OCEANSIDE, Calif. — When the splashing ended, drags stopped screaming and howling wind finally subsided, Ryan Lambert’s name stood alone atop the leader board at the Hobie Bass Open Series (B.O.S.) Tournament of Champions (T.O.C.) sponsored by Power-Pole. Held on the famed Tennessee River System bass waters that slice through the heart of Knoxville and that hosted the 2019 49th annual Bassmaster Classic, the contest featured an elite field of 50 kayak bass fishing sharpies who qualified for their limited slots based on performance during nine B.O.S. series events spread across the country, plus a one-day Shootout held in Knoxville, on Friday.
Simply put, the 34-year old Lambert, from Chattanooga, Tenn., showed the world how to get ‘er done on his home waters. Dusting the field by nearly 11 inches with a tally of 186.25” for the two-day event, he finished ahead of fellow local angler Jordan Marshall (175.50”) and Kristine Fischer (172”), as the Tennesseans swept the top three spots in what is arguably the most prestigious of kayak bass fishing championships.
“This really was an amazing event, and a terrific way to wrap up our B.O.S. season,” said tournament director, A.J. McWhorter. “When you put the best anglers in our series together, it can be anybody's game – and there were a lot of folks who had a reasonable chance of claiming this crown. In the end, the top spots went to local anglers who were familiar with the waters and best able to adapt to the changing conditions. No matter where you go this time of year, nature can play rough and our competitors got a full dose of her fury with cool temperatures and heavy fog on Saturday morning, strong currents on both days, and a heavy storm with 60 m.p.h. wind gusts that blew through around lunchtime on Sunday. Through it all, Ryan Lambert was the only one who managed to sustain super-high catch levels across both days and that’s why he’s our champion. He earned it with an amazing performance.”
For his efforts, Lambert collected a $30,000 first-place check while Marshall pocketed $8,000 and Fischer took home $5,500. In total, the tournament paid out a whopping $61,000 to the top 10 finishers, plus an additional $1,000 to Cole Kleffman, who edged out Lambert by a quarter-inch for Bassin’ Magazine Big Bass honors with a 20.75” brute. All told, competitors caught, measured and released 437 fish, a mix of smallmouth and largemouth, with the bronzebacks dominating the money spots. In addition to his substantial cash prize, Lambert also qualified for the Hobie Worlds 10 and the 2021 T.O.C. Fischer, it should be noted, finished higher than has any other female competitor in a kayak fishing national championship event.
“I love river fishing for smallmouth and these waters are local for me, so I felt pretty good heading into this tournament,” said Lambert. “Still, to win it all? I just couldn’t imagine that. I’ve had several second- and third-place finishes at national events, but I’ve been lacking that signature win on the big stage. For it to come at the Holy Grail of kayak bass fishing, well, that’s hard to believe. If I were going to pick one kayak event to win, this would be it. The competition here is the best you’ll find anywhere, and this tournament is so well run, so respected. I’ve got to tell you, it feels really good!”