Peterson holds on for second Hobie Bass Open win

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All photos Julie Nowicki
Tyson Peterson holds on for second Hobie Bass Open championship and return to Hobie Fishing Worlds.

Tyson Peterson of Lexington, Ky., rode out high seas and a stubborn challenge from a talented field of kayak anglers to secure a wire-to-wire win at the 2018 Hobie Bass Open on Kentucky and Barkley lakes. His winning total was 121.75 inches.

Editor's note: See more photos from the Hobie Bass Open.

“Being the first to win the Hobie Bass Open twice and returning to the Hobie Worlds is amazing,” said Peterson who took home a $5,000 winner’s purse from the event, sponsored by Hobie Cat and the Kentucky Lake Convention & Visitors Bureau. 

Unlike Day 1 when feeding bass were lighting up his graph, action started slowly for Peterson on Sunday. He and Nick McBride, who sat second on the leaderboard going into the day, opted to fish a 100-yard stretch of ledge on a secondary creek channel.

“The wind was out of the north,” said McBride, who took two 15-inchers in the first hour, the only two he would post for the day. “We had current taking us out of the mouth of the channel and wind blowing us back in, so it was really tough to control your boat.”

Peterson’s bite was longer in coming. Ripples from Saturday’s benign breezes turned into 3-foot rollers with accelerating morning winds. 

Peterson had buoyed his hopes of a return trip to the Hobie Fishing World Championship early in the event with a record-setting Day 1 total of 62.5 inches. The slow early bite coupled with worsening conditions found him second-guessing his decisions. 

“We were hoping to take our fish early, and then just fish for one big fish the rest of the day,” said Peterson, who credited his Hobie Pro Angler 14 for its performance in the unruly waters. “We were a little nervous when the wind picked up. We didn’t have a Plan B. All of our cards were down on that one spot. I started thinking about other options. But then I calmed down and caught fish…I had two 18-inchers and a 20-1/2 by 9:30. From then, I picked up a fish or so every couple of hours.”

He shelved the 12-inch worm and the 1/2-ounce football jigs that had taken fish from that same ledge on Saturday and committed to a 3/4-ounce jig.

“I knew it was going to be a grind, so I just threw the jig and creature the rest of the day,” said Peterson. “I caught all my fish on the (Strike King) Structure Head jig, trailed with a creature bait.”

First to repeat

Peterson, who won the tournament on the same waters in 2015, is the first repeat winner in the event’s five-year history. He and runner-up Joe Komyati (117 inches) qualified for the  2019 Hobie Fishing World Championship as the tournament’s top two finishers.

Due to high water conditions, the Tennessee Valley Authority continued high water discharge rates through the Kentucky Lake Dam during much of the tournament. Lake levels were significantly lower at the start of Day 2.

“TVA was pulling the heck out of it,” said Peterson. “That’s why I think we had such success on the secondary ledges. There might have been too much flow on the main ledges...It looked to me like the shad spawn was going on, too. That could have had an effect.”

Peterson had culled his way through 20-plus-inch fish early on Day 1, hoping to preserve enough of that ledge bite to reach similar numbers on Day 2.

“I stopped fishing at 10:30 a.m. and left my fish alone,” said Peterson. “I actually saw fish reloading on the structure on my graph. It was amazing. I hadn’t witnessed that before.”

Crash course

Joe Komyati’s second place finish came in only his second kayak bass tournament. Komyati, from Raleigh, N.C., credited a friend’s crash course in ledge fishing and advanced electronics for getting him ready to compete.

“I caught fish Thursday, and Friday. Then I found another spot that looked good, caught four there and left,” said Komyati. “They became my #1 and #2 spots for the tournament. On Day 1, I caught 25 fish from Spot #1 by 8:30. Then I caught bigger fish at my second spot and culled my whole limit.”

He went straight to his secondary spot on Day 2, but his fish were gone. He combed a 300-yard radius of the spot, hoping to find the retreat locations of his Day 1 fish.

“I took two on a point, then got six or seven more from another location,” said Komyati, who said he got help in protecting his spot from a neighborly kayak competitor who refused to allow an intruding boat angler to encroach. “On the second cast, I got a 20.5-inch fish. I was off the water by 11 a.m.”