So Long to The Bass Professor
by Frank Sargent, courtesy of The Fishing Wire

Doug Hannon
Doug Hannon, who died March 28 at age 66, was one of the world's best known fishermen, an innovator and inventor who had a huge impact on both the fishing industry and angling know-how. (Pete Johnson Photo)


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 about his amazing catches of 10-pound largemouth bass, most at Lake Jackson outside Tallahassee, Florida, on live shiners, some 30 years ago.

I visited Doug and his wife Lynn (since also deceased) at their home on Lake Keystone, north of Tampa, 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 also. He was a natural "professor", and so the name was born. The magazine ran a full-page photo of him with his new title and a brand name was born.

Over several years Hannon caught and released 800 bass of 10 pounds or better. The tremendous catches-which in all honesty were partly from being in the right place at the right time as Jackson hit an incredible peak of production, plus Hannon's mastery of the wild shiner tactic, were just the beginning of a career that made Doug Hannon-the Bass Professor--a household name among bass anglers world wide.

Doug passed away a week ago Thursday, a result of complications from neck surgery, and he leaves a big hole in the world of fishing.

He was, I think, a true genius, and he applied much of his formidable intellect towards developing better equipment for his beloved bass angling.

The first and probably still the most successful 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 weedbeds at Keystone, until he finally had it right, patented it, and sold it to a trolling motor company.

Today, you'd be hard-put to find a trolling motor that doesn't wear either the Hannon original or a very similar prop inspired by the Hannon design.

He also invented the "Mule", a compact plow anchor for small boats, Doug Hannon's Moon Clock to forecast prime fishing times and close to 20 other patented devices.

The Wave Spin reel, which features a star-point spool, was one of Hannon's best-known inventions.
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 seen on all other reels. The concept, Hannon said, was to cut friction and also to prevent line from jumping the spool and creating knots, particularly in braid. (Doug brought an early model of these reels to my house on Tampa Bay many years ago, and it didn't work all that well then-but he promptly took it home and tinkered with it until it was perfect; today, it's rapidly becoming a standard fixture in tackle shops worldwide.)

He was a long time host on ESPN's Sportsman's Challenge TV series, and an avid conservationist, one of the first to speak out on overuse of herbicides in the nation's waterways-still a hot issue today on many bass lakes nationwide.

He authored three highly-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 longest. I can't tell you how many redfish I found following this bit of wisdom over the years.

He 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, exceeding the accepted 22 pound, 4 ounce record. He never did succeed 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 40's rather than his 60's. In fact, if there was one guy you'd have expected to live to be 90, it was the Bass Professor.

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.


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