Kevin Hawk – 2010 Forrest Wood Cup Champion, FLW Tour Pro,.. Now BASSMASTER Elite Series Pro
Alright, let’s get it out of the way right off the bat. You were the 2010 Forrest Wood Cup Champion. How did that change your career?
The Cup win has served as a great foundation to start my career and I’m doing everything I can to build on that foundation. Most importantly it gave me the “bank roll” I needed to jump-start a full-time fishing career and also enabled me to start acquiring sponsorships, which is instrumental in helping an angler succeed in professional fishing.
Tell us a little about 2012. What were the highlights and what did you learn that might help in competition in 2013?
I fished the FLW Tour and Bassmaster Southern and Northern Open Divisions. They couldn’t have been more different. I struggled on the FLW side and only cashed one check. However, I fished strong in the Bass Opens and clinched the Southern Angler of the Year title. In doing so, I was able to qualify for the 2013 Elites. I’ve looked back on how different my results were between the two organizations and am still not sure why there were so different other than I seemed to fish a little more instinctively in the Bass Opens. That could have made all the difference. I’m going to continue paying more attention to my instincts on the water and try to put myself in a position to make the best decisions possible on the water so I can have a successful 2013 season.
This year, you’re making the transition out of the FLW and over to the Elite Series. As an FLW Cup Champion, that comes as a bit of a surprise. What factors contributed to making the transition?
The main reason was sponsorship. I wasn’t able to secure an FLW sponsorship, so I decided to fish the BASS Opens in hopes of qualifying for the Elites, to give myself more options. After qualifying, I contacted all my current sponsors and became aware that I would have more opportunities if I fished BASS. Through BASS’ popularity, I also felt I would have more options in regards to promoting myself via their media outlets.
What are your opinions about the state of the major tournament circuits?
I think we need to figure out a way to run major tournament circuits on a no entry fee level so there’s a better opportunity for anglers to make a consistent living in this sport. Right now, both the tournament organizations and anglers are competing for the same sponsorship dollars and it makes it challenging. I think if the major organizations and anglers remain open and willing to work together things can continue to change for the better.
You’ll be fishing both the Northern Opens and the Elite Series this year. What lakes are you excited about and what fisheries have you a little worried?
I always look forward to going to a new lake or river for the first time. I haven’t been to any of the venues on the Elite Series other than the Detroit River and Falcon, so I will definitely have my hands full doing research and making practice trips to familiarize myself with these new places. I’m excited about Falcon. From what I saw before off-limits I don’t think it will be on par with the last time BASS was there in 2008, but it will still be fun. The Northerns Opens should be fun as well. I’ve never been to Oneida before and fishing Erie should be a blast. Anytime I get to go up north to fish for smallmouth I get fired up.
What do you consider your primary strengths and weaknesses on the water?
Fishing too slow in practice is my biggest weakness. I’m going to make sure I speed things up during practice in order to give myself the opportunity to cover enough water to find the right grade of fish it’s going to take to do well in each event. Once I find an area that’s holding the potential tournament winning group of fish, I’m really good at getting dialed into those fish and maximizing the potential that’s there.
Your first event this year is on the Sabine River, a fishery that is unfamiliar to a lot of guys. What are the challenges going to be with that fishery and how does it fit your style?
I had an opportunity to spend a few days on the Sabine prior to off-limits and it’s a big place. I mainly rode around and looked at as many different areas as I could to determine where I want to spend my time when I go back for official practice. There is going to be a lot of things to consider for this event. We can fish in three different rivers and hundreds of different backwaters and sloughs. It should be a very interesting event. I think there will be a few areas that really get crowded, but I’m not necessarily going to avoid those places. Growing up in Southern California, I’m used to fishing in a crowd. I’ll just keep my head down and focus on what I’m doing.
Has relocating back east been important to your success fishing the major circuits? Do you still fish any of the tournaments on the west coast?
Fishing back east has taught me you need to lay down the spinning rod most of the time and pick up the casting gear. There are times when the spinning rod can really help though, like when I’m fishing up North for smallmouth or during a pressured bite. I do feel I’m becoming a more versatile angler. In the short time I’ve lived back east, I’ve worked hard on becoming more efficient with different techniques and presentations.
I haven’t fished any tournaments on the west coast since moving back east, but I really want to start fishing the US Open. I love fishing Lake Mead. Some of my best tournament memories are from the WON Bass Team Tri-State Championships I fished before I moved back east.
Who are your sponsors this year? What boat/wrap are you running?
My sponsors this year are Ranger, Mercury, DUO Realis, iRod, Yamamoto, Seaguar, Owner, Picasso, Kaenon Polarized, 4×4 Jigs, Abu Garcia, Bass Angler Headquarters, BA Training and The Blue 1. The focal point on my boat and truck wraps will be the Hawk logo along with some associate sponsor logos.
Is there anyone else you would like to mention that is supporting you this year?
I need to give a big thanks to Steve Adams at Bass Angler Headquarters (BHQ). He’s done a great job for me creating and maintaining my website Kevinhawkfishing.com which has been a huge help in acquiring new sponsors. He’s also helped me with my boat and truck wrap designs this year. Steve is really a man with many talents and I’m glad to be working with him. I would encourage any tournament angler wanting to create a website to contact Steve at bassanglerhq.com
I’d also like to thank my family, friends, sponsors, and everyone who has been supportive of me. It means a lot and I couldn’t do it without all of you.