With a feeling that it was as much a gathering of old friends and family as a tournament including many of the top kayak anglers, the final event of the inaugural Hobie BOS season was held at Lake Guntersville on September 21st-22nd. Under the direction of AJ Mcwhorter and Kevin Nakada, with Frank Stapleton helping to keep things flowing, 81 anglers gathered at the Guntersville Town Hall for the captain’s meeting.
Russell Johnson prepping outside of the Guntersville Town Hall.
The competitors were discussing pre-fishing across the 69,000 acres of water that lay between Nickajack and Guntersville Dams, inspecting the new Hobie 360 prototype model and enjoying a barbeque and a cake that was brought out to celebrate Matt Brook’s birthday. Matt is a Hobie team member who had helped to coordinate the event and the crowd sang happy birthday before he welcomed us to the area.
Shortly after, professional bass angler Randy Howell spoke to the crowd about his impressions of kayak tournaments and the camaraderie that is prevalent among our community.
Randy, like many bass boat anglers, has discovered the beauty and simplicity of our sport and talked about pedaling a Hobie close to his home and maybe one day, joining us in a tournament. He also offered advice about where the fish might be found on Guntersville, his home lake, and shared stories of his success during the Bassmaster Classic. If you get a chance to hear him speak or share stories, you will find him to be quite down to earth and entertaining.
Hobie BOS 2019 Lake Guntersville: Pre-Fishing
Comments about pre-fishing ranged from “I did alright” (code for smashed ‘em) to “I couldn’t find a fish” to “I was all over them for the last two days, but not today”. Many of the anglers had spent anywhere from three to five days on the water; some had come every weekend for the last month, and all were excited by the possibilities when hitting the water.
Grass seemed to be a key factor and the lures, well, the reports seemed to show that you could throw about anything if you found the fish, but frogs were successful early; chatterbait, spinnerbaits and soft plastics were the next top choices.
Tennessee angler, Steve Owens, had several locations where he had found fish. Matthew Brannon, Jesse Halverson, and several others reported being on schools that were active most of the day; Russell Johnson and Matt Ball had traveled far south and felt they had located some fish – and hoped “they would fire up in the morning”. Josh Stewart had come to Guntersville, had some gear issues, drove back home, then back to the lake – so he had not been on the water a lot; he was pretty quiet about what he had found but has had success on the lake in the past fishing toward Nickajack.
Hobie BOS 2019 Lake Guntersville: Day One
The water temperatures were a bit lower as the launch time neared, fish were popping across the water and hundreds of bass boats were launching for several local tournaments. Everyone expected to see a lot of traffic, but with kayaks, it is easy to get into places that they will never find accessible on tournament days. Some anglers still reported interactions with boat anglers and losing their spots to guys who could get there first.
Several anglers found success early with topwater baits. I personally had a very sensitive bite that would turn off by nine, so I fished quick and pulled 83.25-inches with a Stanley ribbit frog and a Rapala Skitterpop before the sun killed my bite, and this was true for many anglers.
Josh Stewart caught them on frogs and senkos as he pulled in 97.5-inches on day one and was leading the crowd with the second-place angler on day one, Alabama angler, Tim Van Polen, was only 4.25-inches behind. Tim had borrowed a kayak, fished his first kayak event, and taught everyone watching that any day can be your day!
Matthew Brannon had planned to catch a limit of bass then move to a ledge. He was fishing in the same area as his wife Amanda. They were throwing spinnerbaits on day one, when it was hung in the grass, he would rip it and the fish would react. His bite turned on later than most, but he found them in a pocket and stayed after them. He was only 2.5-inches behind the second-place angler with a 4-inch lead over fourth place.
After day one, the top twenty were easily within range of the top spots, 32 anglers did not catch a limit and five anglers on the board did not record a fish. But one of the best stories of the day came from an angler who only recorded a single fish.
A day-one bright spot!
Glen Landstrom had fished a frog for almost three hours, but there hadn’t been wind in the area he was fishing and the wind was key. A solid twenty-inch fish was the only opportunity, but it missed the frog after blowing up on it.
“After twenty minutes, I came to terms and moved on. Around noon I figured with the lack of wind and high sun the fish had pushed far back under the pads, so I moved in ever so painfully slow.”
Then Glen pulled out a 10” ribbon tail in watermelon candy color. After feeling that the watermelon seemed to blend in with the vegetation just a bit too well in the heavily stained water, he switched to a 10” Okeechobee Craw ribbon tail and tested it by dropping it next to the front hatch.
“I was standing… yo-yo’d it a few times… in a flash, she came up from the hydrilla and crushed it!”
The catch, a 23.5-inch fish, was the largest of the event bit while he was testing the visibility of the lure. He thought he had found the winning ticket, and stuck with it over day one and most of day two with nothing to show for it.
“I should have pulled out and went to search for numbers instead of size, but it is what it is.”
Glen is a solid angler, if you check out his TourneyX profile you can see that he, like many of us do, just had a bad tournament.
I was able to ask him a little about what he does when he isn’t fishing, and what got him into kayaking.
“I own a flooring and remodeling company, self-employed more or less, so it takes all my free time other than the time I spend with my girls. I guess I started about 6-years ago when I lived in Florida fishing the back canals and the big O in a simple Sun Dolphin. I’ve been tournament fishing now for 4 years from a yak. I got into it simply because I sold my bass boat through the move and had to get back on the water. I’ve been fortunate enough to have a lot of help from my fiancé Stacia Meyer procuring some sponsorship from Picasso Lures, K9 fishing line, and tacklegarage.net.”
Hobie BOS 2019 Lake Guntersville: Day Two
On the second day, some anglers who had found fish continued to catch them and others struggled. Josh Stewart ended the day in fifteenth place while Steve Owens and his good friend Ryan Lambert had turned the tables. Ryan had finished eleventh on day one but was tied with Chris Walters and Adam Shepard for third on day two.
Steve had been fishing with Chris Walters, and they had a few places to choose from on day two. Chris had pre-fished a small cut off the main river and the fish seemed to move in and out during the day. After day one, Chris was in twelfth place and Steve was thirty-third, but day two saw a big shift for Steve.
They had pulled into that cut and in forty-five minutes, Steve had recorded 82.5-inches after switching to an Owner brand underspin and throwing it in the grass. He and Chris talked about moving, but Chris told him to “stick with it… you might be in this”. So the two set up a “milk run” and kept rotating through the spot all day. After going to his truck to cool off, Steve thought they may be down in the grass, so he picked up a Rage Menace and a rod with 12-pound test on it.
“The 15-pound test I was fishing wouldn’t let it fall into the grass, but the 12 seemed to work better. I flipped it in there and jiggled it and it dropped… next thing I know, I landed a 20.75-incher. I flipped it back in and caught a 17-incher.”
He said he needed one more good one, and it wasn’t long before he landed a 20.25-incher.
“We were whacking them in front of a bass boat, and it wasn’t long before the boat had pulled up the trolling motor and headed out!”
“Those guys are great! The atmosphere was just kinda chill, and it made it easier to focus on fishing. I made up my mind that I was going to listen to that little voice telling you what you should do.”
It worked out for Steve who measured an impressive 98.25-inches.
Hobie BOS 2019 Lake Guntersville: Final Standings
The top nine gather around to see how the cards will play out.
Josh Stewart, arguably the best angler on the Tennessee River system, had gone to his location on day one and found Ryan Lambert, Jordan Marshall, and others in bass boats at his chosen location. On day two, other kayak anglers who had pre-fished the area also moved to the same part of Lake Guntersville. He had only found four fish until late in the day and knew that Steve Owens was climbing the leaderboard and was a bit worried. But the Tennessee native is never one to give up and is very meticulous in how he attacks an area and found his fifth fish to hold off the charge from Owens to win the event and punched his ticket to the Hobie Worlds for the second time.
Steve Owens had moved from thirty-third to second and Matthew Brannon landed third; both winning a berth in the Hobie Tournament of Champions. Clayton Shilling, Eric Thomason,
Ryan Lambert, Chris Walters, Jordan Marshall, Cole Kleffman, Ron Champion, and Kristine Fischer tied to round out the top ten. Five of the top ten coming from Tennessee.
First Place: Josh Stewart
Josh Stewart with AJ Mcwhorter on stage after winning the event.
Set to attend his second Hobie Worlds, in the running to be the only angler to repeat as a member of the Ten in KBF every year, an angler with an incredible list of wins and top finishes across both trails and a pretty cool dude on top of that; there is not much else to say that he doesn’t say every time he launches his Jackson on tournament day. Josh’s dedication to the sport, ability to find fish under the most difficult of conditions and his humble attitude all combine to make him one of the best in the kayak bass fishing world. He is very aware of his abilities on the water but doesn’t seem to let it go to his head and is willing to tell you how it all happens and share some of his techniques.
Second Place: Steve Owens
Steve Owens with his second-place check.
A conversation with Steve Owens is easy. He is an extremely open and friendly guy who grew up with his family “a hard baseball throw from each other” along the banks of Nickajack Lake and is very active in the Tennessee kayak community when he isn’t working in maintenance at a concrete plant in Chattanooga; a plant that his grandfather had worked at for many years.
He was crappie fishing his whole life, but had never really bass fished or been in a kayak when Ryan Lambert started talking about kayaks.
We rode to Asheville to pick up a kayak… then I started pan fishing out of a kayak. Later, Lambert fished a tournament and told me “man, you have got to get into this!”.
“So I bought an All-Star rod from Nik Brown who lives down the road from me, bought a Rooster Tail… threw it and caught a 16-inch bass.”
He decided to fish a Chattanooga Bass Yakkers tournament the next weekend, four and a half years ago and has been kayak fishing since.
“I don’t know if it is something primal or not, but I enjoy kayak fishing way more than fishing from a boat. It is like bow hunting and I feel like I have conquered something that day. It is more like you are on the fishes level when you catch them from a kayak.”
After his initial kayak, Owens traded a 1911 Sig for a Jackson Big Rig because he needed something sturdier to fish out of; then realized he needed to get a pedal drive and bought a Native Slayer Propel and has been in a Native ever since.
He is now on the Native Team and one of the organizers for Native’s Watercraft Tournament of Champions kayak tournament to be held on Lake Guntersville October 5th, on the Hook1 team; and pro-staff for Picasso Lures, Denali rods, Power Team soft plastics, Kayak Kushion, Line Out Custom Tackle, and Dakota Lithium.
Third Place: Matthew Brannon
Matthew Brannon with his third-place check, also held by professional angler, Randy Howell.
Matthew of Charleston, South Carolina is a kayak angler who spends more time on the water than about any of us. He is an electronics technician with the Coast Guard who spends long periods patrolling on a 418-foot national security cutter. He recently made chief and may be moving; potentially affecting his ability to fish tournaments but not to spend time in the outdoors.
His father, a Navy man who fished semi-professionally, carried Matthew with him chasing the bass fishing trails. He had a radio talk show for a bit, rigged bass boats for people… that is where he got started in bass fishing.
“I was living where Katrina hit and had a couple of boats and fished tournaments. I sold them when I moved to Alaska… then bought a john boat to get on the water… sold it, but needed to get back on the water.”
Matthew was later in Jacksonville and saw some folks fishing from a kayak and figured it would be a fairly inexpensive way to get back on the water.
Many of you on the kayak trail recognize Matthew and his wife Amanda and can read about their adventures as the Outdoor Power Couple on the blog. Matthew and Amanda, both very active in the kayak community will be at the Worldwide Women’s Fishing Federation’s event on Lake Taneycomo October 10-13th, and Matthew says he is doing some cooking. It appears that registration is closed, but you can reach out to Kristine Fischer, Mel Ashe, or Amanda Brannon for more information.
This article was contributed by an ANGLR Expert
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