OCEANSIDE, Calif. — The final regular event of the Hobie Bass Open Series (BOS) took place late last month on the storied, big-bass waters of Alabama’s Lake Guntersville. The pressure-cooker two-day tournament saw 81 kayak anglers competing on the 69,000 acres of water between Nickajack and Guntersville Dams, not only for the coveted event title, but also for one of the precious 11 remaining spots in the upcoming Hobie Tournament of Champions (TOC), scheduled for Nov. 9-10 at Lake Ouachita.
Murfreesboro, Tenn., angler Josh Stewart fished in the Hobie Worlds two years ago and has been stalking Hobie BOS champions throughout the 2019 season. Raised on Kentucky Lake, Stewart finished second to Kristine Fischer at the Hobie BOS event there in May, and he has been within striking distance at other Hobie BOS events throughout this season. Stewart finally got it done last month, winning the BOS title at Lake Guntersville.
“Lake Guntersville is only about an hour and 20 minutes from where I live, so I know it really well,” says Stewart, who looked to expand his horizons in prefishing by checking out water he didn’t know so well on the lake’s south end. “It didn’t pan out,” he concedes. “I didn’t find the good bites I was looking for down there … plenty of 15s, but nothing bigger … so I ended up focusing on more familiar water during both days of the tournament.” The lesson for all anglers? Don’t be afraid to move outside your comfort zone, but don’t force anything. When a new plan doesn’t work out, stick to what you know when it matters most. And that’s just what Stewart did during the two days of competition.
Day one of competition saw Stewart fishing familiar water near Nickajack. “My plan on the first day was to fish a particular creek with a bunch of brush and laydowns that I knew held good fish,” he says. “I launched with one other guy on the bay that the creek emptied into. I was going to take my time fishing the bay before heading into the creek. There were a lot of grass areas and gizzard shad were everywhere. Unfortunately, the guy I launched with went straight to the spot I was planning on starting at, and when I checked my backup spots there were people fishing there, too, so I ended up heading up into the creek earlier than I had planned.”
Stewart found immediate success, probing the creek’s abundant brush and laydowns with a Strike King Pro football jig and Rage Craw trailer. “I got some good bites,” says Stewart, who was slowly working the jig along the bottom. “It takes a lot of patience to fish that way, but most of the bigger fish I caught ate the jig when it was sitting still.” Stewart’s patience paid off with five fish averaging 18.4 inches in a relatively short period of time. He had over 92 inches when he emerged from the creek mouth.
“I spent the rest of the day fishing the broken grass beds near where the creek emptied into the bay,” says Stewart, who managed to cull two fish before day’s end. One – a 22-incher and his biggest of the day – came on a Senko. “I was fishing a spinning rod and light line,” he says. “She was swimming towards me after I hooked her, so I didn’t know what I had,” Stewart recalls. “Then I saw her huge head. She was all down in the grass, and I thought she was coming off for sure. I bumped her with the net and was positive it was over, but somehow she stayed buttoned!” Stewart finished day one with 93.5 inches and a strong lead over the rest of the field.