OCEANSIDE, Calif. — Bill Barnes said it best. The owner of nationally renowned host site Mountain Harbor Resort spoke at the awards ceremony about the “rebirth of small craft fishing” and the incoming “kayak dynasty.” He reminisced about how small tin boats have given way to big “glitter boats” and, now, how we’re going back to the future … a kayak fishing future.
Celebrating and underscoring this unrelenting movement was the inaugural 2019 Hobie Bass Open Series (BOS) Tournament of Champions (TOC) presented by Power-Pole on Arkansas’ fabled Lake Ouachita.
The pastoral 60,000-acre reservoir is both awe-inspiring in its beauty and infinitely diverse when it comes to fishing situations. On the same autumn day, as anglers quickly found, you can find hulky black bass wallowing in sun-soaked coves while throngs of spotted bass paste to the bottom off 50-foot ledges. So, to be in contention, your kayak better feature everything and the kitchen sink ... and your legs, or arms, be trained for Louis and Clark-like explorations.
After two days of kayak fishing’s best anglers probing Ouachita’s 40 miles of fishable water, it was Bluefield, West Virginia’s Jody Queen who rose to the top, stayed on top and claimed the $20,000 first place check in the BOS TOC’s catch, measure, photograph and release event.
“It’s always been my dream to fish professionally,” said Queen, who now makes a living competitive kayak fishing. “My idols were guys like Roland Martin, Bill Dance and Virgil Ward.” Now Queen is clearly setting the table for aspiring pros to have a mentor of their own.
Queen, who qualified at West Virginia’s New River BOS satellite tournament back in July, registered a five-fish limit last Saturday, Nov. 9 – Day 1 of the event – with 85 inches of pure Arkansas bass. “I started working the shallows with a 1/4-ounce, shad-pattern spinnerbait to get the numbers,” said Queen.
From there, as the sun rose across bluebird skies on both days of TOC fishing, Queen delved deeper and focused on timber. “I hit every brushpile I could find and dragged a Z-Man Jack Hammer ChatterBait across the bottom and through the wood,” he says. Specifically, Queen threw a green pumpkin Jack Hammer Chatterbait with a Z-Man RaZor ShadZ in The Deal color scheme.
Known for his calm, cool collectiveness, Queen seized the lead early on and never flinched, never breaking a sweat it seemed, posting 85 inches on Day 1 and 84 inches on Day 2. He finished with a total of 169 inches, never surrendering his lead. His biggest bass measured 18.5 inches.