OCEANSIDE, Calif. — In the narrowest margin of victory of the 2020 Hobie Bass Open Series (B.O.S.), Drew Gregory edged ahead of Eric Siddiqi via a tie-breaker as both anglers finished the two-day Lake Dardanelle tournament with 171 inches of catch-and-release largemouth bass. Jody Queen took the third spot, 4.25 inches behind the leaders, to nudge ahead of fourth-place finisher Rus Snyders by less than an inch in Hobie’s Angler of the Year (A.O.Y.) standings. As the last opportunities left to settle A.O.Y. honors, it looks like Hobie’s B.O.S. Coosa River Chain Event in Gadsden, Ala., Oct. 3 and 4, and the B.O.S. Shootout in Knoxville, Tenn., Nov. 13, will be especially exciting.
All told, the Lake Dardanelle event saw a stellar field of 112 kayak anglers, including many elite competitors, tally 693 largemouth and spotted bass even while reporting they had to work hard to dig up the famed lake’s treasures over a busy boating weekend. Gregory, 41, a Z-Man, Realtree Fishing, 13 Fishing and Crescent Kayaks pro of Ravenna, Ohio, walked away with a total of $6,848 for first place and big bass honors. Siddiqi, 36, from Cincinnati, Ohio, netted $3,300 for second, while Queen, 55, from Bluefield, W.V., cashed out with $1,800. Total payouts topped $20,000 and covered the top 12 finishes. Siddiqi, fifth-place Justin Patrick, and sixth-place Garrett Morgan, also qualified for the Hobie Tournament of Champions (T.O.C.), scheduled for Nov. 14 and 15 in Knoxville, Tenn.
“It’s events like this that really showcase our competitors’ skills and heart,” said Hobie B.O.S. Tournament Director A.J. McWhorter. “The fishing was a little tough as we saw significant traffic on the water, but these guys and gals really know how to compete. They dug in, made changes on the fly, and managed to put together some very respectable limits. I’d also like to acknowledge how accommodating Lake Dardanelle and the town of Russellville, Ark., are to high-caliber bass tournaments. The people, facilities and waters here were terrific and really added to the success and enjoyment of all who participated.”
Ultimately, a 21-inch lunker largemouth sealed Gregory’s victory as he held the big fish card since Saturday afternoon. The fourth-place finisher in last month’s Hobie BOS Susquehanna River event, Gregory worked a Z-Man Project-Z ChatterBait tipped with a 5-inch DieZel Minnow, Whopper Plopper, buzzbaits and a Z-Man StreakZ slow-sinking jerkbait impaled on a Z-Man ChinlockZ weighted hook to rack up quick limits in the same spot each morning before packing up and driving a half-hour away to relaunch and look for bigger fish. It was late on Saturday when he threw his Whopper Plopper surface lure between a trio of laydowns and the bank.
“Those logs and root balls were laying parallel to the bank,” Gregory explained, “and I knew it would be a challenge to get a big fish out of that small pocket. As my lure approached the innermost log, a 10-inch bass jumped on it. It fell off as I cranked it past the log furthest from the shore and one turn of the reel handle later the big one smashed it. I had to horse her away from those logs. I call that my ‘Praise the Lord!’ moment. That fish was the difference since Eric’s biggest was a healthy 19.75-inch fish. Yes, it helps to be a little lucky, but you still have to make the most of your opportunities.”
Gregory attributed his overall success to heavy pre-event scouting. “I drove around the entire lake for a day-and-a-half before I put my kayak in for practice,” he revealed. “I think it’s important to look at all the water before you pick a section to fish. If you drop in to sample the first good-looking spot you see, you’ll miss even better water somewhere else. You need to target more than productive looking spots; you have to keep looking until you find small ecosystems that favor big bass.”