In 2010, Kevin Hawk won the Forrest Wood Cup by using light line finesse techniques on Lake Lanier, GA. For his win he walked away with a $600,000 check and immediate recognition as an expert at deep water finesse. As a California native, he learned these techniques fishing the deep, clear waters of the West Coast. Now living in Alabama as a Bassmaster Elite Series pro, Hawk still relies on finesse techniques any time the bass are in deep water as he travels across the country.
Dropshotting is the go-to finesse technique for many anglers targeting deep bass and it warrants nearly all of Kevin Hawk’s time when finesse fishing for deep water bass. “For dropshotting, I use a Roboworm straight tail and a Yamamoto Shad Shape Worm most of the time. I have found that the smallmouth really like the Yamamoto worm and the largemouth and spotted bass usually like the Roboworm a little more,” shares Hawk. For the Roboworm, Hawk sticks to three main colors as he dropshots the depths; Morning Dawn, Bold Bluegill and MM3. “The Bold Bluegill color works great in water that is a little stained, it really stands out. Anytime I am fishing for spotted bass, I will use Morning Dawn 100% of the time,” adds Hawk.
The Yamamoto Shad Shape Worm has a unique profile packed in a perfect size. “It really looks like a baitfish the way it’s designed and the smallmouth really love it. My favorite color is the Green Pumpkin and Watermelon laminate,” says the Elite Series pro.
Selecting a size for a dropshot weight can be confusing as to when anglers should switch to a lighter or heavier weight. Kevin Hawk has a general rule of thumb for choosing a size based on the water depth. “I will always use the lightest weight I can get away with, but I vary my size based on the depth. If it is between 10-25 feet deep, I will use a 1/4oz weight and if it is deeper than 25 feet I will switch to a 3/8oz,” says Hawk. Hawk added that most of the time he will be targeting fish in the 10-25 feet range. He mentioned that wind can also play a role in his selection and he will switch to a heavier weight if he needs to keep the bait near the bottom. His preferred brand of dropshot weights is the Picasso Tungsten Dropshot teardrop weights. His hook of choice is an Owner Mosquito hook in size 1.
Electronics and Retrieve
The use of electronics plays a vital role in locating the right depths, cover and even in locating individual fish. “Sometimes you will see the fish streaking up and down through the water column on your graph and you can actually get a reaction bite out of them. I will reel up really fast four or five cranks and see how they react, and a lot of times you can get them to hit it,” shares Hawk.
By looking at how fish react to different presentations he can adjust both his cast and retrieve. “The dropshot will really work in all depths and water columns; the best thing to do is let the fish tell you what they want. Sometimes they will want it on the fall and sometimes you really have to shake it,” says Hawk.
The dropshot is not exclusively a bottom bouncing technique for the Alabama pro. If he notices that the bass are suspending off of the bottom, he will cast and let the lure swing like a pendulum to the right depth. “By using the pendulum effect you can catch more of those suspended fish. You can even get it to swing right to the tops of brush or timber if the fish are positioned just above it,” acknowledges Hawk.
If he notices that the fish are positioned on the bottom, he is more likely to drop the bait straight down under the boat. “This is another way to get a reaction bite; if you drop it directly on them they will sometimes bite it as it is falling down. One thing I will do is to use a 3/8oz weight if I want a really fast drop,” shares Hawk.
Rod and Reel
Kevin Hawk relies on a 7’1” iRod medium spinning rod for most of his finesse fishing. “I’ll use the medium action for all of my light finesse fishing and will use a Revo Premier reel. It’s really a perfect combination for finesse fishing,” says Hawk. One tip he added was about the hookset when using small hooks and light line. “You really don’t need to set the hook hard at all, it’s more just reeling into them,” adds Hawk.
Line and Knots
Like many of today’s bass pros, Kevin Hawk has transitioned to using braided line with a fluorocarbon leader for the majority of his finesse fishing. The longer casting distance along with the added strength and sensitivity of braid are the biggest reasons for this movement among the pros. With the fluorocarbon leader, anglers are still able to have the benefit of a nearly invisible line. “I use 15lb Seaguar Kanzen braid with 8lb Seaguar Tatsu fluorocarbon for my leader. I use a Modified Albright knot and will have a leader length that is just long enough to where when you reel it through the guides, it will be between the reel and first guide of the rod,” says Hawk. He stressed the importance of not having the leader go into the reel because it could affect the cast or damage the knot and line.
There are many different knots that will effectively combine braid to fluorocarbon, but the Modified Albright is what Kevin Hawk relies on after testing out several.
Deep water finesse fishing has proven to be a profitable skill for Kevin Hawk as he travels the country as a professional angler. His approach, equipment and electronics all work together to consistently catch bass in deep water.