There were 125 anglers who braved the waters to begin the 2020 season at the Hobie Bass Open Series tournament held Jan. 31 through Feb. 2 in Bainbridge, Georgia.
AJ Mcwhorter and Kevin Nakada welcomed the largest crowd in the history of the series to Lake Seminole, and it proved to be quite the challenge for most who attended.
The Hobie BOS season will see a few changes this year:
- Dwayne Walley was on site, the BOS choosing to use the TourneyX tournament management system to keep things running smoothly.
- Brad Uhl and Bassin Magazine are contributing money for a big bass prize pot.
- There are now points for AOY (and great prizes for the top finishers in the AOY race) and alternate paths to the TOC other than just winning events.
The details of the series, and all its changes, are explained in a comprehensive handbook. Download it. This is going to be a great year for the Hobie events!
2020 Hobie BOS at Lake Seminole: Standout Stats
Now before we talk about the event, there are some interesting statistics to show how tough Lake Seminole proved to be for the field:
- Two anglers in the top ten were in paddle kayaks — no motor, no pedals.
- Day one: 43 did not catch a single fish with only 22 limits from 125 anglers. Only 43 anglers caught more than two fish.
- Day two: 56 did not catch a single fish with 12 limits out of 125 registered anglers. Only 36 anglers caught more than two fish. This number may be slightly off due to anglers leaving early.
- And this incredible stat: only four anglers had a limit both days, they were in the top four while fifth place had only 9 fish over two days.
2020 Hobie BOS at Lake Seminole: Pre-Fishing Reports
Reports during pre-fishing reflected the tournament results: unpredictable and scattered for most. There were anglers telling stories of one or two good fish, then nothing. The weather caught a few unprepared anglers.
Kurt Smits admitted he “didn’t even bring any cold weather gear. I have gear so I can fish in zero-degree air temps, but I didn’t bring any of it. I didn’t bring long johns, but I did bring flip flops! Now, I am never leaving the house without my cold gear.”
Craig Dye said he fished seven different boat ramps in three days of pre-fishing. His pre-fishing story really tells the story of the event.
“My brother in law, Tyler Bean lives in Brunswick, Georgia. We went down on a weekend before the tournament together, neither of us had seen the lake. We spent a lot of time on Navionics and saw a lot of stuff and we would catch fish everywhere we went. Two guys who supposedly know what they are doing, catching one fish here, one fish there.“
“Everybody I ran into pre-fishing, I would chat with. You can tell when somebody is catching them, they don’t really want to talk, they pack up their stuff and leave. But everyone was saying they were catching one or two fish, and you could see that they were not lying.”
Jake Harshman shared similar results before Friday.
“I caught 5 fish out of Lake Seminole from Monday through Friday. On Friday I woke up, instead of going fishing I opened up maps and started looking up the river, I cannot fish this lake, I cannot figure out this grass, these fish… so I am going to revert back to what I know. I live ten minutes from a launch on the Susquehanna River, so I decided to look up the Chattahoochee and the Flint. I started looking for creeks, then drove to some launches. I went to one that looked like no one had been there in forever. There were no tracks, nothing in the trash cans. I looked as far as I could, and saw some grass. I said this was where I am going. No pre-fishing the area.”
Donnie Bennett, Arlie Minton, Jamie Dennison, Jay Wallen, and Kristine Fisher shared my experience. They had all found fish scattered — one here and one there — but nothing to hang our hats on. Like Craig had said earlier, you could look into the faces of those you passed on the water or at ramps and knew they were telling the truth when they said “nothing, I caught nothing.”
Jason Broach shared the struggles during early fishing, but finally found “a little something.”
“The Chattahoochee cleared up some from the weekend before and I had to go try somewhere around there on Friday. I found a little something, I was hoping it would produce five fish both days. I saw fish and thought they were bluegill, but had three fish pick it up and I shook them off. Then I went out to an island and found one little spot around the corner of an island. There were other people fishing the area, but they went in the opposite direction.”
Kurt Smits, a 2017 KBF National Champion, thought he also had figured something out.
“I found them on a hump while pre fishing. I shook off two good fish one day and two good fish on another day. The fish were not there on Friday. The fish were just so transitional down there. You know what I mean? They were getting ready to spawn before that cold snap happened, then they got pushed back. They were transitioning up and back. They were just all over the place. I think that played into a tough bite for everyone. Quite frankly, they were just moving!”
Josh Counce was one of the few who knew he was on the fish.
“I fished every weekend from the Saturday before Christmas until the weekend before the tournament. I only fished the weekends. Every fish I caught was around the current, when I got away from the current, I didn’t find fish. I was trying to stay in Florida to keep from buying a Georgia license.”
“There was a tourney in 2003-2004 where Gary Klein won a tournament by flipping in the hyacinth mats. I ran into a spot I found a depression in the area and the fish were just stacked in there. I pulled up and started throwing a jackhammer, letting it sink then slow rolling it back.”
“I was just there at the perfect time. I didn’t find it on a map, the current was going down one of those ditches heading back to the launch, just going with the current. When I got to the end there was a stump there, just a current break and I threw in and caught a five pounder. I drifted back, pulled back up and caught a 3, then a 5 pounder. The depression went from four-feet to six-feet.”
“I eased up into the hyacinth and threw a senko, hooked a 16-incher and another 5-pounder. I said yeah, I am going to come back here next weekend.”
2020 Hobie BOS at Lake Seminole: Stories from the Anglers | Day One
Craig Dye started the day with hope.
“A few days before the event I was looking at a spot way up on the Chattahoochee and saw a little creek. I had one day of pre-fishing left and decided to give it a try. There was no one around there. I found the creek was blocked about thirty feet up into it, but the water was crystal clear and the Chattahoochee was muddy. This was the first place I had found more than one fish, so I decided to fish there.”
It paid off for him.
“No one was at the ramp. No kayaks, no boats… and I caught a limit in thirty minutes. I had 80-inches in thirty minutes. I caught them on a ¼-ounce shaky head with a Senko; alternating between green pumpkin with red flake and blue and black. I did that because it just isn’t a bait you lose fish on. I left at around eleven after catching 8-10 fish, and tried two other ramps without another bite.”
Kurt Smits was fishing a weightless zoom trick worm.
“I couldn’t find them on a hump so I had to try something else. Both days I started junk fishing for a limit with the Zoom trick worm because I knew I could catch a limit junk fishing.”
Jason Broach’s fish were still there for him on day one.
“There was a boat ramp with a creek channel going out to the main river with a pinch point. I had three fish in the first thirteen minutes. In the creek, I caught them all on a Carolina rigged June bug lizard. On the main river by the island I was using a white Jack Hammer. It was only two to four foot of water, so it was a steady retrieve, then ripping it out of the grass.”
Jake Harshman had decided to put all of his hope into an unknown spot.
“I had my kayak at the launch, then sat in my car until 7:30. I was going to let anyone who had pre-fished it go first. On my third cast I caught a pickerel. I made some casts into the grass and caught a few males. I went to the creek mouth and made a cast up the river into an eddy that was forming there. I caught a 19 plus, and I was like ‘hey, nice to see you!‘ I fished the spot for a while and caught a couple of 17’s and was sitting at a decent limit. I checked the standings and saw 101 inches and was like seriously?!?”
“I could still see my fish there with the live scope, but I left them for tomorrow. Later, I got closer to my spot and watched a bass boat pull in. I pedaled up towards him and asked if it was ok to approach him… he said ‘I don’t know why you would want to do that!’… but I told him I had been fishing the spot and was trying to manage the spot for a tournament. He told me ‘I just caught a 6 and a 7-pound fish here…but if you want it, I will let you have it.’ I looked at him and thought – he is really going to leave!”
“Then I sat in the spot and fished a shaky head for the rest of the day to hold it. I kept shaking off fish until one fish picked it up, carried it out to the middle, then swam back. I said if you are going to be that stupid; I set the hook and crossed its eyes. It was a 19 plus fish.”
But everyone who opened TourneyX by 8:45 a.m. knew the name Josh Counce. He had posted 101-inches before most had registered a single fish.
“On day one, I pulled up to the spot, flipped in and before I could engage the reel, a fish was pulling on the bait. On the second cast, the same…then the third. I was fishing the hyacinth mat on the backside of an island where I had found them during pre-fishing.”
There was also a bunch of anglers whose bites had turned on during the afternoon. Ryan Lambert, Donnie Bennett, Steve Owens had made a charge late in the day to challenge Josh and Jake for the top spots setting up an interesting day two.
2020 Hobie BOS at Lake Seminole: Stories from the Anglers | Day Two
Looking at the leaderboard early, everyone expected Josh Counce to slay them again.It wasn’t happening, but the day had just started.
He and Jake Harshman were slugging it out as many top-tenners slowly dropped out of sight on the leaderboard and were replaced by others.
Craig Dye was sitting in fourteenth after day one.
“Last year I had three events where I was just outside the money. So now, here I was with 9 fish after day two, driving back to Bainbridge knowing that I had probably just done it again.
“My goal was just top ten, so I went back for day two. After five casts I had a 15, then caught a 15, 16 and 18 within thirty minutes. I thought, ‘this is awesome. I am going to have a good day.’”
“The Chattahoochee started to rise and backed up into my creek. Then nothing. I packed it up at eleven and went to Spring Creek looking for a big fish like the 20plus I caught pre-fishing, but never found that fifth fish. I went to check-in and everyone was saying good job. I had no idea that I had made the top five. When they announced 6 through 13 and I wasn’t one of the names, I thought how in the world am I in the top five with 9 fish!”
Kurt Smits said that on day two he “was Texas rigged fishing a hump with a big TRD or a turbo craw.”
There was a couple of humps with a clear spot and some rocks. I found the fish sitting right against the bottom. I didn’t know if the bite on the humps was going to be there, it wasn’t there Friday, then ended up not being there Saturday. So you just don’t know if it is going to be there or not.”
“The fish I was catching, they were just glued to the bottom. They looked like they were part of the bottom. I could see them on the Hummingbird.”
Jason Broach was very consistent on both days. He was the leader after day two.
“I caught three in the creek and two on the island. On day two, I had two fish in the first hour. I only got six bites the first day and seven the second.”
Jason did catch a 22.75 incher which ended up as the day two and overall big bass to win the Bassin Big Bass.
As the day progressed, Josh was unable to repeat his success from day one.
“Day two, the wind hurt me. It was harder to stay on the fish because of my ability to control the kayak. I still caught fish, but I had to move a lot more. On day two I lost a 17 inch fish…this was the fish that probably cost me. The cameraman was there, so they got it on film. I didn’t get upset about it, I just kept fishing. I caught almost all of my fish on the 3/8 ounce Jack Hammer in Green Pumpkin Shad. I fish it 95% of the time I am fishing a chatterbait. If I want a different color, I change the trailer.”
Jake’s fish, a shoal of large fish he could see on the scope, were gone.
“It was a ghost town. But I still just felt it! I moved and casted against a bunch of cypress root on a very steep ledge and got a backlash. As I started reeling back, around 10:30, I got a bite. I realized that the fish were holding real tight to the banks…but they were deeper in the water column than day one.”
2020 Hobie BOS at Lake Seminole: Final Results
In the end, after watching the leaderboard look like a different tournament for most of day two, Jake Harshman held off Josh Counce to win the first Hobie BOS event of 2020 from a spot he had not pre-fished before day one.
He recounted a story of a text exchange with his wife where he had left her a text at 7 a.m. on Sunday morning.
“I don’t expect you to be up, but when you do wake up; one, I hope you feel better…two your support of me is unreal. I am lucky to have you, I love you. I am going to do this today because you are my rock. You make me a better person and I love you.”
Then all day long they continued this exchange with her offering words of encouragement. At noon she tells me “you are still searching for two.”
“I texted her back; ‘I’ve got this babe…I can feel it!’
And he did.
Jake switched to a ¾ ounce chatterbait and “at 2:40, I caught a nice fish and looked at the leaderboard. I had a one-inch lead!” And that is where he finished, as the winner.
2020 Hobie BOS at Lake Seminole: Top Five Finishers
2020 Hobie BOS at Lake Seminole: 1st Place | Jake Harshman
Hometown: Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
Work: Federal Police Officer working for the office of Veteran’s Affairs
Jake is a member of the Old Town Kayak team, pro staff at Five Mountain Outfitters, Undercover Baits, promotional staff with Amphibia Eyewear, and I get support from Innovative Sportsman.
2020 Hobie BOS at Lake Seminole: 2nd Place | Josh Counce
I have a Jackson Big Tuna, a Liska, and a Skipper. I am originally from Tennessee. I am not on the Jackson Team, but I liked the thought of supporting a company that gives local people opportunities. So Jackson guys… if you are reading…
2020 Hobie BOS at Lake Seminole: 3rd Place | Kurt Smits
Hometown: Fairfax, Ohio
Kurt is on the Hobie fishing regional team, Strictly Sail and Kayak in Cincinnati, Ohio, Fishing Online, Yak Attack, Ketch board, NeverLost Gear, Picasso Lures and St. Croix Rods.
2020 Hobie BOS at Lake Seminole: 4th Place | Jason Broach
Hometown: Bluffton, South Carolina
Work: Assistant marine scientist with the South Carolina DNR
Jason primarily works on growing red drum, spotted sea trout, and cobia for stock enhancement. He enjoys it, but he has to keep the fish alive, even on the weekends. The only thing that would take him away from it is if he could fish for a living. He is apart of the Hobie regional team and wanted to note that his Lowrance helped him find the fish in the creek.
2020 Hobie BOS at Lake Seminole: 5th Place | Craig Dye
Hometown: Holly Springs, Georgia.
Work: Valiant Steel.
Craig manages the Hook1 pro staff. He’s also apart of the pro Staff with Wilderness Systems, Bending Branches, Torqueedo, Raymarine, St. Croix rods, Rogue Fishing, Dakota Lithium.
This article was contributed by an ANGLR Expert
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