KENTUCKY LAKE, Ky. – Jay Wallen has come oh so close, as close as consecutive third place finishes at the Hobie Bass Open. Twice he’s come this close to punching his ticket to the Hobie Fishing Worlds, only to be the last man knocked out of contention. This year could be different.
After day one of the Hobie Bass Open with just one more to go, Wallen sits atop the leaderboard with 58.75 total inches for his three-fish daily tournament limit. It’s just as he expected. “I want to win this thing more than anything. Coming in third two years in a row makes you want it a little bit more,” he said.
The Hobie Bass Open is a catch, photograph, release kayak fishing tournament. Anglers measure their catches using Hawg Troughs, then log them using the iAngler Tournament app. The highest aggregate length wins. First place and second place both earn invitations to the prestigious Hobie Fishing World Championship.
Wallen’s day got off to a quick start when he popped a 20.5-inch smallmouth first thing in the morning. “It shook the nerves off. It was just about going fishing after that point,” he said.
Joshua Stewart (57.75 inches) is just one inch behind in second place, also in line for a trip to the Hobie Fishing Worlds. “I’m feeling pretty good about it, feeling confident as well. Hopefully I can catch them on the same pattern tomorrow,” he said.
Stewart said his strategy was to get away from the boat traffic to fish unpressured areas.
Drew Russell’s 55.5 inches was good for third place. His day got off to a rough start when the school of fish he was tracking in practice was nowhere to be found on tournament day. “I moved to plan B, started hitting up main lake ledges and found them there. I caught my limit in five casts. I didn’t catch many fish but the quality was there,” he said.
How will it play out? No one can say. More than 20 other kayak anglers are in range, each with over 50 inches of fish. Wallen can’t wait for the challenge. “I’m ready to go right now,” he said.
Tournament sponsors include the Kentucky Lake Dam Village Convention Center and Pavilion, Kentucky Lake Convention & Visitors Bureau, Kentucky Lake Dam Village State Resort Park, the host city of Calvert, Hobie Polarized, Lowrance, YakAttack, Bassin’ Magazine, RAM Mounts, St. Croix, Daiwa, Power-Pole, Mustad and Gerber.