Wallen wins Hobie Open after three tries

Kentucky Lake, Ky. – At last, he’s done it. After finishing third the past two years, Jay Wallen of Lexington, Kentucky has finally broken through with a victory at the annual Hobie Bass Open.

“I’m on cloud 11. I don’t know if that’s a cloud but I’ll make it one,” he said.

Wallen lead the two-day Catch, Photograph, Release kayak fishing tournament wire to wire, but it wasn’t until he culled out an 18-incher with just thirty minutes of fishing time that he allowed himself to believe a win could be in the cards.

“You just never know until everyone weighs in. I’m so happy I pulled it off,” he said.

The win earned him a $4,000 check and an expenses-paid trip to Hobie Fishing Worlds 7, a prestigious international kayak fishing competition. Last year’s event was contested in Lafourche Parish, Louisiana. Next year’s host location is expected to be announced in July.

“I’m ready to go, to represent team USA. It’s my honor to do that. There have been some class acts that have gone before me and I just want to make sure that I live up to that,” he said.

Anglers could log three bass per each day using the iAngler Tournament app. Wallen added 56.75 inches of bass to his day one tally of 58.75 inches for a total of 115.5 inches. His day two numbers were backstopped by a 20-inch kicker. He fished ledges; productive baits included a 12-inch worm on day one and a 3/4-ounce football jig with a crawfish trailer on day two.  

“I think about this tournament in the winter time. When no one else is thinking about it, I’m thinking about dragging a jig across Kentucky Lake. For this day to finally be here. I can hardly believe it,” he said.

Joshua Stewart of Waverly, Tennessee nearly matched Wallen inch for inch, but ultimately finished second with a total of 114.25 inches. He fished a jig in shallow water in the New Johnsonville area. Stewart earned $2,500 and an invitation to Hobie Fishing Worlds 7.

“This is the biggest one, the most meaningful finish of my kayak fishing career,” he said. 

Drew Russell of Louisville, Kentucky rounded out the top three. He earned $1,700. “I was shooting for a top ten. I’m thrilled with third,” he said. Russell fished worms and jigs on ledges and points. “I’ll be back. We’ll get it next year,” he said of just missing the Hobie Worlds.

The Hobie Bass Open paid out to twelfth place, with 100 percent payback. 115 anglers fished the adult division.

The youth division was won by Jaxton Orr, who compiled a two-day total of 102.25 inches. He was followed by Will Stumbo (95.5 inches) and Cole Kleffman (83.75 inches)

Kentucky Lake Convention & Visitors Bureau and Hobie Worldwide sponsored the first-place finisher’s entry to the Hobie Worlds. Additional sponsors included lodging host 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.