Don “The Doodle King” Iovino – An Era Ends

Don Iovino weighs one of the last fish of his 40-year tournament career at this year's WON Bass U.S. Open. Photo Don Iovino.

Don Iovino weighs one of the last fish of his 40-year tournament career at this year’s WON Bass U.S. Open. Photo Dan O’Sullivan.

The first time I met Don Iovino was in 1978 at a seminar at a tackle shop called Anglers West in Diamond Bar California – I was all of 14 years old and wanted to learn everything I could about bass fishing.

In those days you couldn’t open a Western Outdoor News, Western Bass magazine or SWAB periodical without seeing Iovino’s name within its confines. He was winning or placing high in nearly every event he entered and doing it in a most unorthodox manner – some new thing he’d developed called doodling.

Iovino was never too far from the head of the pack. In this picture Iovino, left center, and his partner placed second at the 1979 Western Bass team event. Photo Spring 1979 issue of Western Bass.

Iovino was never too far from the head of the pack. In this picture Iovino, left center, and his partner placed second at the 1979 Western Bass team event. Photo Spring 1979 issue of Western Bass.

So, in 1978 I convinced a friend of mine who was 16 to drive the two of us to the seminar so I could learn more about this thing he called doodling.

Iovino talked for two hours and gave demonstrations to about 50 of us would-be bassers. No question was too basic and no question was too hard. He answered them all and stayed to help anglers pick out the right equipment to get started. As I said, that was my first experience with the Doodle King.

Two western legends, Don Iovino and Mike Folkestad goofing around (hopefully) on the water in the 70s. Photo Bill Rice.

Two western legends, Don Iovino and Mike Folkestad goofing around (hopefully) on the water in the 70s. Photo Bill Rice.

Over the ten years that I worked at Bob’s Tackle in Norwalk, CA, I had a chance to talk with Iovino a number of times and also experience him helping customers in our shop. When it came to helping anglers learn how to fish deep water, he was the master. His doodling technique not only required the right rod, reel and line set-up, it required proper installation of electronics and knowledge of how to interpret its signals. There were a lot of great sonar guys in the west but it was hard to beat Iovino.

For years, along with his tournament angling, Iovino ran a very successful guide business where he booked anglers to go fish Castaic, Casitas, Piru and other local lakes. He was also the rep and national pro-staffer for companies such as Phenix Rods, Lowrance Electronics, Bass-N-Man (Bobby Garland), Ranger and ABU Garcia, to name a few.

Iovino with two of the fish that helped him win an event on Lake Mojave. Photo Bill Rice.

Iovino with two of the fish that helped him win an event on Lake Mojave. Photo Bill Rice.

As if time was infinite, Iovino also ran a business out of his house that he still runs today, cleaning, repairing and souping up old Ambassadeur reels. He’s also been in the hand pour business nearly since the western hand-pour revolution took place at the dawn of the 70s. A number of western hand pours owe their origin to Iovino. Couple that with the Brass and Glass craze and Iovino wasn’t just a technique innovator, he was – and still is – a tackle innovator.

Don Iovino takes over the Western Bass AOY points race. Photo George Kramer/Bill Rice.

Don Iovino takes over the Western Bass AOY points race. Photo George Kramer/Bill Rice.

Over the years Don Iovino’s name has been cemented in the annals of western and national bass fishing. His tournament wins and high finishes place him among the best the west has ever produced. That’s why I was saddened this past month when Iovino announced that this year’s U.S. Open on Lake Mead would be his last event. A tournament career that started around 1974 would end 40 years later at what many call the toughest tournament in the world.

Don, I along with many others would like to thank you for your time, energy and mentorship in bass fishing. It’s hard to rival what you’ve done and accomplished. May you continue to develop, teach and be a part of community you’ve given so much to. And we all hope you continue to feel the pressure on the end of your line.

  • Al H.

    I only met Don once about in 2000 when he was doing seminars
    with Bassmaster University. He talked about doodling, brass-n-glass, light line, etc. And then he said I want to show you something new that I think will be big and it’s called drop shotting. With his overhead projector he used silhouettes to demonstrate how to set up the rig. I walked in there thinking who is this guy sandwiched between Brauer and Fritts; and I walked out with a lasting impression of a man who was happy to teach and share his experience.