Making the right decisions

Making the Right Decisions
Written by: Kevin Hawk

Several months ago I decided not to compete in any bass fishing tournaments in 2016 in order to focus full-time on my bass fishing guide service.  I didn’t know how I’d feel about my decision, because I’ve been fishing tournaments since I was a teenager and full-time for the last five years.  Would I miss competing?  Feel left out?  I didn’t know.

Once the Bassmaster Elite Series started its season on the St. Johns River in early February I checked the results nightly.  I wanted to see how my friends were doing and follow the leaderboard.  While I was interested in the tournament itself, I didn’t have the desire to be there competing.  Not having that desire told me I’d made the right decision to stop competing.  At least for right now.

Even though I don’t miss competing in tournaments at the moment, I still love to go bass fishing more than anything else.  Guiding on Lake Guntersville is allowing me to continue doing what I love for a living.  I get to meet a lot of interesting people who love to bass fish as much as I do, and I enjoy teaching people through my experience.  It’s also providing me with a steady income—one I wasn’t earning tournament fishing.

Many of my clients are local (within a few hours drive) to North Alabama, but I also have clients who travel from all parts of the U.S and even Canada to fish with me on Guntersville.   The common trait all of my clients share is they want to learn and have a great time, so I do everything in my power to deliver both of these qualities during our trip.

When I’m on the water teaching a client how to fish a presentation they’re not familiar with I’ll strip it down and explain it step by step.  After explaining what to do I show them by demonstrating myself.  I’ve learned some people are better visual learners than verbal learners, or vice-versa.  Some need both types of instruction before they’re able to catch on to what I’m trying to teach them.

I have patience—a lot of it.  I use my patience on every trip and some trips require more than others.  But that’s what makes my trips fun and interesting.  No two trips are ever the exact same.  With so many changing variables from day to day each trip is unpredictable to some degree.

A few weeks ago I took a father and his 7-year old son, James, out fishing for a few hours.  The bite was slow for us and I was concerned James might quickly lose interest if he wasn’t catching anything, so I described the type of cover we were fishing and gave him specific things to focus on.  I explained to James we were fishing an underwater point with a mixture of milfoil and rock and asked him to tell me when he felt the vegetation and rock with the shakey head worm he worked slowly along the bottom.  Giving him these focus points kept him interested. Soon, he started asking questions and eventually caught his first bass of the day.  It was small, but I could tell its size didn’t matter.  He was proud to catch his first Guntersville bass.

James also learned to fish with one of my spinning rod and reel combos.  He’d only ever used a Zebco 33 push-button casting reel prior to our trip.  I was impressed how quickly he learned how to open the spinning reel bail while holding the line with his index finger and sensed the right time to release it from the line during his cast.  When he set the hook and reeled in his first bass using the spinning rod I could sense the accomplishment he felt.

A few days after our trip I received an email from Jame’s father thanking me for my patience and teaching his son how to use a spinning reel.  He said James never stopped talking about our time on the water and what he learned during their ride home.   It’s positive feedback like this that also reinforces I made the right decision to pursue guiding full-time.

I’m enjoying the path I’m on and can see myself guiding for many years to come.  So long as Guntersville continues to be one of the premier largemouth bass fishing destinations in the U.S., which I feel it will be due to it’s thriving vegetation throughout the lake.  It’s Guntersville’s vegetation that supports the whole ecosystem and food chain the bass need to flourish.

When guiding slows down this winter I’m going to review how my first full-time year in business performed.  Just like tournament fishing was in the past, guiding is now my business—one I need to be certain I can support myself and possibly a family on in the future.  Hopefully, my guide business will allow me to continue doing what I love to do more than anything else—bass fish.