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Hawk circles back for storybook ending

Day-one leader rallies for dramatic Forrest Wood Cup victory

By Brett Carlson – 08.Aug.2010

Kevin Hawk celebrates after learning he won the 2010 Forrest Wood Cup on Lake Lanier. (Photo by Brett Carlson)

GAINESVILLE, Ga. – When Kevin Hawk qualified for the Cup back in October 2009, he knew at that moment he wanted to become a full-time professional bass fisherman. With the economy lagging and sponsorships scarce, he picked up his bags and moved from Ramona, Calif., to Buford, Ga. His goal was to win the 2010 Forrest Wood Cup on Lake Lanier and use the money to launch his career. Nine months later he accomplished that mission in front of a capacity Gwinnett Arena crowd.

On a day where none of the other five finalists reached double digits, Hawk turned in an impressive 14-pound, 13-ounce limit. That stringer, the second-heaviest of the event, sprang him from fourth to first. He finished the tournament with a four-day total weight of 50 pounds, 14 ounces. Hawk’s comeback victory was impressive, but the back story is even more compelling.

Last fall Hawk thought he blew his chance after finishing 30th on Clear Lake, the last stop in the FLW Series National Guard Western Division. Having done the math in his head, Hawk was convinced he fell Kevin Hawk fights a fish to the boat on day four of the Forrest Wood Cup.just outside of the top 20 and missed the Cup. On his drive home, pro Justin Lucas called to tell him that he made it by the slimmest of margins – finishing exactly 20th in the year-end standings.

One day later, Hawk had already found a small pool house to rent and his bags were packed. For the next nine months, he practiced diligently from sunup to sundown – becoming a spotted bass disciple. Although Hawk qualified for the Cup as a professional, he fished the 2010 FLW Tour season as a co-angler. And when he wasn’t away on Tour, he was probing Lanier’s brush – spending approximately four days per week on the water.

All this extra preparation gave Hawk a sizable head start. Coming in, he knew his plan was to fish as many brush piles as humanly feasible in a given day. That number turned out to be approximately 45 to 50.

“My goal was to hit as many spots as possible,” he said. “It was a run-and-gun tournament because you usually only get one fish, if that, off each spot.”

When Hawk reached one of his many GPS points, he’d line himself up and then intently stare at his electronics.

Kevin Hawk is using a Fish Head Spin on suspended spotted bass and a Roboworm (morning dawn color) on deeper brush fish.“If I didn’t see any fish, I’d make one drop right in the middle of the brush and then leave. If I saw fish, then I’d make four or five drops and work around the brush. I’d spend no more than five to seven minutes on each spot.”

Nearly all of these spots were located on the south end of the lake in between Browns Bridge and the dam. The piles he fished, which he did not plant, were located on drop-offs in approximately 25 to 30 feet of water.

The 2010 Cup was not a diverse tournament in terms of tackle. Nearly everyone in the field threw some form of a drop-shot and finesse worm. But the key difference for the top finishers was the 6-inch Roboworm. And one color in particular stood out – “morning dawn.” That’s the only color Hawk threw when he was drop-shotting. When he saw suspended fish on his graph, he would use a 1/2-ounce Fish Head Spin with a white Super Fluke Jr. as a body. Today the Fish Head Spin accounted for three of his five keepers. Incidentally, they were his three biggest fish.

“Today they bit the Fish Head Spin really well. And that’s always a great sign because the Fish Head Spin is going to catch you better quality fish on average than a drop-shot by far.”

For winning the 2010 Forrest Wood Cup on Lake Lanier, Kevin Hawk claimed $600,000

For the record, the Fish Head Spin was tied to 10-pound Trilene 100% fluorocarbon line. The drop-shot setup included a 3/8-ounce weight and a 12-inch leader on 7-pound Sunline Sniper.

“Using a heavy weight was key. You’d see the fish on your graph and you’d want to drop it down immediately and that would almost cause a reaction strike. Those fish would nose down on the bait as soon as it went by their face.”

Those that watched Hawk fish this week described him as focused and meticulous to the point where he resembled a robot on the water. Even when he was handed the Cup he remained calm and collected. But inside this stoic individual was a man who had just realized his dream.

“I’m super-happy. I might not be showing it, but I’m blowing up inside right now. I’m going to take awhile to think about this, reflect and enjoy it. Right now I’m kind of in awe still.”

Hawk, who would have earned $500,000 for his Forrest Wood Cup victory, was pleasantly surprised when T. Boone Pickens, a new equity partner in FLW Outdoors, personally contributed an additional $100,000 to the first-place purse. With that, the 31-year-old took home $600,000 for his victory.

Now that the tournament is over, Hawk’s immediate plan is to move to Alabama’s Lake Guntersville, room with Lucas and possibly start a guide service. From there, he’ll take the next few weeks to think about his tournament-fishing future – a future that looks incredibly bright.