Portrait of the angler as a young man

Again, you’d never know it unless you asked him. As we peppered him with questions about his magical week at Lake Lanier, he politely demurred and turned the conversation back to the El Salto experience or asked us questions about our lives.

Gradually, in dribs and drabs, he let it slip that the El Salto trip was certainly a vacation, but also a springboard into righting his season with three Elite Series tournaments and a handful of Opens left to go. I wouldn’t say that he won the Cup too early in his career – after all, you take a win like that whenever you can get it – but unlike the Brauers and VanDams who won their first title after years of maturation, Hawk is still in the early stages of his quest. The expectations are high, both from within and from the fans, and he’s trying to live up to them.

One thing Kevin doesn’t need to prop up, though, is his demeanor. His track record – not just the FLW championship, but also his qualifying for the Elites on his first try – speaks for itself. I knew going into the trip that he could fish well, and that was confirmed on the water, but all 100 of the Elites can catch ‘em. Not all Elites have the business sense or the people skills to maximize their reach in this industry, though.

Here’s the three prong test you should use to judge any pro’s character:

Would I enjoy fishing with him?

If I owned a company, would I sponsor him?

Would I let him date my daughter?

As for No. 1, yes, you would enjoy fishing with Kevin Hawk. He’s humble, he’s friendly and he’s talkative when it’s appropriate. Each of the three other members of our party, none of whom had met him before, came back to the lodge after fishing with him with the same reaction – “It’s like I’ve known him for years.” They also said “It’s like fishing with my best friend, if my best friend happened to be a better fisherman.” There was no cutthroat jockeying to be the first to cast to the next spot, no explaining what we were doing wrong, no attitude. He also volunteered at times to fish from the back deck. I wish I had gotten a picture of that. Alex, I’ll take “Things Most Pros Would Never Do” for a thousand.