Tournament Fishing for Everyone

Hobie Bass Open 2016 at Kentucky Lake
Skilled Kayak Angler Field Growing Quickly

Matthew Scotch, fishing from his personally customized Hobie PA12, uses a jig-worm rig to fool another of several largemouth bass he caught in Kentucky Reservoir during the Hobie Bass Open 2016. Forrest Fisher Photo

Kayak Anglers from over 30 states and Canada gathered at Kentucky Dam Village State Park with the opportunity to test their fishing skills on the legendary reservoir fisheries of Kentucky and Barkley Lakes.  Their goal was to win big cash and prizes, with the top spot also earning an all-expense paid trip to represent Team USA for the 2016 Hobie Fishing Worlds – an event that is moving from China to Louisiana, USA, for 2016.

The 2-day fishing event was held this weekend, June 4-5, 2016, with the official tournament headquarters and weigh-in held at the Kentucky Dam Village (State Park) Lakeview Pavilion, just off U.S. Highway 641 in Gilbertsville, Kentucky.

The tournament protocol for weigh-in does not kill one single fish.  It is a Catch, Photo and Release format of fishing and measurement process.  Called “CPR Fishing” in a trademark name fishing tournament process invented by Mike Christopher, anglers work to catch their 3 largest bass (largemouth, smallmouth or spotted bass are allowed) each day in the Catch Photo and Release system.  Simply said, the angler with the largest total inches over the 2-day event will win the third annual Hobie Bass Open.

Software programming mastermind, Michael C. Christopher, is the inventor of the unique iAnglerProgram that allows Catch, Photo and Release (CPR) fishing to work. CPR fishing is the leading edge for future tournament fishing format and it makes data available for research and conservation studies. Most important, it allows fish to be returned alive on the spot, to the area the fish were caught from. Forrest Fisher Photo

What is unique here is worth mentioning.  None of the fish are needed for a physical weigh-in, as they are released alive, moments after being caught.  Above that, they are released right back to where the angler caught them.  Angler proof is provided on digital records.  No damage to the fishery!  No damage to spawning fish.  No dead fish at the marina weigh-in location.  Fun for all.  Clean system.  Clean process.  Clean rules for sustaining tournament angler events into the plans for a green future.

Many say we should mandate all tournament fishing to this manner of no-kill fishing conservation!  Everyone has fun and the fish live –this is with consideration to tournament fishing.  As many do enjoy an occasional fish fry on those non-tournament days.

Steve Barga, a local Kentucky Lake bass pro, often uses some pretty wild and large artificial baits to catch the biggest of bass in this large inland waterway. Forrest Fisher Photo


Why is this important?  Because on a busy and popular waterway, there are as many as three of four tournaments each weekend day.  Hard for the fish populations to survive in that kind of possible continuous live-well habitat.

Also unique, Hobie pays out 100% of entry fees!  The entry fee payout is divided appropriately with one place for every 10 entrants.   There were over 100 entrants in this contest this year.  It is growing quickly from 33 the first year, to 78 the second year to 108 this year, with only a $125 entry fee.

These anglers have formed a brotherhood among themselves, with perhaps the best part of this event, the technique hiding strategies, the sharing of secrets yet to be told and the clamoring applause when someone wins with all of this concentrated talent.

The Hobie fishing tournament format allows ordinary working-class folks to fish for big prizes in kayak rigs made by any manufacturer and let’s face it, anyone can win with a little luck.  After looking at several manufacturer kayaks though, the Hobie stands alone for quality.  They are durable and stable in the water.

Popular rods used included St. Croix, Shimano, Loomis and Daiwa, with reel assortments that included Garcia, Lew’s and Shimano among the popular models observed.  Braided line choices were 20-30 pound text Power Pro, Sufix 832, Seagar Smack-Down and other brands.  Fluorocarbon leader attachment lines in use included Fusion, Berkley Golden and Seagar.  Some anglers used all fluorocarbon or all braid, others were quite simple with straight monofilament of 6 or 8-pound test; get the lines in the water!

Lure choices in the boats included jig/pig rigs, diving crankbaits, plastic worm rigs, floating frogs and simple jig rigs.  Placing the right lure in the right place did the usually expected thing, anglers caught fish.

The early morning bite was shallow on both days, with brighter skies moving the fish offshore to creekbed edges in deeper locations.

Through all the fishing with kayak anglers fishing all along the 100+ mile impoundment, hi-speed bass boats went running by at 60 mph and the fish didn’t seem to mind.  The kayakers use elevated tail flags in hi-visibility colors to assure they are noticed by the anglers in the big rigs.  It seems there is a new kid on the block.

The Hobie Bass Tournament Team includes Tournament Director, A.J. McWhorter (black shirt) – Kevin Nakada (center) and Morgan Promnitz (right) – both tournament administrators, verify angler fish and data submissions for accuracy. Forrest Fisher Photo

The anglers I talked with on the water all seemed to enjoy these two simple things: peace and quiet.  Unlike many other popular bass tournaments we watch on TV, there was no ranting or raving, just simple anticipation, positive tone talk with us on the camera boat circuit, and the anglers even shared what they were using with us.  I found this uncanny and enjoyable.

I found myself secretly pulling for every angler we stopped to talk with.

When it was all over, the 3:00 p.m. tournament ended bell had sounded, anglers needed to be in line to turn in their personal picture puck.  Tournament director, A. J. McWhorter, working with associates, Morgan Promnitz and Kevin Nakada, reviewed the accuracy and status of the considerable data collection submitted by the anglers and organized using the software created by Michael C. Christopher.  With the winners about to be announced in the Kentucky Dam Lake State Park Pavilion Center, the gentle rumble of good-natured tale-telling quickly turned silent with anticipation.

My heart was hammering at a bit higher rate for one of these lucky anglers.  This was exciting.  There were some wide-eyes across the angler audience, anticipation was higher for some, even youth anglers are part of the mix in a separate youth division.   There was also a few anglers with that savvy, veteran face that reflected many years of long sunshine exposure and much fishing experience.  It is a view that we still call the “confident look,” it exudes proper mental preparation and the knowledge that all is ok, win or not.

Some angler’s fish in this tourney for the pure fun and the enjoyment of being committed to this brand new, leading-edge style of tournament fishing, others are here to do just one thing, fish to win.  Both types get along and there is an obvious air of humility and detailed information sharing in the angler zone when the fishing competition has ended.

The winners are totally humble and gracious. The winner of this tournament event this year was a fine fisherman, his name is Ron Champion.  With 57-1/4 inches on day 1 and 51-1/2 inches on day 2, Champion tallied 109-3/4 points for 1st place cash of $3,500.

Matt Scotch with 108-3/4 points came in second, earning $2,350, while Jay Whalen took third with 106-3/4 inches for $1,500.  Cash payouts went through tenth place to Lucien Gazelle, from Michigan, with 97-3/4 inches for $125.


All of the anglers said they will be back next year.  We are watching the future of modern fishing unfold with these Hobie angler tournaments.