Kayak bass fishing

Hobie Bass Open Series a success on Chickamauga

The first tournament of their new elite-level kayak series, the Hobie Bass Open Series (B.O.S.), on Lake Chickamauga Saturday, Feb. 23, and Sunday, Feb. 24, in Dayton, Tenn., was a resounding success. Despite some tough weather patterns, anglers did well and competition was fierce.

“By tournament day the conditions that had been so favorable for pre-fish had deteriorated severely. Regionally heavy rains left anglers with challenging conditions with blown out creeks and rapidly rising water. Day two was not much better as the front pushed through there were some heavy winds that made it really tough for the anglers, but it also really provided an opportunity for those that found those special little fish-holding areas,” says Hobie Bass Open Series tournament director, A.J. McWhorter. 

The Top 6 at the event all qualified for the Tournament of Champions on Arkansas’ Lake Oachita, Nov. 9 and 10, including Nathan Green, First Place, 173.75 inches; David Golding, Second Place, 166.5 inches; James Himel, Third Place, 157.5 inches; Tracy Stafford, Fourth Place, 154.75 inches; Terry Golden, Fifth Place, 133 inches; and Jamie Denison, Sixth Place, 126.25 inches.  

“As the level of competition increases the concept of ‘Home Field Advantage’ quickly diminishes. The Top 3, none of them were local anglers. The winner, Nathan Green, is from Virginia; second-place finisher, David Golding, is from North Carolina; third-place finisher, James Himel, is from Louisville, Ky. These guys had very little experience on the water which probably helped them adapt better to changing conditions than the local anglers were able to,” says McWhorter.

“Saturday was pretty much like fishing in a monsoon,” says champion Nathan Green. “Heavy drizzling rain—the whole day, even noon, felt like dusk or dawn. It never got daylight. But at the same time I stayed dry. Probably the best fishing investment that I’ve ever made is a Kokatat drysuit. I fish year-round, mostly on the New James River and surrounding lakes. I pull the drysuit out when the conditions are dangerous and things were pretty hairy out on the lake this week with the flooding. The main thing was keeping gear dry that needed to stay dry. Yesterday the conditions were completely different; post-front and bluebird sky and there was about an hour window of fishing time between 7:30 and 8:30 a.m. when the water was just glass. That played a real important part because I had a trip from where I launched to the spot that I was targeting. Once the wind picked up, I think that kept the other competitors at bay. I don’t think anyone else was willing to get out into the main river and venture out. The challenge I had was getting back, going up current and up wind to get back to my landing.”

As far as top presentations, Green alternated between a Z-Man Jackhammer Chatterbait, War Eagle Spinnerbait and occasionally a jig.

“My main three presentations were a chatterbait, a spinnerbait and a jig. I started off on Saturday with the Jackhammer in black/gold/chartreuse and paired it up with a Zoom Super Fluke in black/gold, and I really wanted that dark profile going through the water. At the same time, I picked a 3/8-ounce War Eagle spinnerbait that was gold and white with a pearl white Keitech swimbait on the back, and I would follow-up with one or the other. If I had a bite on the chatterbait and missed it, I’d throw the spinnerbait and vice versa. The fish were feeding, but they were hitting on reaction. I wanted to make sure whatever I followed up with looked different, and that worked out well,” says Green.

With regards to locations, Green found fish during practice moving from the front of coves toward the back. “The fish were pretty much moving from the front end of the cove toward the back, and I knew the lake was going to get blown out. So, I wanted to make sure that the coves I was fishing had fish in them. The main cove I fished was about 100 acres, so it was the size of what a lot of people would call a small lake that’s how I broke it down, as a lake-within-a-lake. I knew that once the bass were in there before the flood came that they weren’t going to come out,” says Green.

Once in the cove, Green concentrated on lines of stumps in skinny water as well as rock and rip-rap emerging from the mud bottom. That’s where he caught his biggest fish, including a 22-incher and lost a fish he estimates at well over 10 pounds, even closer to 15.

“The pattern I ran—and what worked—was pretty much fishing shallow cover,” says Green.

Asked what the win, paycheck, and automatic qualification for the Tournament of Champions means to him, Green remarks: “For me, I just love fishing. I live to catch big fish. There’s nothing like catching big fish; it’s addicting to me. But I just like being out on the water. If I hadn’t caught any fish I would have been disappointed, but I would have learned something and I was outside doing what I love doing. Any day you’re fishing is a good day in my mind.”

And Green wasn’t the only angler who apparently had a good time fishing the inaugural Hobie Bass Open Series on Lake Chickagmauga.

“I think that the format and just the new opportunity on the competitive kayak fishing scene was received extremely well by anglers and they’re excited to have additional opportunities in other parts of the country,” says McWhorter.

“I’d also like to add how much assistance and support was provided by Rhea County and Fish Dayton to make this tournament a success. They were tremendous supporters of the event and are eager to bring kayak angling to the area for future opportunities,” says McWhorter. 

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 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 anglers 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, Tenn., and follows 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. 

Keeton Eoff, Director of Global Strategy, Hobie, remarks: “We’re excited to help provide this opportunity for the anglers. This latest initiative definitely jibes with our continued work over the last decade to help the sport of kayak fishing move mainstream, and we’re proud to provide the exposure to a group of anglers who can hold their own in any arena. This is going to be good!”