Doug Hannon passed away at his home on the Thursday before Easter when the world’s attention was focused elsewhere. That would suit him. Doug never sought the spotlight and the way he dressed and carried himself said so. He always seemed to wear clothes that blended into the background. Though he was affable enough when engaged in conversation, his subdued personality constituted more camouflage. He was known as “The Bass Professor” and, as might be said of most professors, he felt more comfortable when in a classroom. For Doug Hannon, the classroom was a lake and his lectern a small johnboat.
Hannon, 66, and a resident of Keystone, Fla., died of complications from neck surgery. He will be remembered by the fishing community as was one of the most knowledgeable bass fishermen of modern times despite having never fished in tournaments. His specialty was catching big bass over 10 pounds, and his skill in doing so was enough to win him the respect of the nation’s top fishing writers and outdoor magazines. Hannon’s views on what it takes to catch the bass that live long enough to reach maximum-size potential were formed in the small waters of the Ocala National Forest, near Hannon’s Florida home, and he shared such information freely.
Hannon made enough money from inheritance or from his years as a guitarist in a rock-and-roll band to be able to devote his life to fishing – and in turns he did so as an angler, a guide, a writer and an inventor. He caught hundreds of bass that weighed more than 10 pounds each, and helped clients catch dozens more. He never lacked for customers, though Hannon was one of the first guides in the country to adopt catch-and-release as a term of employment.
Possessing an engineer’s mind, Hannon’s natural inclination to tinker with things led to a number of inventions that improved fishing for everyone. Among them:
• In 1980, he introduced a patented propeller for MotorGuide trolling motors that would allow them to run through aquatic vegetation without becoming fouled. It became the model for all similar props that followed.
• Beginning in the early 80s, Doug invented a number of bass lures for various companies, most famously Burke Lures. The Snake Trix, one of them, ultimately became The Snake, which is still a topwater mainstay in Southern lakes where big bass roam.
• In 2006, he perfected a spinning reel, the WaveSpin, whose unique spool dissipates line snarls, the universal bane of finesse fishermen.
His obituary will note that Hannon was born in Manitoba of a Canadian mother and a father from Texas. Years of ranging and fishing in the backcountry of north Florida converted him into a Cracker of lanky frame and square jaw, however. His side-parted-and-combed-back thick hair added to the trademarked Hannon look.
Doug and his wife, Lynn, moved to Florida soon after they graduated from college. He married Lynn while they were students together at Tulane University in the late 1960s. In 2006 she died of cancer and it rounded Doug’s life with a sadness that was palpable.
Given the promise that it embodies, Easter Week was a good time for the sadness to end.