A Day with the Hawks - Major League Fishing
A Day with the Hawks
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A Day with the Hawks

Scouting Lake Ouachita while getting to know this father-son duo
Image for A Day with the Hawks
Meet the Hawks. The father-son duo of Roy and Sunny is one of two to qualify for the Cup as pro and co-angler, respectively. Photo by Curtis Niedermier. Angler: Roy Hawk.
August 17, 2015 • Curtis Niedermier • Angler News

About 1,400 miles separate Roy Hawk’s home in Lake Havasu City, Ariz., from Hot Springs, Ark., but Hawk’s path to get to Hot Springs for the 2015 Forrest Wood Cup has stretched far beyond that.

The Western pro’s FLW profile shows a career of ups and downs, of trials and errors. He’s fished a mishmash of tournaments, from two seasons on the Walmart FLW Tour to Bass Fishing League qualifiers in the South to Rayovac FLW Series events in the middle of the nation to dozens of tournaments in the Western states.

Generally, he’s had good success. In 77 FLW appearances, Hawk has earned almost $400,000. He won back-to-back Western Division Rayovac events in 2009. That’s why out West, Hawk is known as one of the region’s best. Elsewhere, however, he’s not yet had that keystone win that’s needed to make his a household name in the bass fishing industry.

Maybe that all changes this week.

Hawk qualified to fish as a boater in the Cup through the 2014 Rayovac FLW Series Championship after finishing second in the Angler of the Year race in the Western Division.

He’s fishing this week for the money to stake a run at the Walmart FLW Tour again next season. He’s fishing this week to prove that he belongs with the sport’s best. He’s fishing because that’s all Hawk does.

A true professional angler, he doesn’t have another day job.

“I just fish … and starve,” Hawk jokes.

Pardon the pun, but Hawk has probably flown under the radar at Ouachita a little bit because he’s not a “regular” Tour guy, but he’s got two big advantages working in his favor this week: experience on Ouachita and Sunny. That is, Sunny Ridge Hawk, Roy’s son, age 24, who qualified to fish the tournament as a co-angler. Together, they make up one of two father-son pro-co duos in the tournament. Peter and Nick Thliveros make the other.

As father-and-son fishing partners, the Hawks are working to overcome the myriad challenges that Ouachita has laid down this week. This morning, they invited me out for a ride on Ouachita to observe their practice and to get to know them a little better. Here’s what I learned.



When Roy says he just fishes, he means it. From weeknight jackpots to the major Western series and opens, he’ll enter any tournament he can to make a buck with a rod in hand because he’s not a full-time, heavily sponsored Tour pro who can afford to be choosy. He has deals with Duo Realis, Lithium Pros batteries, Gamakatsu, Yamamoto and Anderson Toyota (a dealer in Lake Havasu City), but he still runs a 2013 model boat that shows a couple of seasons’ worth of regular use.

I sling my camera case into that Ranger at about 6:30 a.m., and quickly we cruise off straight into the rising sun. Roy and Sunny watch for surface boils as we run at a slow speed, eventually stopping to fish a mix of grass and timber.

Sunny lives in Utah and works as a clean room carpenter, building manufacturing facilities for major tech companies. He’s earned five top-10 finishes in 15 FLW tournaments, so he’s definitely a capable practice partner. Sunny joined Roy for pre-practice a few weeks back, and they start this morning by re-checking a few spots where they caught fish before the cut-off.

Duo Realis topwaters and crankbaits get the early call, but produce nothing but itty-bitty spotted bass and a small sunfish.

“Hey, look, Sunny caught a sunny,” Roy jokes.



Both Hawks have been to Ouachita before, and they’re both big fans. In two tournaments on the lake – one on Tour and one Rayovac – Roy has finished seventh twice, and Sunny cashed a check in the same Rayovac as a co-angler.

With about nine hours of drive time separating their homes, the Hawks have found that fishing is something that can bring them together on a regular basis. These days, they fish a tournament together about once a month.

“That’s the most we’ve gotten to do stuff together in a couple years,” Roy says.

“It’s remarkable,” adds Sunny.

“It’s cool. And to have it [the Cup] here is way cool. We’re not complaining one bit. I don’t know what guys are saying about the heat,” Roy adds, telling me it was 112 degrees in Lake Havasu City yesterday. “We love it here. We’ve come and camped a few times, and we’ve cashed checks here.”



Roy works the boat through timber and around grass edges at a pace that’s faster than “methodical” but nowhere near “Bryan Thrift speed.” He’s trying to get one good fish to show itself.

Much of the game plan for the early part of practice, in addition to looking at pre-practice spots, is to search for areas where the lake’s real kickers might move in to feed if the weather forecast for Thursday and Friday’s opening days is accurate. The weatherman says rain and overcast skies are coming. For now, the forecast is enough to keep Roy on the grass edge and not out in the deep.



Roy was born in Illinois and moved to Utah at about 5 years old. He made a couple of yearlong return trips to Illinois later in life, heading back to Utah after each stint, before marrying and settling down in Arizona three years ago. His wedding anniversary with wife Kristina is Wednesday, and, no, he hasn’t forgotten. He can’t. She’s coming to Hot Springs in a couple of days, along with pretty much all of Roy’s extended family – aunts, uncles, the whole shebang. He might have the best-travelled support system in Bank of the Ozarks Arena come Thursday.

Between detailing their family’s travel plans, Roy and Sunny occasionally drop some “dudes” as they point out breaking fish here and there. There seem to be hundreds of “littles” – that’s Westernese for tiny bass – breaking in the pockets where they’re fishing, but some are, literally, no bigger than the crankbaits they’re now ripping through the grass.

Still, Roy thinks he knows just what kind of grass is right, and believes the fish are still around. He gets one small largemouth to commit to the crankbait.



Roy is in no hurry to pull the plug and eases into another pocket that’s laced with wood and grass.

I take a moment to snap a cell phone photo but realize my phone’s memory is full.

“Too many dog photos,” I tell Roy.

Turns out, he’s a dog lover too.

In addition to four kids, Roy and Kristina have five dogs – three huskies, one “mutt terrier thing” and a three-legged Jack Russell terrier that used to accompany Roy at tournaments. I learn that huskies are very versatile dogs, even in the extreme heat of Arizona summers, but you should never shave their coats. Useful info, right?

“Man, I love this place,” Roy cuts in with an over-the-shoulder grin. “I miss the trees. Nobody has any trees at home. This place is so full of fish. There are so many.”

Finally, a couple of largemouths show themselves. One follows a fouled crankbait back to the boat, and Sunny lands the other. It’s small.

Roy mixes in the occasional Duo spy-bait cast too as he picks apart some sweet-looking cover.

“I like this spot,” Roy says. “But I don’t like it a lot. I’m hoping the wind and rain will push some fish up.”



An hour in, and Roy makes a quick move to a textbook rocky point. He pulls out a big 12-inch Yamamoto worm and slings it toward the bank. Sunny pitches out something on a spinning rod. A half-dozen casts later they’re ready to move.



The third spot looks about like the first. It’s another schooling spot where Roy knows there are good fish. The plan is to check a few new stretches.

Sunny goes on a baby-bass tear, landing a half-dozen or so littles in the back, and Roy gets a keeper to show itself on his topwater, which has its hooks bent around so he doesn’t stick any fish.

“I think about 75 percent of the fish are out,” he says. “But I don’t know if those fish will win it. I think the bigger ones are shallow.”



Roy banks around the back of the pocket and asks me if I play FLW Fantasy Fishing.

As an FLW employee, I’m not eligible to play. Roy and Sunny are, since neither fishes the Tour full-time. Apparently, they’re gamers, too. Roy is ranked seventh overall for the season. He’s 189 points off the lead.

Off the top of his head, he knows that Bryan Thrift is the top-picked angler for the Cup, and that the highest Roy has been in terms of popularity is 11th, but now he’s 20-something. I double-check this stat. Turns out, he’s the 21st most popular pick, with 18 percent of players picking him. At a salary of $8, why wouldn’t you pick him?



The next stop is one where they caught fish on day one of the official practice. Roy’s not interested in beating up the fish here, but he wants to dial in the timing of the bite. We see a lot of bait getting run up to the surface too – a good sign.

Sunny mixes a jerkbait in with his crankbait, while Roy rigs up a little swimbait on a small Yamamoto jighead and tosses the combo out on spinning tackle.

In the back, Sunny sticks a fat white bass.

“That’s a good sign,” Roy says. “That’s our energizer.”

“You mean, those whites will get the bass to school?” I ask.

“Yeah. It’s competition,” he replies.

Roy probably knows. He’s got a background in multi-species angling … well, sort of.

He fished his first-ever tournament at about age 10 while visiting his dad in Illinois. It was a multi-species event sponsored by a local Elks lodge, and Roy won it from a canoe. He still has the silver dollars that were awarded to him for winning. Several years later, Roy tried to fish his first bass tournament out of that canoe, but his dad wouldn’t let him because of stormy weather. A friend with a bass boat offered to haul Roy around. That sealed his fate. Three decades or so later, Roy is casting in Lake Ouachita with $500,000 at stake.

Before we leave this spot, Sunny lands the only keeper of the morning on the jerkbait. It isn’t big, but it’d go a long way for a co-angler in this derby.



Roy idles out through a maze of timber and puts the Ranger up on pad. We round a few corners on the way to a large creek, only to find Larry Nixon – a fellow Yamamoto pro-staffer – parked on the spot where Roy was hoping to fish. He zooms by and heads farther back into the creek.

The Hawks proceed to pick apart a half-dozen points and pockets in this area. They fished here in practice too, and Roy is quick to caution me not to identify it by name. He says that after pre-practice this spot was what he thought would be his starting area for the tournament. He’s not so sure now, but he doesn’t want to let the secret out.

He points out more of the good grass that he’s looking for as he alternates between a crankbait and a topwater. Every fourth or fifth cast gets a follow from a little, but that’s it.

“We’ve fished some pretty groovy-looking stuff to not get a bite,” Roy says. “Did the fish all swim out? We just have to fish where they are today.”

The next little pocket is practically lifeless, while the next drain after that is full of littles. They swarm baits as big as them all the way back to the boat.

“They’re like piranhas,” Roy jokes. “Don’t fall in.”

He casts a worm and has one pick it up and run with it. Roy doesn’t set the hook though, and after a few more casts he pulls the trolling motor.

It’s lunchtime now, so Roy and Sunny scarf down some sandwiches and Goldfish crackers as they haul me back to the ramp.

Roy says he’s not convinced of any go-to pattern yet, and he wants to log some hours offshore to see what’s happening in the deep before he finalizes a game plan. He and Sunny are both optimistic. In fact, they hardly spoke a negative word all day.

The Hawks both know they’ll be cashing checks this week no matter what, and their family is on the way, so they’re winning in the end.

I wish them good luck as they turn and head back out in search of opportunity on Lake Ouachita.