Oceanside, Calif. – The fourth event in Hobie’s new elite-level kayak tournament trail, the Hobie Bass Open Series (B.O.S.) on Lake Fork, took place this past Saturday, June 1 and Sunday, June 2. Hosted at Lake Fork Marina and Motel, the exciting and successful two-day event saw participants catch an extraordinary number of big bass.
“Lake Fork, Texas, is an ideal kayak destination. Not only does it provide great opportunities for trophy bass, but it also has areas kayak anglers can get into that other boats simply cannot. It’s also located in a unique area that’s well positioned to draw anglers from all of Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana and beyond. They were all well-represented at this event,” says tournament director, AJ McWhorter.
“A lot of anglers came into the event thinking they’d have to move offshore to find summer holes for the bass in deeper water, but the higher water and the weather being a little cooler to start the year positioned the fish shallow. Really, most anglers found their best bites shallow, most of the time in water less than 5 or 6 feet. A variety of different techniques and tactics were in play, from frog fishing from punching through thick mats, as well as weightless plastics and other topwater baits,” adds McWhorter.
Pre-fishing week saw funnel clouds looming over Lake Fork, which put anglers on the edge leading into the tournament. Yet, by the time the Captains’ Meeting took place, the weather reports called for clear skies with little to no chance of rain.
In fact, day one of the tournament was sunny and hot. The anglers found a topwater bite right off the bat and the catch submissions started consistently coming in. Frogs, buzzbaits, poppers and other tactics provided well for not just numbers of fish, but Lake Fork’s world-renowned trophy largemouth bass as well. Anglers Brady Storrs and Joseph Mongognia both landed fish measuring 23.5 inches.
Local favorite Guillermo Gonzalez was leading the field mid-morning on day one, finding a shallow water bite. Fellow regional kayak anglers were well aware of Gonzalez’s strength targeting Lake Fork bass in deep water. To find him catching bass shallow was a bit of a surprise to all.
While the local favorite was working his way to a strong 92-inch limit, another angler was submitting fish of a similar class. Matt Ramey, hailing from Carlsbad, N.M., was moving his way up the leaderboard in a hurried fashion. The leaderboard soon shifted, with Ramey overtaking Gonzalez with 96 inches. But Ramey wasn’t done yet. In fact, his pattern started to pick up pace toward the afternoon when most of the field struggled to find a bite. By the end of day one, Matt Ramey had put together an incredible five fish limit of 101.25 inches. This was the first-ever 100-inch plus limit in the Hobie B.O.S., and an accomplishment few tournament kayak anglers have ever reached.
While on the camera boat, tournament officials were able to see how Ramey was targeting the fish. What they saw could only be matched by the best-of-the-best of the competitive bass fishing world. “When we first approached Matt on the camera boat, he was setting the hook on a fish. After releasing the fish, he proceeded to start calling his shots, landing three fish in one short stretch. But what we were most impressed by was his punching technique. He would flip his punching jig three rod lengths into the air and slam the jig into matted cover to get through to the bass lurking below. If he got through the mat, he would get a bite. It was truly elite-class kayak fishing,” comments Kevin Nakada, Hobie Fishing Team Coordinator.
Winner Matt Ramey comments: “The fishing was excellent at Lake Fork, at least the pattern I was on! Seemed like the fish hadn’t pulled out deep yet, so I decided to stay up shallow. I found a really good pattern punching vegetation — a mixture of hyacinth, hydrilla, milfoil, etc. — with a depth of 2-to-5 feet of water underneath. Rather than flipping up to it or around it, I was actually punching through the grass. I had two key baits the entire time — a 1-ounce Hack Attack Flipping Jig and a 2-ounce flipping weight with various baits to get through the thicker stuff. The whole set-up was a Dobyns extra-heavy 7-foot, 6-inch rod rigged with straight 55-pound braid. Utilizing a heavy flipping rod was really key to getting fish out of the grass mat. If I wasn’t fishing that kind of rod, I wouldn’t have been able to stick and get some of the fish out I did.”
He continues: “My best areas were adjacent to bluegill beds. I actually spent a lot of time in practice side scanning all of my grass mats with my Lowrance HDS Live unit with the new Active Imaging transducer installed on my Hobie Pro Angler 14 kayak. I was finding bluegill beds up underneath mats in sparse vegetation. Areas of really thick vegetation adjacent to that were key. That really helped my pattern.”
The number of big fish he encountered surprised Ramey. “In practice, I only had one quality bite, with one 5-pound, 6-ounce fish. But I had fished the area before I knew it was just a matter of putting my time in fishing the areas I had scanned with hard bottom adjacent to bluegill beds. While I had practiced out deep fishing ledges and creek channel swings, they didn’t produce the quality of fish I knew it would take. But I knew I could get a limit up shallow so that became my focus,” he says.
“On the first tournament day the weather really played in my favor with high sun and it moved fish under those grass mats. It all happened really fast. It was like 20-incher, 20-incher, 15-incher, a couple smaller ones, then two more 20-inchers. I tried my best to not stick as many fish as I could, because I really wanted to break the 100-inch mark. I stuck some extra fish and then moved to a spot where I had a bluegill bed and the first fish there was my 18.75 incher. I broke 100 inches and went into the weigh-in an hour-and-half early.”
Ramey’s lead would not be outmatched at the end of day one. The rest of the field found the fishing difficult after the morning rush of topwater bass. Anglers commented that the deep-water patterns were simply not working. Lake Fork’s bass were discovered mostly in postspawn mode, still inhabiting the shallows, but that could have changed at any time.
Day two weather was slightly different, with cloud cover moving in and even some light rain. This excited competitors, as many wanted the cloudy weather to move the fish around instead of taking to cover with bright, sunny skies.
The morning bite shut down and many anglers were not finding fish willing to commit to their offerings. The top 20 anglers found the most bites even with the change in weather. Previous Hobie B.O.S. winner, Kristine Fischer, improved her standing, moving up to 17th place, landing an early limit totaling 84 inches. But one angler still remained consistent throughout the morning. Matt Ramey confidently stuck with his mat-punching pattern and repeatedly culled his limit during the morning hours.
With Ramey running away with the tournament lead, it became a fight for placing in the top 6. The top 6 anglers qualify for the Hobie B.O.S. Tournament of Champions, November 9 and 10, and will be “in the money.” Bryan Howell, born and raised in Los Angeles, Calif., recently moved to Texas and found a strong pattern to add to his day one limit that put him in second place with 178.25 inches, while Guillermo Gonzalez worked back to shallow water and stuck with what was working and never moved back to deep water. Gonzalez would finish third with 176.75 inches.
By the end of day two, the 78 anglers submitted 535 fish; 45 of those measured over 20 inches.
Matt Ramey held first place with a two-day limit measuring 194.5 inches. The math comes out to each fish averaging 19.5 inches. By most kayak-angler standards, that’s two days of lifetime catches. All anglers participating in the tournament acknowledged his outstanding performance. “He earned it!” was a common phrase heard amongst the competitors before the awards ceremony. The top three held their checks with pride, with first place taking home $4,300, second place $2,350 and third $1,400. Each Hobie B.O.S. event is 100 percent paid out to the anglers with $35 withheld and put toward the pot for the Tournament of Champions.
“For a guy that has only fished Lake Fork a few times and always in November, he was able to come to Lake Fork where many local anglers had really high expectations and outperform them in one of the most dominating wins we’ve seen in our series. And he did it all very specifically – targeting fish punching heavy grass mats in a very small section of the lake,” says Tournament Director, AJ McWhorter.
Ultimately, champion Matt Ramey says he has to give the highest credit to the organizers of the tournament for a spectacularly well-run event. “They ran an excellent event. Everything about it was detailed and just incredibly organized. I couldn’t have asked for a better event. I give the highest credit to them and look forward to more events with Hobie. And looking forward to the Tournament of Champions, I’m simply ecstatic. Rumor has it that the timing, fishing, accommodations and everything about the event on Lake Ouachita in Arkansas is going to be outstanding! I fished the last Tournament of Champions and am looking forward to it more than any thus far.”
The Top 6 competitors at the event qualified for the Tournament of Champions on Arkansas’ Lake Ouachita, slated for November 9 and 10. The top 6 competitors include Matt Ramey, First Place, 194.5 inches; Bryan Howell, Second Place, 178.25 inches; Guillermo Gonzalez, Third Place, 176.75 inches; Garrett Morgan, Fourth Place, 175.25 inches; Richie McMichael, Fifth Place, 174.75 inches; and Jason Kincy, Sixth Place, 171.75 inches.
If you would like to participate in the next Hobie B.O.S. series event, you can register on iAnglerTournament.com. The next main event will be held on famed smallmouth bass fishery, Lake St. Clair, which lies on the border of Michigan and Ontario. Competitive anglers are anxiously awaiting this event, as the timing of this tournament lines up with a potential delay in weather and seasonal patterns. Many predict the fish will be spawning or recently postspawn, which usually means the fish are easy to find and willing to bite. There is also a Hobie B.O.S. satellite event on Lake Pueblo, Colo., this coming weekend. Winning this event will carry a top cash prize and qualify the angler for the Tournament of Champions.
MORE ABOUT THE HOBIE BASS OPEN SERIES
Birthed out of their popular Hobie Bass Open on Kentucky Lake, and in response to angler demand, Hobie has created what is essentially the first elite-level tournament circuit in kayak fishing, the 2019 Hobie Bass Open Series (B.O.S.). The BOS will comprise of six Open events, 11 satellite tournaments, one last chance shootout and a Tournament of Champions (TOC) in November 2019 on Arkansas’ Lake Ouachita and hosted by Mountain Harbor Resort.
A Catch, Photo, Release (CPR) format — a conservation-based practice that actually finds its origins in competitive kayak fishing — will test an angler's skill on premier fisheries during prime conditions. Anglers will be able to turn in their longest five bass each day in hopes of maxing out a 10-fish limit, scored in inches, over the course of the two-day tournament.
The first event headquartered at Rhea County Welcome Center in Dayton, Tennessee, and followed with the 2019 Hobie Bass Open Series event on Lake Shasta, California, March 9-10, 2019; Kentucky Lake, Kentucky, May 18-19; Lake Fork, Texas, June 1-2; Lake St. Clair, Michigan, June 29-30; Lake Guntersville, Alabama, September 21-22; and the B.O.S. Shootout, November 8 on Arkansas’ Lake Ouachita and Tournament of Champions, also on Lake Ouachita, November 9 and 10.