OCEANSIDE, Calif. — The Hobie Bass Open Series (BOS) resumed its schedule after a brief break due to the coronavirus pandemic as 129 kayak anglers converged on Kentucky Lake in Calvert City, Ky. Operating under physical-distancing guidelines designed to keep competitors, staff and others safe throughout the two-day event, the tournament proceeded smoothly, participants worked their fishing magic and the bass cooperated enough to see the top-three finishers separated by less than 2 inches of total length.
When all the wakes had faded, Jody Queen, 55, of Bluefield, W.V., stood alone atop the winner’s list with 177.5 inches of largemouth bass. Adam Riser, 36, of Nashville, Tenn., claimed second with 176.50 inches, and Cody Milton, 27, of Searcy, Ark., took third with 175.75 inches. Measurements reflected full-limit catches of five bass per day for each of the top three finishers.
As with all Hobie BOS events, the winning anglers took home substantial cash prizes from the Kentucky Lake tourney with Queen grabbing $7,000, Riser $3,800 and Milton $2,200. Additionally, Riser, Milton and fourth-place finisher Mark Davis of Birmingham, Ala., all qualified for the Hobie Tournament of Champions (TOC). Queen, who had already qualified for the TOC by winning that event last year, also picked up a slot for the Hobie Worlds 10 – kayak fishing’s most prestigious international competition.
“This event had plenty of fun and excitement, but it also had a little different feel from usual,” admitted Hobie BOS Tournament Director, A.J. McWhorter. “Most of our events see a lot of interaction and banter between participants. Still, it was great to see everyone ready to go and showing such support for the series. Our anglers did an amazing job of respecting the COVID-19 guidelines we instituted for this event. They followed the instructions and protocols to the letter and did a terrific job. We’re thankful to all who helped demonstrate these events can be safely run within our format.”
Queen was pleased with both the event alterations and his results, remarking that he felt safe and comfortable with the tournament being run digitally, without official meetings, weigh-ins, award ceremonies or other gatherings. Anglers, he added, were asked to avoid large groups after hours and to respect the precautions being taken within the tournament and local community that allowed the event to launch.
“There’s one thing you can expect from the BOS,” said Queen. “It’s consistently well run. You just feel comfortable here, and you can count on each event being designed specifically for the anglers no matter the circumstances. As for the fishing, it was a bit tough this weekend, but I had some good fortune on Day 1 and managed to figure things out late on Day 2.”
Indeed, Queen started off hot. Using a Z-Man Mag FattyZ in green pumpkin and a 3/16-ounce Tungsten weight, he worked several brush piles at the mouth of a creek to pull a limit by 7:30 a.m. on Day 1 before the fish turned off. “I was fortunate to be on the bass and fishing clean during that window of opportunity,” he chuckled. “Those fish were very aggressive.”
Returning to the same area on Day 2, Queen found the fishing much different. The water had become muddied, some carp had moved into the area and the bass seemed to be gone. By 12:30 p.m. he had caught only two bass. “I knew it was time to make an adjustment,” he revealed. “I managed to catch a third fish while transitioning to a new spot where I knew there were some gizzard shad. That area was a wide-open flat. I put down my soft plastic, began tossing a Z-Man Jack Hammer ChatterBait and managed to pull my last two fish – one measured 18 inches and the other went 19.25 inches. That was all I needed to get over the top.”
According to Queen, the combination of Z-Man baits and his Hobie MirageDrive 360 really came together to help him earn the win. “I absolutely love my Hobie,” he stated. “It’s got plenty of room for storage, it’s comfortable and it has tremendous ability to handle the wind. I was casting into a stiff breeze – there were some whitecaps by that point – but I was able to use the 360 like a spot lock. I’d just turn my drive in the direction I needed to go, give a couple pumps and stay in position. I bet I stayed on that last spot for 30 minutes. Incredible.”
As for Z-Man baits, Queen says he doesn’t choose to rely on them so much intentionally, but it’s hard not to reach for them because they keep producing. “Last year I won close to $40,000 throwing those baits,” he stated. “This year, I’m already up around $15,000 — and I’ve won four tournaments. You can’t argue with that success.”
Second-place finisher Adam Riser contributed his good fortune to finding a decent pattern and sticking with it from start to finish. He began each day looking for a big fish in an area where he had scouted several during prefishing. Later, he headed over to an island edge that seemed to be holding increasing numbers of scorable fish.
“This was my third tournament on Kentucky Lake in three weeks,” said Riser, “so I had a good feeling about where the bass might be. Both days I gave the lunkers an early shot but couldn’t connect, so I moved on to some ditches and troughs that surrounded an island. There, the bass seemed to be moving in quickly. It would take me about an hour to circle the island while tossing a 5-inch, green pumpkin Senko worm or a swimbait. By the time I got back to the head of the circle, the bass had reloaded. It really helps when the fish are coming to you.”
Cody Milton, meanwhile, was especially pleased with the appearance of the host lake. “I was fortunate to finish fourth here last year,” he said, “so I’m glad I moved up a spot. The lake this year looked completely different. There were substantially fewer carp around, and it’s looking much clearer. I was really impressed with the improvements. It seems like Kentucky Lake is definitely on the rebound.”
Milton concentrated his efforts in a 200-yard stretch, focusing on wood and brush piles in 5-to-7-foot depths. Most of his fish on Day 1 came on a 5-inch green Senko worm, while Day 2 saw a 1-ounce flipping jig turn the most heads.
“I spent Saturday picking off all the fish in front of what I guessed would be the best 30 yards,” said Milton, “then cleaned up the rest on Sunday. There were steep banks and a lot of laydowns in that last stretch, and they held some very solid fish; I had seven measuring over 17 inches on Sunday. I also drilled my biggest Kentucky Lake bass there during practice, a sweet 22-inch lunker.”
Both Riser and Milton agreed with Queen that the Hobie BOS series is exceptionally run, especially given current circumstances. “To be honest,” said Riser, “I’d rather fish a COVID-19 version of the BOS than a standard version of any other tournament. That’s how highly I think of these tourneys, their management team and the other competitors.”
Riser also wanted to give a shout out to the respect, courtesy and cooperation between anglers on this latest Hobie BOS event. “Everyone works hard to get along and help each other out,” he offered, “That runs from the most experienced to the newest anglers on the trail. Queen and Cory Dryer, for example, bumped into an area I was exploring during practice. It was a small, tight place we all knew from previous tournaments. We discussed the spot from our kayaks, and then Jody and Cory decided to move on even though they had every right fish that spot, too. When we can all work together and respect each other like that, the fishing is more fun and productive for everyone.”
Queen agrees. “Seemed to me that if we moved in there, we would just ruin the spot for all of us,” he recalls. “These big tournament lakes have plenty of room so there’s no need to crowd anyone. Besides, it worked out fine for me in the end. After all, I did win the tournament. No complaints here whatsoever!”
Next up on the Hobie BOS schedule is the Mississippi River in beautiful La Crosse, Wisc., on July 11 and 12.