Forgotten Angler – Dave Hawk

"Eighty Years" on Bass by Dave Hawk. Printed 1958.

“Eighty Years” on Bass by Dave Hawk. Printed 1958.

It may seem like this week is Book Review week and you’re probably right. Over the past few months I’ve spent too much time on airplanes and in hotels and when I travel this much, I like to take a few easy-to-accomplish books with me. Today’s piece is one of the results of all this travel.

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 couple of major inventions of the sport.

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.AS.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.

The Preface to 80 Years on Bass.

The Preface to 80 Years on Bass.

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 like saying Don Rickles was a catholic priest.

Dave Hawk's thoughtss on leaders.

Dave Hawk’s thoughtss on leaders.

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.”

Dave Hawk's thoughts on swivels.

Dave Hawk’s thoughts on swivels.

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 ABSORBS 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 ID 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.

Dave Hawk's thoughts on reels.

Dave Hawk’s thoughts on reels.

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 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.

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:

Rods a la Dave Hawk.

Rods a la Dave Hawk.

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 his 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 push the rod forward. 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 talks of 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. He also talks about finding underwater islands or shallow spots by looking for a color change on the surface of the water. Remember, this was before 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 THE MAKE THE NEXT CAST A LITTLE FURTHER OUT, 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.

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.

A letter written to the person who received this book from Hawk. Evidently he was just a snippy with publishers as he was writers.

A letter written to the person who received this book from Hawk. Evidently he was just a snippy with publishers as he was writers.

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’s 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 bait competing Texas lure manufacturer Bomber made. The Bomber must have made a big impression on Hawk as he devoted more words on how to fish the Bomber than he did his own bait.

The next section was on lures that could be fished either shallow or deep. This is the section that really got me excited because it may be the first account of who actually came up with the lure that played the biggest part in early Classic wins than any other lure. Here is how it was written.

“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 AL RIGHT, 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’.

Was it O.L. and Dave Hawk ho invented the spinnerbait?

Hawk's dedication for the book, Eighty Years on Bass.

Hawk’s dedication for the book, Eighty Years on Bass.

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 out fish 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 Hawks 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.

  • doug

    I fished with Dave Hawk in Mexico while he was running a dove hunting camp in El Fuerte. It was my first time to ever bass fish and I have been hooked ever since.

    • Doug. What was he like? Was he as colorful a person as he seemed in his book? Do you have any pictures of you and him?

      • doug

        I will have to look for the pictures. My dad had taken me on a few dove hunts when I was 12 years old in Mexico. Dave Hawk ran the lodge and was one of the greatest guys I have ever met. I was kind of tired of hunting so may dad asked Dave to take me bass fishing. I had no idea at the time that I was with a true legend. We caught fish until my arm almost fell off. My dad still recites quotes from Dave. If I can find some pictures I will send them. By the way my copy of 100 years of Bass is singed to my dad.

        • Doug. That’s a great story. We’d be interested in any pictures you could provide – even of your dad’s signed book. Stuff like that is important to the history of the sport. You can contact me at terry@bassfishingarchives.com if you’d like.

          Thanks for the comments and for telling us about your experiences!

          Terry

          • doug

            Will do.

  • I loved my Langley lurecast and actionrod until I could afford a sila flex – we got some 9# braided tournament silk and could throw the “flyrod” lures of the day.

  • Brian

    I’ve got a copy of 100 years on Bass that I’ve read. Pretty much as interesting and straightforward as the 80 years book, with some duplication it sounds like. Another avenue to look into is Dave’s wife, who is mentioned and pictured in the 100 years book. Dave won the Texas State Bass Tournament back in 1958, but his eventual wife, then named Elaine Vickers, won it in 1959. It might be the first and only example of a woman winning a major Championship bass event (major for the time) going head-to-head in an open field against mostly men. The Texas papers had a good time writing up her win and teasing all the guys about getting beat by a pretty blonde woman – LOL. To give you an idea of the competition level in that event around that time, Floyd Mabry, Bomber field tester and Texas legend who we’ve written about before won the individual title in 1963, 1965 & 1966.

    • Okay Brian, reading the next one is on the short list now. I still have to finish the Lindners book – which is taking way more time than I wanted it to.

  • Delaney

    I agree with his opinion on braided lines being less visible. Nylon monos are plastic and have a smooth reflective surface. Braided lines have an irregular surface that don’t reflect light. In most light conditions I think that braids are less visible than monos. When I use braids I don’t use a leader and don’t think it’s a problem.

  • Ralph Manns

    Wow. I’ve had “100 Years…” on my shelf since about 1971. I didn’t realize an earlier version had been published. A quick review of this later volume indicates it is very much a repeat. But in the 70s the content was new to me. It still reads well as a basic guide. I learned my approach to wind and night fishing from this book. “Indian style” still works for me.

    Considering that Hawk included instruction on how to make “bullet” sinkers by cutting bell (and other) sinkers in half. Your suggestion that the Hawks may have invented the TX rig looks sound. They also apparently invented the super-hard hook sets that dominated TX worming until some equally clever angler changed hook style to wide gap and used skin-hooking. The Hawks were perhaps also first in noting the positioning relationship of bass to nearby deep water. That Idea is now commonplace among bass pros.

    Of big interest to me was a photo of Dave sitting on top of his Evinrude with his foot on his Silvertrol. Back in the mid-’60s for my first “bass boat” (12 feet long), I sat on the motor and ran my Silvertroll with my feet, fishing and moving sternward. Only when I came back from Nam and Join B.A.S.S. in 1969 did I learn the newly discovered/promoted value of a front-end electric “pulling the chain.”.

    As is my wont, I found several minor errors in bass biology in the book. I believe Dave was incorrect in his view that bass first kill and then turn and eat their prey. Studies show bass basically fully ingest anything they intend to eat on the first pass if it fits inside their mouths. Any further delay of swallowing is usually just to reposition spiny prey in its mouth Perhaps he misinterpreted strikes by second bass after one fish missed his lures

    He writes ‘ On any given day, the majority of the fish will be at one particular depth. this is scientifically accurate only if you we change it to readc– On any given hour, the majority of the ACTIVE/biting bass will be found within one particular depth range of several feet. On every day and every hour, inactive and neutral bass can be seen by divers at almost all depths with suitable oxygen and food.

    Hawk suggests preyfish don’t shine under water and that shiny lures are not as effective as dark drab lures. My observations are that while most preyfish are basically dull and drab in appearance, they will flash occasionally. Thus bass may see and react to flashes. However, to imitate natural prey the flashes should usually be intermittant rather than constant. such flashes come only from fairly flat sided mirror baits. Round chrome baits mostly reflect the adjacent water and cover colors and are actually quite drab.

    • Ralph, I agree with you about some of his theories being a little off. But working with what he had at the time (which wasn’t much) I think he did pretty good. His thought on flashes really makes me wonder, though. If he thought flashes scared fish, why did he use a spinnerbait? It’s the blades that attract the fish and then they eat the body – at ;east that’s the way I feel it works a lot of the time in clear shallow water.

      Still the book was ahead of its time and one of the early examples of how a good angler could communicate to the masses with good solid info.

  • erick prado

    another book that I must now get…thank you terry, I like you love Bass Fishing history and this is right up my ally. I find it amazing that these guys like Mr. Hawk were able to do with so little (crap line, reels,rods etc) thanks again Tater

  • Ryan Vickers

    Thanks for the kind words, Ms. Vickers was my Grandmother. It’s good to see her talents are remembered!