Published: April 6, 2013   |
Updated: April 6, 2013 at 10:00 PM
I like to think I always had a special place in Doug Hannon's vast stable of friends, because I named him.
The "Bass Professor" became that after a story I wrote for Outdoor Life magazine some 30 years ago. The article was about Hannon's amazing catches of 10-pound largemouth bass, most on live shiners at Lake Jackson, outside of Tallahassee.
I had visited Doug and his wife Lynn (also now deceased) at their home on Lake Keystone, and was immediately taken by his professorial and instructional tones. He seemed to know everything there was to know about bass and about catching them by this particular tactic. And he very much wanted me - and everybody else - to learn about them.
He was a natural "professor." The magazine ran a full-page photo of him with his new title, and a brand name was born.
Hannon's tremendous catches were partly from being in the right place at the right time, as Lake Jackson hit an incredible peak of production, and also from Hannon's mastery of the wild shiner tactic. It was the beginning of a career that made the "Bass Professor" a household name among bass anglers worldwide.
Doug Hannon was 66 when he died March 28 after complications from neck surgery. He leaves a big hole in the world of fishing.
He was a true genius, and he applied much of his formidable intellect toward developing better equipment for bass angling.
The first and probably still the most successful item was the weedless trolling motor prop. Hannon machined the first one out of aluminum, with a large barrel and small, swept-back blades, tinkering with it for months as he plowed up the weed beds at Keystone. When he finally got it right he patented it and sold it to a trolling motor company.
Today, it would be difficult to find a trolling motor that doesn't have the Hannon original or a very similar prop inspired by Hannon's design.
He also invented the Mule (a compact plow anchor for small boats), the Moon Clock to forecast prime fishing times and close to 20 other patented devices.
One of the best known is likely to be the Wave-Spin spinning reel, which features a star-point lip on the spool rather than the smooth lip that is on all other reels. The concept, Hannon said, was to cut friction and prevent line from jumping the spool and creating knots, particularly in braid.
(Doug brought an early model of these reels to my house in Ruskin many years ago, and it didn't work all that well. However, he promptly took it home and tinkered with it until it was perfect, and today it's rapidly becoming a standard fixture in tackle shops worldwide.)
Hannon was a long-time host on ESPN's "Sportsman's Challenge" series. He was an avid conservationist, one of the first to speak out on overuse of herbicides in the nation's waterways.
He authored three successful bass fishing books and was the first to notice what he called the "northwest factor," in which bass and other fish tend to gravitate to the northwest shore of water bodies on cold, sunny days because these locations get direct sun the longest. I can't tell you how many redfish I found by following this bit of wisdom over the years.
Hannon remained a student of the largemouth bass all of his life. He kept a swimming-pool-sized tank in his backyard, where he observed giant fish, hand-fed them and tried to raise one to world-record size by exceeding the accepted 22-pound, 4-ounce mark. He never succeeded in that venture, but he did in many others.
He was an avid runner, often doing five miles a day, and he looked like a man in his 40s rather than his 60s. In fact, if there was one guy you'd have expected to live to be 90, it was Hannon.
He will be missed by the industry, by tens of thousands of anglers around the world, and by his friends, of which there were many