Kayak trolling

Kevin Nakada of Hobie holds a hefty smallmouth caught trolling on an offshore reef on Lake of the Woods.

Add systematic trolling to your kayak angling skills

By Mike Pehanich

Kayak anglers would do well to adopt one of fishing’s most misunderstood, underrated and underutilized approaches to mapping structure and finding fish. And Torqeedo motors can make the practice many times more effective!

Trolling is an angling art probably as old as the dugout canoe.

Today, however, some anglers view it with a jaundiced eye.

Rob Wendel trolls for giant Lake Michigan steelhead, brown trout and salmon out of a Hobie Pro Angler 14 and 17 outfitted for big fish.

Attitudes toward trolling generally stem from waters fished and species pursued. Tournament bass anglers tend to snub the practice. Fishermen pursuing species like trout, salmon or walleye over the broad expanses of the Great Lakes and other spacious waters regard it as a critical means of finding fish spread across vast watery acreages.

Opinions vary, but kayak anglers in general have been fairly open-minded about trolling. For many, however, it is simply a way to keep a lure working while traveling to the next target location. Relatively few treat it as a technique worthy of practice and refinement.

Too bad! Knowledge, ambition and experience can transform trolling from a passive practice to a fine angling art. What’s more, refined trolling techniques can make anyone a better angler and shorten the learning curve on new waters, large and small.

Why troll?

Authors of the trolling “hate mail” cite reasons that don’t always mesh. They may view trolling as too boring or too easy or second cousin to “snagging.” Some complain that it takes no skill, that it is a game of dumb luck, then later argue that it is unfair or too deadly. Some simply dismiss it on aesthetic or philosophical grounds, scolding the practice for its detachment.

Wilderness Systems markets a Helix electric motor tailor-made for its kayaks.

But advanced trolling is a blend of science and art, success hinging on knowledge, strategy and repeated practice and refinement.

Buck Perry, the father of structure fishing, taught anglers how to find fish and map bottom structure with the use of versatile lures, called “spoonplugs,” that excelled as trolling and mapping tools. He developed these baits in 1946 – years before Lowrance put popular sonar units into fishing boats. Designed to run at very specific depth ranges, spoonplugs communicated to Buck and his followers structural contours, drop-offs, points, grasslines, and bottom content. When used in the right way with Perry’s systematic approach, they caught fish – big offshore fish that other anglers missed.

The 1 HP Torqeedo Ultralight 403 is a lightweight electric motor designed specifically for kayaks. It enables precise speed control, a critical variable in successful trolling.

Modern bass boat fishermen have the advantage of electronics and fishing platforms that Buck Perry never dreamed of. For better or worse, few today include in their arsenals the precision trolling approach that was the linchpin to Perry’s success.

But, for all their beauty, convenience and functionality, bass boats are not well suited to the kind of precision trolling Perry did or modern day successors do today. Smaller and more agile craft are far more effective under the guidance of a well-schooled troller.

The kayak advantage

Kayaks, on the other hand, comprise a category of very agile watercraft, and kayak anglers would do well to factor sophisticated trolling practices into their angling strategies whether tournament money, a better day’s fishing, or simply better knowledge of a new lake are at stake. Done with skill and deliberation, trolling can help one learn and map water quickly and find concentrations of fish that might otherwise never see your lure.

Here are a few good reasons to add advanced trolling techniques to your skill set.

  • Trolling enables the angler to fish large structural elements, eliminate unproductive water, and locate prime structure in a short period of time.
  • Knowledge gained about a body of water from systematic trolling can help anticipate fish movement.
  • Kevin Nakada of Hobie holds a hefty smallmouth caught trolling on an offshore reef on Lake of the Woods.

    Trolling is useful in finding active suspended fish.

  • The trolling tools available today are the best to date, and you can tailor them to specific needs.
  • The variety and range of trolling lures available today is extensive, and a number of lure manufacturers and trolling experts now provide guidelines for running specific lures at precise depths.
  • With rifle sighting and marker buoys, a skilled troller can overcome the limitations of lower end electronics – or even no electronics at all.
  • And, yes, trolling still gives you a shot at catching fish when you are simply dragging the bait behind you on your way to a target location.

Advantage of electric motors

Trolling effectiveness hangs on the tools in play and the angler’s ability to use them.

Well-selected rod, reel and line combinations enable lures to run with desired action at selected depths and even telegraph bottom content.

Craft and propulsion variables matter, too.

These durable Ram rod holders are made to tackle big fish.

Increasingly in play in KBF tournaments, electric motors offer the kayak angler the advantage of highly accurate speed control.

The lithium battery-based motors of Torqeedo, title sponsor of the 2018 KBF National Championship and its landmark $100,000 first place purse, lift control capabilities to a new level.

  1. Precise speed control– Lure speed is a critical variable — second only to depth control in importance – in triggering strikes. The Torqeedo Ultralight 403 motor, Hobie Evolve and Wilderness Systems Helix kayak motors provide real-time digital speed readout measured to 0.1 mph accuracy.
  2. Hands-on rod control– With rod in hand, an experienced troller can read bottom content (soft bottom, rock, gravel, shells) and lure action and detect short strikes through lure vibration. Paddle propulsion forces a troller to leave the active rod in a rod holder.
  3. Speed– Contrary to popular belief, lures do not always have to be trolled slowly to be effective. In fact, trolling at speeds well upward of five mph often trigger strikes in warm water conditions.
  4. Map App and add-ons – A free Torqeedo app employs a Bluetooth transmitter module (Apple and Android only) for wireless link between onboard computer and smartphone. Phone display includes analogue speedometer, a GPS map screen showing real-time boat location, waypoint and zoom-in capability and other navigational and battery life information. Mapping and waypoint marking capability enable an angler to pinpoint productive areas and return to them easily.
  5. Light weight–The Torqeedo, Hobie and Wilderness Systems motors and their power sources were designed specifically for kayak propulsion. They add little to the total weight of the craft and do not compromise safety or maneuverability.
The author took this big largemouth trolling a sunken road bed.

Embrace trolling or let it go, but before you dismiss it from your game plan, consider it as an approach to map and learn water quickly, pinpoint fish-holding structure, and add more fish – often big fish – to your catch.

Strategic trolling can catapult your on-the-water education and multiply your fish totals. Embrace the art and science of the practice and see what happens!

Kayak angling for sturgeon brings new sport to the Northwoods

Barb Carey, founder of WI Women Fish shows off the day’s first sturgeon, caught from a Hobie Pro Angler.

By Mike Pehanich

Sturgeon ancestry dates back to the dinosaurs. But catching these giants from a kayak, is a fresh new sport!

For us outdoor folks, Northwoods travel comes with great expectations. Anticipation grows feverish when the destination is a renowned fishery.

My destination this August was the Rainy River, fabled for its seasonal runs of walleye, cherished as the fertile connecting water to the diverse fisheries of Rainy Lake, its source to the east, and Lake of the Woods, the million-acre drainage to the west.

I arrived at River Bend’s Resort (www.riverbendsresorts.com)on the Rainy River, a short boat ride from the river’s mouth at the southeast corner of Lake of the Woods. My imagination waxed rosy with visions of walleye gobbling jigs, cartwheeling smallmouth bass, and lightning-quick attacks from northern pike and musky.

However, my hosts from Hobie Cat, the resort and Lake of the Woods Tourism had added a new wrinkle. They had relegated the game species the area is noted for to back-up roles. First we would challenge lake sturgeon, known more as a fish of mystery and an evolutionary survivor than as a target for sport fishermen.

My hosts had added another twist to the hunt. We would take the ancient brutes on from Hobie kayaks.

A sturgeon relies on the complex set of sensory and feeding organs in its nose including barbels to locate desirable forage and a highly functional snout made to stir up lake bottom and suck in food like a vacuum.

Anatomy of a sturgeon

One look at even an artist’s rendering of a sturgeon is enough to tell you that its family roots reach deep into the geological past. Credit its gift for survival to crude yet efficient characteristics acquired early in its evolution — a streamlined body built on bone and cartilage; a tail strangely fashioned for speed and maneuvering; an oddly tapered snout; an armor-like exoskeleton highlighted in younger specimens by a jutting serrated backbone; a complex set of sensory and feeding organs in its nose including barbels to locate desirable forage; and a highly functional snout made to stir up lake bottom and suck in food like a vacuum.

Sturgeon grow BIG, too, a trait that makes any species more desirable. Paul Johnson, the resort owner who served as both our guide and host, has witnessed catches of sturgeon up to 62 inches in length and 75 pounds. The river’s hook and line record, caught just this past May (2018), measured 75 inches in length and weighed well over 100 pounds.

Our Rainy River sturgeon had a comeback story to tell as well. Before the middle of the 20thcentury, overharvest and pulp mill pollution had endangered sturgeon populations in the region. Common sense initiatives set the stage for a mighty comeback. Environmental regulations led to improved water quality, and enlightened conservation measures and catch-and-release practice ushered in the robust, invigorated population found in the Rainy River and adjacent waters today.

It is a species more than worthy of protection. Sturgeon can live to a ripe old age, with some able to live 150 years or more and reach weights in excess of 200 pounds.

Pursuit

A sturgeon breached 50 yards offshore within minutes of my arrival at River Bend’s Resort, leaving no doubt that this was sturgeon country.

“In peak season in April, it’s boat-to-boat across the river along the Minnesota portion of the Rainy River,” explained Paul Johnson, who with wife Brandi owns River Bend’s and Walleye Inn resorts in Baudette, Minn.

Minnesota opens limited “keep” seasons for sturgeon in spring and summer, but most fishermen are content to release their quarry after doing battle. “A lot of sturgeon fishing’s popularity has to do with the size of the fish,” continued Johnson. “Most anglers aren’t targeting sturgeon to keep them. They just want the opportunity to catch these prehistoric monsters.”

Despite the clear presence of sturgeon in the area, local guides opined that we would find bigger numbers upstream near the town of Birchdale.

Catching sturgeon from Hobie kayaks offered a new challenge to anglers.

We launched our kayaks — a couple of Hobie Pro Angler 14s and i11S inflatable models along with several of the new Hobie Compass kayaks —  above Birchdale. Two sets of rapids made for a scenic and modestly adventurous start. From there, we eased our way toward prime sturgeon haunts, catching smallmouth bass, walleye, sauger and northern pike along the way.

Breaching sturgeon gave our party of eight a fair hint of where to anchor, though we wished we had had sonar units to pinpoint holes and other key feeding areas. We spread out along the river, and settled in for the game of patience known as sturgeon fishing.

Tackle and technique

We geared up with tackle tailored to a big fish brawl – mostly medium heavy to heavy rods and reels spooled with 50- to 65-pound braid.

Terminal tackle consisted of a swivel, short monofilament or fluorocarbon leader of no less than 20-pound test, a #2 to #4 circle hook and adjustable bell sinkers from one to four ounces in weight.

Our bait selection was an unglamorous mix of two to three nightcrawlers and recently thawed emerald shiners, the latter added “extra scent for the sturgeon to find the bait,” in Johnson’s words.

Jody Rae shows off her prize catch, a lake sturgeon, a throwback to prehistory.

The art of anchoring

We learned quickly that anchoring a kayak for sturgeon fishing in a moderately swift stream like the Rainy River is damn near an art form all its own.

“We use a breakaway buoy anchor and an anchor trolley system,” explained Kevin Nakada, the Hobie pro who guided us through the paces of this new skill. “With the system, you can position the kayak to fish comfortably in the current yet detach the kayak quickly from the anchor to fight the fish.”

The buoy anchor consisted of a 3.5-pound anchor and several feet of heavy anchor chain that more than doubled the anchoring weight. Sixty feet of anchor rope ran from the chain to the buoy, a conventional bumper buoy generally used to protect moored boats from banging into a dock. A 7-foot tagline, terminated with a bowline loop, ran from the buoy to the anchor trolley, a pulley system positioned on the starboard sides of our kayaks. The trolley allowed us to position the anchor tagline at the starboard stern of the kayak. Anchored thus, we could fish comfortably downstream without our kayaks struggling sideways in the current.

Fish on!

Barb Carey, founder of WI Women Fish, a Wisconsin-based organization dedicated to teaching women to fish with skill and confidence, earned the first hook-up. Sturgeon on, she freed her kayak from the buoy anchor and took off on a summer sleigh ride.

All of us within earshot rallied to her shout, detaching, too, from our anchor tethers and pedaling the Mirage Drives to close the quarter mile or more distances between us. The sturgeon made sure we had time to witness Barb’s battle and photograph the prehistoric fish.

Sturgeon are bulldogs in battle. They dive deep, pull drag and put serious strain on tackle. The highlight of many sturgeon battles, however, is a surprising aerial display.

Barb’s fish obliged with a writhing perpendicular leap. The sturgeon’s hang time drew cries of excitement from the convergence of kayakers. The fish’s size and profile doubled the excitement.

For anglers like Barb Carey, sturgeon fishing is all about the catch…and safe release!

Even a modestly proportioned sturgeon possesses considerable strength, evidenced in the tugboat rides it took the kayaks upstream and down. Interestingly, the drag of the kayak allows the angler to battle these big fish even with limited line capacity.

Paul slugged it out with another sturgeon an hour later. Then action lagged for the rest of the afternoon.

Evening was closing in when writer Jody Rae’s rod bent into a throbbing arc. Whoops and hollers signaled a special fish, and we all converged on the day’s closing action. When the fish finally tired after a long battle, Kevin Nakada snared it with a tail noose. He carefully led the subdued fish the short distance to shore where Jody and fish posed for photos.

It was a fitting end to a fabulous adventure, a meeting with a fish from prehistory on legendary water during the dawn of a new sport.

Paul and Brandi Johnson, owners of River Bend’s and Walleye Inn (www.riverbendsresorts.com)resorts in Baudette, MN, run guided fishing trips for sturgeon as well as for other Lake of the Woods and Rainy River sport fish (walleye, northern pike, sauger, perch, smallmouth bass and crappie). Hobie kayak rentals are available as well. Contact Lake of the Woods Tourism (www.LakeoftheWoodsMN.com ; 1-800-382-FISH ) for additional information on sport fishing, lodging and area activities.

 

Don’t spin your wheels! Hobie offers guide to kayak cart selection

Without a set of wheels, a loaded kayak can be tough to transport a long ways to the water.

By Mike Pehanich

Getting a kayak from your vehicle to the water can sometimes be the toughest challenge of the day. Save time and energy for the fish by outfitting your kayak with a set of wheels!

One of the kayak angler’s most important accessories seldom reaches the water.

The kayak cart!

Wheeled kayak carts enable the angler to transport the craft from vehicle to remote launch areas with tackle and accessories already aboard.

Three “Plug-in” kayak carts from Hobie (L to R): 1) Hobie’s Trax 2-30 is an inflatable style ideal for transport over soft ground such as sand or mud; 2) Hobie’s Heavy Duty Cart (225-pound load capacity) is durable and best suited to pavement and coarse gravel or rock terrain; 3) Hobie’s Standard Plug-in cart is economical and offers a 150-pound load capacity.

Tire options enable the kayak owner to match cart selection to land surface. Carriage design will vary, too. Some carts are specifically made for kayaks while others double as transport devices for canoes and other small craft as well.

Some kayak manufacturers design or recommend specific carts to fit scupper holes in their kayaks. This style of cart generally simplifies mounting and transport.

Some carts require straps to secure the kayak during transport.

A cart functions as a fulcrum. If you select a cart designed for variable positioning, you may have to adjust cart location to the size, weight and locations of your load for best results. Positioning the cart near the center of the cumulative kayak mass is a safe and generally effective strategy.

2017 Hobie Bass Open champion Jay Wallen wheels his way to prime launch areas with Plug-in carts, including the Heavy Duty Plug-in Cart stored behind the seat of his Pro Angler in this photo.

Wheeling ‘em in

Airless wheels eliminate a major cart maintenance concern, but inflatable wheels offer advantage over soft terrain.

“The inflatable style wheels are great for soft mediums, especially sand and mud,” notes Kevin Nakada of Hobie. “They spread the kayak’s weight and load over a larger surface area. You may want some bounce to your wheels when you are hauling a loaded kayak over sand dunes.”

Hobie’s Trax 2-30 Plug-in Kayak Cart has pneumatic tires and small diameter rims that prevent pinching and valve damage under heavy loads. The cart has a 242-pound capacity. Tires can be deflated, too, for better performance on soft terrain.

Hobie’s Plug-in kayak carts fit the scupper holes of most of the manufacturer’s craft. They are easy to install and remove and facilitate transport from vehicle to water – even when weighted with a tackle and accessories.

Hobie’s standard cart is economical and efficient when hauling the kayak over a range of ground conditions. But hardcore kayakers concerned with durability and reliability over paved launch areas or hard, coarse gravel or rock terrain might opt for a tougher, more durable set of wheels. Hobie’s Heavy Duty Plug-in Cart fills the bill and offers a 225-pound load capacity, too.

Kevin Nakada uses Plug-in kayak carts to transport kayaks from motor vehicle to water’s edge, where adventures with smallmouth bass like this bronze specimen sometimes begin.

“We also have a stowable fold-up style called the Hobie Fold and Stow Plug-in Cart,” says Nakada. “It’s compact, so you can take it on the water with you. It comes with a storage bag you can fit in your front hatch so you don’t have to walk your wheels all the way back to your vehicle if you’ve had a long haul to reach water.”

The Fold & Stow Plug-in Cart from Hobie, held here by Hobie’s Steve Oxenford, breaks down easily to fit into a carrying bag or the large front cargo hatch featured on a variety of Hobie kayak models.

The Plug-in carts are all designed to fit the scupper holes of Hobie kayaks for quick and easy set-up and transport. Wheels are detachable on all models.

Some specialty manufacturers also make carts to fit kayak scuppers. Make sure any such cart choice adapts to your kayak before making the purchase.

Odds are you’ll love your set of wheels!

“Living on the Ledge” with Jay Wallen at Kentucky and Barkley lakes

Topwater bites early in the morning and on overcast days are “bonus fish” to the versatile Tennessee angler.

 

  • Kayak bass fishing star Jay Wallen provides ledge fishing tips
  • Texas rig and Carolina rig worms and heavy jigs are key deep water tools
  • Foot-controlled Mirage Drive on Hobie Pro Angler aids boat control
Jay Wallen, who competed in the Hobie Fishing World Championship 7 this spring, is a force to be reckoned with wherever he launches his Hobie Pro Angler 14.

By Mike Pehanich

To WIN summer tournaments often means mining big bass from deep-water “ledges.” Here kayak pro Jay Wallen reveals some of the secrets to “living on the ledge.”

Jay Wallen is a force to be reckoned with in kayak fishing wherever he launches his Pro Angler 14.  But nowhere is the Tennessee angler more feared than at the annual Hobie Bass Open held on Kentucky and Barkley Lakes each June.

His stellar kayak bass tournament record had included two third-place finishes in the Hobie Bass Open on Kentucky Lake already before his HBO victory in 2017. This past June, he notched another Top Ten finish at the event, sponsored by Hobie Cat and the Kentucky Lake Convention & Visitors Bureau, placing sixth with a 105.25-inch total.

Kentucky and Barkley lakes have tutored him well. Last year’s lessons earned him a $4,000 winner’s purse and a trip to the Hobie Fishing World Championship-7 event, held in April at Lake Vanern in Amal, Sweden.

Wallen is quick to cash in on any hot bite these classic TVA waters might offer, but year-in and year-out, the deep water “ledge” bite on the classic river-bed  and creek-bed structure separates the men from the boys in this tournament competition.

The pattern is familiar on all of the Tennessee River impoundments. Following the spawn – largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass gradually retreat to this prime structure. There they feed on roving schools of shad.

“A lot of guys like to fire up a school with a deep-diving crankbait. A swimbait can go with that, too, because you can control its depth,” says Wallen. “But my favorite ways to catch ledge bass are with a jig or a large worm, Texas-rigged or Carolina-rigged. There’s just something about feeling that bite!”

Texas-rigged and Carolina-rigged worms fished with heavy football jigs are among Jay Wallen’s key baits for ledge bass.

Worms and jigs so rigged give him a shot at bass even when the fish are not in a chasing mood. The beauty is that they will produce during an aggressive bite as well.

At the 2017 Hobie Bass Open championship, Wallen fished a 12-inch Texas-rigged worm behind a ½-ounce bullet sinker on his G. Loomis rods to get his ledge bite going. The bite transitioned to a ¾-ounce football jig with a Zoom Fat Albert soft plastic trailer on Day Two.  For added attraction, he dunked the tail into a garlic flavored Spike-It dip.

“A ½-ounce jig falls more slowly and seems to work better in the 15- to 20-foot range,” says Wallen. “When the sun is up and fish are holding tighter to the bottom, I go to the ¾-ounce jig.”

Kayak fishing has long been associated with shallow water techniques, but anglers like Wallen have brought the kind of deep-water savvy and sophistication to the game generally associated with elite levels of bass boat competition.

Wallen emphasizes the importance of boat control when working the 10- to 30-foot depths common to ledge fishing.  The challenge gets significantly tougher in open water when reservoir wind and current can influence movement of boat and bait. Wallen relies heavily on Hobie’s foot-controlled Mirage Drive for boat control.

“If it weren’t for the Mirage Drive, I wouldn’t be fishing out of a kayak,” he says. “I’ve fished other styles of kayak and drive systems, and I spent too much time controlling my boat and not enough time fishing.”

Back-up plan

Wallen’s strength as a tournament angler stems as much from versatility and ability to adapt, as from mastery of tough techniques.

He looks for secondary ledges along the beds of the Tennessee River tributary creeks when wind and current blow him off favored main lake ledges.

And he is ever ready to cash in on skinny water opportunities in the countless arms and bays of the big impoundments.

“You can’t overlook shallow water opportunities,” he advises, noting that topwater bites early in the morning and on overcast days frequently lead to big fish. “Those are bonus fish. Any fish I can catch shallow in the morning amounts to work I don’t need to do later in the day.”

Topwater bites early in the morning and on overcast days are “bonus fish” to the versatile Tennessee angler.

Hobie Bass Open 2018: Tyson Peterson first to repeat as Hobie Bass Open champion, returns to Hobie World Event

Tyson Peterson became the first repeat winner at the Hobie Bass Open on Kentucky and Barkley lakes.

  • 2015 Hobie Bass Open winner Tyson Peterson takes 2018 crown
  • Peterson and Komyati to fish Hobie World Fishing Championship 8
  • Eric Siddiqi takes back one-day tournament record
  • Kristine Fischer (3rd place) earns first Top Five finish by female angler
Big fish can bring a big smile at tournament time.

By Mike Pehanich

The 2018 Hobie Bass Open on Kentucky Lake, won by Tyson Peterson, featured a plethora of records and firsts.

Gilbertsville, Ky — Tyson Peterson rode out rough water and a heavy charge from the field to post a 121.75-inch total and a wire-to-wire win at the 2018 Hobie Bass Open on Kentucky and Barkley lakes.

“Being the first to win the Hobie Bass Open twice and returning to the Hobie Worlds is amazing,” said Peterson who took home a $5,000 winner’s purse from the event, sponsored by Hobie Cat and the Kentucky Lake Convention & Visitors Bureau.

(L to R) Kristine Fischer (3rd Place) became the first female kayak angler to earn a Top Five finish at the event. Tyson Peterson hoists his $5,000 winner’s check. Joe Komyati, competing in only his second kayak bass tournament, took home $3,000 and runner-up honors.

The Hobie Bass Open is a Catch/Photo/Release event with scores based on the best cumulative length drawn from three-fish daily limits. This year’s tourney featured other noteworthy performances and highlights:

  • Joe Komyati’s second place finish, coming in only his second kayak bass tournament, earned him a spot on the Hobie World Fishing Championship roster with winner Tyson Peterson.
  • Kristine Fischer became the first female to place in the Top Five. Her 114.75-inch total earned her third place and $2,000.
  • Cincinnati area angler Eric Siddiqi saw his Hobie Bass Open one-day tournament record topped by leader Tyson Peterson on Day One, but he regained that record on Day Two with a 65-inch total.
  • Defending champion Jay Wallen, also from Lexington, KY, earned a sixth place finish with a 105.25-inch total.
  • Perennial contender Ron Champion (fifth place) caught 19- and 18-inch bass casting crankbaits in the final minutes of the tournament to notch a 110-inch total and another Top Five finish.
  • Anthony Shingler’s 11th hour decision to fish the tournament paid off when dropshot and Carolina rigs took him to a 114-5-inch total and fourth place.
  • Cole Kleffman recorded one of the tournament’s largest smallmouth, a 19-incher, to win the youth division.
  • Matt Scotch, from Ft. Worth, Texas, captured the overall Big Fish crown with a 22.5-inch largemouth that edged out Eric Siddiqi’s 22.25-inch fish for top honors.

Joshua Stewart, Drew Russell, Guillermo Gonzalez and Joe Meno filled out the Top 10.

First to repeat at Hobie World Event

Tyson Peterson became the first repeat winner at the Hobie Bass Open on Kentucky and Barkley Lakes.

Peterson, who won the tournament on the same waters in 2015, is the first repeat winner in the event’s five-year history. He and runner-up Joe Komyati (117 inches) qualified for the 2019 Hobie World Fishing Championship as the tournament’s top two finishers.

Eric Siddiqi (left) lost his one-day Hobie Bass Open tournament record to Tyson Peterson on Day One, only to regain the record with a 65-inch Day Two total. Siddiqi, who also had the second largest bass of the tournament, here shakes hands with Big Fish winner Matt Scotch (22.5 inches).

Hobie will announce the site of Hobie World Championship 8 later this year.

Tyson Peterson is looking forward to his return to the event, which pits top anglers from around the world on waters few of them have fished.

“The Hobie Worlds are amazing,” said Peterson. “You pick up so much from other anglers and from fishing new waters and species.”

Does the new champ have a preferred location?

“Australia would be cool,” said Peterson. “But fishing the World’s itself is enough. The destination doesn’t matter.”

Voyage of Boatylicious Discovery

  • Missouri River 340, this ain’t no mama’s boy kayak float trip.
  • You don’t have to go to Alaska or Mt.  Kilimanjaro for an authentic outdoor adventure.
  • What you learn about extreme sports will pale in comparison to what you learn about yourself.
  • This year, the event will run August 8-11, 2017.
Kansas City’s skyline is visible from Kaw Point at the mouth of the Kansas River, where the MR340 starts.

By Jim Low

Missourians who wonder if they have the physical and mental toughness necessary to be extreme athletes don’t have to go far to find out.  They can test their mettle against a force of nature…the Missouri River.

In 2006, Scott Mansker and Russ Payzant, self-avowed “river rats,” decided to organize a paddle race to raise awareness of the world-class, but then little-known, recreational opportunities on the Big Muddy.  What they came up with was a nonstop ultra-marathon race from Kansas City to St.  Charles.  The distance between those two points – 340 miles – provided a name for the event, the Missouri River 340 (insiders generally shorten the name to MR340 or simply, “The 340”).  That first year, the event drew 11 solo paddlers and five tandem teams.  They were given 100 hours – a little more than two days – to finish the course.

Today, paddlers are allowed only 88 hours to finish the course.  They paddle so hard that the friction of their shirts causes their nipples to bleed, a distraction that veterans avoid with duct tape pasties.  The skin of their palms sloughs off in enormous blisters…more duct tape.

Packed like sardines at the start, paddlers soon are strung out over the Big Muddy’s vastness.

They endure the heat and humidity of August.

They risk literally being blown off the river by tornadoes or microbursts.

But if you think these obstacles cool the ardor of potential participants, you don’t understand the mindset of ultramarathoners.  Within days of wrapping up the inaugural Missouri River 340, Mansker and Payzant’s electronic in-boxes were flooded with email from paddlers eager to sign up for the next year’s race.

Participation ballooned so rapidly that they were forced to limit entries.   By early June of this year, nearly 500 individuals and teams had signed up for the race.  They will come from all over the United States and as far away as Japan to compete in 11 divisions: Women’s and Men’s Solo; Women’s, Men’s and Mixed Tandem; Solo Pedal Drive; Tandem Pedal Drive; Team (3-4 paddlers); Voyageur (5 to 10 paddlers); Dragon Boat (11-plus paddlers); and SUP (Stand Up Paddler.)

Spectators turn up at checkpoints to keep tabs on their favorite paddlers.

Last year’s top time – an astonishing 38 hours, 22 minutes – was posted by a six-woman team calling themselves “Boatylicious.”  The next four entrants to reach St.  Charles were all solo paddlers, three men and one woman.  All made the grueling paddle in under 45 hours.  That’s an average of more than 7.5 mph, including time to eat, drink and nap.

Napping is a must.  Even if you do, you stand a good chance of experiencing visual and auditory hallucinations, especially at night.  The 340 is scheduled to take advantage of a full moon, but phantom voices and spectral presences are a common experience in the profound darkness and calm that prevails between sunset and moonrise.  These can get you in trouble if you pay more attention to them than you do to what’s actually there.

Things like wing dikes, buoys, bridge pilings and barges.  While paddling at night in the 2007 MR 340, a mixed tandem team – ages 66 and 70 – misjudged the distance of an approaching barge and were plowed under when they tried to cross the river in front of it.  While their $5,500 kayak was being chopped to bits, the couple desperately clawed their way along the bottom of the barge’s hull, trying to avoid their boat’s fate.  Astonishingly, both paddlers emerged with only scrapes and bruises and were rescued by the barge crew.

“The 340” becomes a permanent part of some participants.

Racers are not entirely on their own.  A fleet of safety boats patrols the pack, checking on paddlers’ health, handing out sport drinks, helping in emergencies and – inevitably – picking up contestants who are simply played out.

Bringing up the rear is a safety boat known as “The Reaper.” Their job is to collect paddlers who fail to reach each mandatory check-in point in the pre-determined time necessary to have even a remote chance of finishing the race.  Slow, but dogged, paddlers dread the appearance of “The Reaper” the way that schoolchildren dread the end of summer.  But without this measure, the pack would become too strung out for safe supervision.

There are no adversaries at the finish line.

All this combines to produce epic stories: the cancer survivor who began training for the race while still undergoing chemotherapy; the alcoholic who set out to prove something to others and instead found the inner strength to overcome her physical and mental demons; world-class athletes who push themselves far beyond normal limits of human endurance and ordinary people who perform extraordinary feats.

It’s no surprise then that thousands of spectators turn out to witness the spectacle.  The biggest crowds gather at both, the starting point at the mouth of the Kansas River, and the finish line at St.  Charles’ Frontier Park.  But people also throng to the mandatory check-in points scattered along the course.  Ground-support crews mingle with relatives of racers, news media and curiosity seekers.  Highway bridges with pedestrian walks are favorite vantage points for gawkers and photographers.

If you want to get in on the fun, either as a participant or a tourist, visit rivermiles.com/mr340/ for details of this year’s event.  You also can follow the progress of the race Aug. 8-11 through posts on the MR340 forum, rivermiles.com/forum/YaBB.pl.

Kayakety Yak – Maneuvering, Fishing, Funning & Rigging, (Part 2 of 2)

  • Certain optional kayak gear is handy and necessary.
  • Customize your fishing kayak for comfort and function.
Randy Boeller drove all the way from Houston, Texas, to land this chunky smallmouth on the upper Maries River. Jim Low Photo

By Jim Low

With a new Kayak, there are quite a few features to look for, understand and think about.  Here are some of the features that are important to me:

ADJUSTABLE SEATS & FOOT BRACES

Before writing a check, take time to sit in several kayaks to see if you can stand to sit in it for hours.  Try to find a dealer that will allow you to test “drive” kayak before purchase.  Ideally, a seat should have an adjustable, padded back rest.  The seat should also be padded with a material that allows water to drain away from your kiester.

Equally important are adjustable foot rests.  Pushing on these anchors you in your seat, providing a solid paddling platform.  They should be adjustable, not only for different leg lengths, but to allow you to change your leg position to avoid stiffness.  The surfaces of these pedal-like accessories should have a non-slip surface.

ROD HOLDERS

Sometimes these are built into the kayak’s hull and hold rods upright.  This works fine, as long as you don’t encounter any overhead obstructions.  Much better are rod holders with swiveling mounts that fold parallel with the deck.  Having multiple rod holders allow you to switch baits without re-rigging.

TACKLE COMPARTMENTS

Most kayaks have fore and aft cargo compartments, but these are hard to reach on the water.  Small compartments within reach of the seat are more practical.

ANCHOR TROLLEYS

You don’t need much of an anchor for kayak fishing, but they do come in handy when you want to hold your position against current or wind.  Anchors need ropes, and having loose rope around your feet is inconvenient, not to mention dangerous.  Anchor trolleys keep your anchor rope organized with cleats and allow you to instantly tie off anchor rope at the desired length and release it just as quickly.  A small, foldable anchor will fit easily under or beside your seat, out of the way but available when needed.

CUP HOLDERS

You laugh, but nothing is worse than cracking open a drink only to have it tip over in your lap moments later.  Well, okay, lots of things are worse, but a spilled drink is bad enough.  When not holding drinks, cup holders are useful for holding snacks, phones, lures, pliers and a dozen other things.

ACCESSORY MOUNTING SYSTEMS

These really are the mothers of all accessories.  Factory-installed accessory mounting systems permit you to customize your kayak in ways limited only by your imagination.  They accept universal mounting plates can be drilled to accept anything you want.  This is an easy way to keep cell phones, tablets, GPS units and other electronic devices handy.  Naturally, if you are short on imagination, manufacturers have lots of ideas, including tackle bins, live wells, rod holders, fish finders and, yes, cup holders.

RUDDERS

Paddling into the wind can be a challenge when fishing on lakes or large streams.  A rudder or tracking skeg keeps you on track without constant correction.  This is especially handy for trolling.

PROPULSION SYSTEMS

Speaking of trolling, trolling motors made specifically for canoes and kayaks are available.  Hobie offers kayaks equipped with their patented MirageDrive, the original kayak peddle-drive system.  These items aren’t cheap…unless you compare their prices to the cost of a bass boat.

One often-neglected accessory is a top-quality paddle.  A cheap paddle will wear you out if it doesn’t wear out first.  Don’t balk at spending a couple hundred dollars on an ergonomically friendly paddle that keep you, your wrists and shoulders out of the orthopedic surgeon’s office for years.

Fishing kayaks have become so popular that organizations dedicated to them are springing up around the country.  Missouri has two that I know of: Missouri Kayak Fishing Association and the Show Me Kayak Fishing.  You might consider hooking up with these folks for help learning the ropes of kayak angling.  Once you go ‘yak, you’ll never look back!

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