For those of you who have heard of Dave Hawk, this piece may not come as a surprise to you. For those of you who haven’t heard of him, which I would wager is a vast majority of you, what will be talked about here may open your eyes to a number of major innovations of the sport – not from today but from the 1950s.
I first heard of Hawk when I interviewed Glen Andrews’ son Shane while I was doing a piece on his father – arguably one of the first professional bass anglers. In Shane’s words, “you need to find out who Dave Hawk is and what he did for the sport of bass fishing.”
So with that I went on a search for anything Dave Hawk and what I found answered a lot of questions I’d had for a number of years.
My first answer came in Bill Dance’s book, “There He Is,” published in 1973 by B.A.S.S. In that book Dance said it was Hawk who had invented the Texas Rig, then known as the “Slip Sinker” rig. That piqued my interest even further.
The next thing to do was search the internet for Dave Hawk. Not much came up except for two entries – one for 80 Years on Bass and another for 100 Year on Bass – both books authored by Dave Hawk. Being they looked old enough to be the right Hawk, I ordered the first one, finished reading it, and ordered the second book.
Since I haven’t had a chance to read 100 Years on Bass, this piece is only on the first book.
First off I was taken aback by the way the book was written. As you’ll notice from the clips, it’s all in CAPS. I don’t know if Hawk’s shift key was broken or he really wanted to make sure you HEARD every word he wrote. Once I got past that unconventional method of publishing, I was pleasantly surprised with the information enclosed in the book and also Hawk’s way of saying things. To say he had a sarcastic sense of humor would be saying Don Rickles was a catholic priest. If you’ve never heard of Don Rickles, look him up on You Tube.
Written in 1958, the book is slightly dated by a lot of today’s standards but you’ll be surprised at how many of the things Hawk talks about are still in use today. For example, he talks of using braided line, something that went out of vogue around the early ‘70s, but, with the advent of spectra fibers, has made its way back into the lexicon of bass fishing. One of the more interesting things he talks about with braid, though, is the use of a leader, or what many today call a topshot. I’ve included some of his thoughts on leaders.
One of Hawk’s biggest taboos was that of snap or snap-swivels. In fact, it was so important to him NOT to use these devices that he started his book out with the first chapter on them, aptly named, “CONCERNING A BASS’ BEST FRIEND.”
He then goes into the subject of line saying, “NEVER USE ANYTHING BUT BLACK LINE.” Remember, he was talking about Dacron braided lines and yes, he not only used all CAPS, he also underlined it too. His explanation was, “JUST TO SAY THAT A BLACK LINE ABSORBES LIGHT AND LOOKS LIKE A BLACK LINE ONLY. WHEREAS A LIGHTER LINE REFLECTS SOME LIGHT AND LOOKS AT DIFFERENT TIMES LIKE A RIBBON, WELL ROPE, SASH CORD OR A GARDEN HOSE.”
The best lines in the whole diatribe are these: “THE BIGGEST LAUGH OF ALL IS THE MULTI-COLORED LINES OR CAMOFLAGED LINES. THE ONLY BENEFIT TO USING A LINE OF THIS TYPE IS THAT IT GIVES THE USER THE BENEFIT OF GETTING BACKLASHES IN TECHNICOLOR.”
Hawk was also pretty adamant about his reel choices – albeit there weren’t that many good reels in the day. His first suggestion when choosing a reel is as important today as it was then. Instead of typing it all out, I’ll let you read from a clip of what he wrote on that subject. It was very-forward thinking of the time and is the reason many reel manufacturers today machine holes in spools to make them lighter.
One of the interesting subjects regarding reels was his opinion that gear ratio makes little difference in what reel to choose. Mind you we all know this is a big factor today, back then most reels had small gears (their size, not just the gear ratio) and at best would only bring in maybe 16 inches of line per turn of the handle. His preferred reels of the time were Langley’s Lurecast and Streamlight. Remember, this was written before ABU introduced the 5000.
The next subject was on rods, and this is where his theories completely deviate from today’s train of thought. Here’s what he had to say:
The paragraph ends with a no-so-flattering description of what he thought of fishing writers back in the day. If you’ve ever read Lucas on Bass, Jason Lucas felt the same way – not just on rod length but about his contemporaries.
A lot of Hawk’s theory, I think, must be due to how heavy rods were back in those days – even the ones made of glass. I’m interested to see what his opinions on this subject are when I read his second book.
Also on the subject of rods, Hawk brought to light a fact that many anglers back in the days of glass rods didn’t know or understand. In fact, we wrote about it here when we did an article on the development of the first graphite rods. Here’s what Hawk had to say:
“PREPARE YOURSELF FOR A SHOCK. EVERY TIME YOU ATTEMPT TO SET THE HOOK, THE TIP OF YOUR ROD TRAVELS TOWARD THE BASS. IF YOU ARE USING A SOLID ROD, OR A ROD OVER FIVE AND ONE HALF FEET IN LENGTH.”
Don’t believe it? Get your 7-foot glass cranking stick out, place the tip an inch from a wall and pull the rod backwards. The tip will hit the wall every time.
What were Hawk’s rods of choice? A model 1856 Actionrod and a model 111 Silaflex.
The next chapter of his book deals with the types of lakes, how to find fish on them and how to catch them. For the most part, I don’t think contemporary anglers would agree with his definitions of lake types but a lot of his theories on how to catch bass are still consistent with today’s ideas. For example, he says some of the best places to catch big fish are those which offer severe drops from one depth to another – a ledge. He also says that a bottom-bumping lure like a jig is the best choice for a spot like this. He also talks about finding underwater islands or shallow spots by looking for a color change on the surface of the water. Remember, this book was written just as Carl Lowrance was coming out with the first depth finders.
Another one of his thoughts has to do with making that first cast into a very promising area. This technique has been talked about for a long time by some of the best in the business and here Hawk is talking about it in 1958.
“NEVER MAKE YOUR FIRST CAST YOUR BEST CAST (as in a cast the “the spot”). WHEN YOU HAVE YOUR BOAT IN THE POSITION YOU WANT IT, AND ARE READY TO FISH, MAKE YOUR FIRST CAST A SHORT ONE, BUT TO A DEFINITE SPOT. IF YOU DON’T CATCH A BASS ON THE FIRST CAST THEN MAKE THE NEXT CAST A LITTLE FURTHEROUT, OR WHAT YOU WOULD CALL A MEDIUM CAST, ACCORDING TO YOUR INDIVIDUAL ABILITY. IF THIS CAST FAILS TO PRODUCE, THEN MAKE YOUR BEST CAST. REMEMBER, IF YOU MAKE YOUR BEST CAST FIRST, AND CATCH A BASS ON IT, YOU WILL HAVE TO DRAG THE BASS THROUGH ALL THE WATER BETWEEN WHERE YOU HOOKED HIM AND WHERE YOU ARE FISHING FROM, AND THIS WILL PUT EVERY BASS IN THAT AREA ON GUARD.”
Hawk called this fishing “INDIAN STYLE” and would allow him to pick off the fish on the outside of the piece of cover or structure first and then move into the main spot without disturbing it. I’m sure that today this would be considered a racist statement.
His theories for fishing the wind are also still looked at as the right way to do things – most of the time. Hawk felt that assuming the weather had been stable with no wind in the morning followed by afternoon breezes or wind, one should always start out fishing the leeward side of the lake in the early morning hours and then switch to the windward side of the lake in the afternoon. His theory was that a bass will work his way to shore during the evening to feed, therefore making the leeward side better. The fish then move to the windward side of the lake during the day to take advantage of any baitfish or bugs blown around from the wind.
Hawk’s theories on boat position really caught my attention – not because I’d never heard of them but because I figured they were from a much later period of time. For example, he believed paralleling the spot of interest in order to keep your lure in the zone was far more effective than making 90-degree casts at it. He also talked about one angler using a bait that could be worked deep while the other angler used a bait that could be worked shallow until the right depth was determined.
In the chapter on lures, Hawk talks about medium runners, deep runners, lures that can be used both shallow and deep and then the spoon. In another chapter he talks about topwater lures but what intrigued me, from a historical standpoint, was his lures of choice.
Hawk and his father, after moving from the Midwest, moved to Corpus Christie, TX where they bought the Pico Bait Company. Of course, the medium running lure that he recommended was the Pico Perch they manufactured. But his favorite deep runner was not something they manufactured. Instead, it was a competing Texas lure manufacturer, Bomber. The original Bomber must have made a big impression on Hawk as he devoted more words on how to fish the original Bomber than he did his own bait.
The next section was on lures that could be fished either shallow or deep. This section is a bit confusing to me and needs some clarification regarding its historical fact. Hawk is obviously talking about the spinnerbait, or what would become known as the spinnerbait. In this section he mentions a lure he and his dad developed in 1943 during World War II. The confusing thing to me is the Shannon Single Spinner had been out since at least 1924 and should be considered the origin of the contemporary spinnerbait. I have searched high and low for an example of Hawk’s spinnerbait and have failed to find one. So, if any of you readers out there have one, or a picture of one, please contact me. Anyway, here’s what Hawk had to say about the spinnerbait.
“THE ‘STANDBY’, AS I HAVE SAID BEFORE IN CHAPTER TEN, IS NOT PARTICULARLY GOOD ON LARGE BASS, BUT IT IS THE GREATEST ALL ROUND FISH CATCHER I HAVE EVER SEEN. I STARTED OVER FIFTEEN YEARS AGO WITH A LURE THAT IS THE GRANDFATHER OF THE ‘STANDBY’. THE WAR WAS ON AND THE LURE WAS BORN OF NECESSITY AS MUCH AS FOR ANY OTHER REASON. THE ORIGINAL WORKED ALRIGHT, BUT THE MODIFICATIONS THE ORIGINAL WENT THROUGH, EACH ONE AN IMPROVEMENT, HAVE WOUND UP IN WHAT IS TODAY A LETHAL PIECE OF MERCHANDISE. MY FATHER AND I PUT IT ON THE MARKET IN 1949 AS THE ‘SPINNNERBUG’, AND SALES WERE GREAT UNTIL THE LURE WAS COPIED, IN APPEARANCE, BUT NOT IN MECHANICAL STRUCTURE, BY A FOREIGN MANUFACTURER WITH A FANCY NAME. BECAUSE THE FOREIGN LURE WAS A FLOP, AND WAS SO CLOSE IN APPEARANCE THAT THE NOVICE COULDN’T TELL OURS FROM THE IMPORTED ONE, WE PULLED IT OFF THE MARKET AND HAVE USED IT PURELY FOR OUR OWN USE. AS A RESULT OF MANY LETTERS AND INDIVIDUAL DEMANDS, PICO IS NOW PRODUCING THE LURE UNDER THE NAME ‘STANDBY’.
Again, to you readers out there, if you have any information on Hawk’s “Standby,” please let me know.
Another concept with respect to bass lures Hawk talks about is old lure vs. new lure. There’s always been the concept that an old ratty, fish-producing lure will outfish a new one of the same model and color. His thoughts were that the new shiny bait was scaring the fish while the beat up one wasn’t. Folks can argue that thought through eternity, but I bet you won’t find many of us who would trade an old reliable fish catcher for a new one.
Out of these 2000 or so words I hope you get a good idea of how far ahead Hawk’s theories on bass fishing were for the time. I wish I could just reprint the whole book and post it here for you to read but I’ve probably stretched the copyright issue here as it is. As it stands, you can still find copies of it on the internet and if you like reading old, historical works on the sport that are filled with sarcastic remarks, I highly recommend you finding a copy. You won’t be disappointed.