the whole deal.
"It's all about the pace – in a way, it's less about the fish and more about the game. It's still fishing, but it's different and I can't wait until next year when I have the opportunity to play the game again."
New Approach Required
Hawk has already begun his preparations for the 2020 BPT season. As he spoke to BassFan via phone on Wednesday, he was in his boat making tweaks to his equipment storage setup.
"I'm looking at everything," he said. "For five-fish limit tournaments I've always been pretty organized, but now I'm thinking about ways that I can conserve time and be more efficient in these hyper-level events because if you miss one minute, that could be three spots (in the standings).
"Any way you can come up with that will let you use your time better is going to help. I'm memorizing the exact locations of everything in my boat so if I need a dropshot sinker or whatever, it's just boom, boom, boom, there it is."
He also must make some adjustments to how he approaches a body of water. In the past, he paid little heed to places that held concentrations of fish that weren't of sufficient size to help in a traditional-format event.
On the BPT, such locales are money for competitors who find and exploit them.
"For years I'd ignore those places and go find somewhere that was crappy," he said. "No one else would be there because there wasn't many fish and I could move around and try to dial in a way to catch one or two big ones. Even fun-fishing, I was training myself to find bigger fish. If I found a big school and was getting bit every cast, I'd leave to try to find bigger ones that might be biting.
"I kind of switched it over last fall when I knew I was going to be fishing the BPT and I had some phenomenal days where I was saying 'Man, I hope I have a day like this next year.' I just never had one of those days on the tour."
Better Days Ahead
Hawk doesn't expect his futility on the BPT to continue.
"I've got a lot to learn, but I'm excited about learning it," he said. "My thought process is changing a lot and I'm picking up on new things and figuring out how to find mass quantities of fish. Even though I didn't do well, it's still the most exciting way I've fished in my entire life.
"Every time you have a failure, I look at it as an opportunity to excel in the future. Next year I can't imagine struggling as much as I did this year. I think I understand the format now and I just need to find groups of fish and capitalize on them. Never finding those groups was the biggest thing – I don't have a problem catching them, but you can't catch them if you're not around them."
He has a couple of traditional-style events to focus on in the near term – the California Delta Western FLW Series (Sept. 26-28) and the WON Bass U.S. Open at Nevada's Lake Mead (Oct. 14-16). He'll celebrate his 49th birthday between those events.
The U.S. Open, which he won in 2015, will present a prize package to the winner valued at $164,000 ($100,000 cash plus a Bass Cat Puma/Mercury Pro XS rig).
"And heck, I've only gotta catch five fish every day," he cracked. "It sounds so easy!"