OCEANSIDE, Calif. – In NASCAR, it’s like the perennial season opener in Daytona Beach, FL. Racers slide on their gloves and tilt down their helmet shields while eyeballing the competition. Off the starting line they swerve controllably to heat their tires for traction. And then the drivers follow the safety car around the final pace lap before giving it the throttle at the starting line.
For competitive kayakers, the scene is markedly different, but the anticipation and adrenaline fully equal. These hardcore, people-powered anglers ready their paddles, spin their props or give the fins a few pumps of the pedals. Knots are checked one last time. Rods strategically placed for a moment’s-notice summons. And they fixate on their watches for start time, this year on Lake Seminole in Bainbridge, GA.
Enter in inaugural day of Hobie’s 2020 Bass Open Series (B.O.S).
Now in its second season, the catch-photo-release (CPR) format B.O.S. continues expanding the horizons of competitive kayak angling nationwide. “The B.O.S. increases the opportunities and visibility for competitive anglers, and lets them fish at a very high level,” said Hobie’s Tournament Director and Southeast Sales Representative AJ McWhorter. In addition to his official duties, McWhorter has been a proud member of the Hobie Fishing Team for eight years.
Beyond the hand-to-fish combat on the water, McWhorter speaks to some of the takeaways – besides cold hard cash – that benefit participants: “It’s about networking, too. You’ll learn and grow as a kayak angler being around such excellent talent. And whether you aspire to generate income in competitive kayak fishing, or just want to elevate your presence in your own kayak fishing community, the B.O.S. lends a fantastic platform.”
There is fun, food and fraternity at each event as well. Hobie provides a free meal at every event, which includes raffles for sponsored prizes.
Beginning in early February, the B.O.S., which is open to anglers fishing in any brand of kayak, will be hosting nine individual tournaments in 2020. Cost for the two-day, weekend, open tournaments is $235, with a maximum of 200 boats per event. The top 10% of the field in each event receive cash payouts. And the top three non-qualified anglers from each open qualify for the Tournament of Champions (T.O.C).
Held on Arkansas’ Lake Ouachita out of Mountain Harbor Resort last November, the T.O.C field consists of the top 50 anglers competing in the 2020 B.O.S. Location of the 2020 T.O.C. to be announced at a later date.
Kayakers also vie for the coveted Angler of the Year (AOY) crown. The top 100 anglers at each B.O.S. aggregate points toward earning the title. And beyond the guaranteed $5,000 cash payout to the 2020 AOY, he or she will also receive a customized, fully rigged Hobie Pro Angler 14 with 360 Drive Technology, Power-Pole® Micro Anchor and invitation to the Hobie Fishing Worlds! (The AOY second place finisher receives $3,000 cash and invitation to the Hobie Fishing Worlds, while third place earns $2,000 cash and an invitation to the Hobie Fishing Worlds.)
Competitors in all B.O.S. events automatically qualify for a luck-of-the-draw prize at the end of the season: customized Hobie Mirage Outback. The more events you fish the better your odds of winning, as competitors earn chances at each event, with a maximum of ten entries. Winner of the Hobie Mirage Outback to be announced at the 2020 T.O.C.
And who doesn’t like a Calcutta, a side bet? Bassin’ Magazine is sponsoring a side pot at each B.O.S. event for the largest bass caught during the tournament, and at no additional cost to the angler. The size of the cash side pot will be determined by the number of anglers in each event.
In the big picture, McWhorter sees Hobie’s B.O.S. as a much larger stage for growing the sport of kayak fishing. “Sure, the B.O.S. is a large platform, but the greater interest and exposure trickles down into fun local tournaments, grassroots efforts, and the general recruitment of new kayak anglers.
“There is literally something out there for everyone.”
LAKE SEMINOLE – BAINBRIDGE, GA – FEBRUARY 1-2
What is better than a 2 for 1? Try a 3 for 1… That’s the weekend special for Hobie B.O.S. competitors fishing the season opener on Georgia’s Lake Seminole. “The reservoir is like three fisheries in one,” says veteran kayak tournament competitor and Hobie Fishing Team member Shane Williams from Orange Park, Florida.
Williams, a fulltime power systems operator, sees each arm of Seminole – Chattahoochee River, Flint River and Spring Creek – as completely unique. He says the Chattahoochee is mostly stained; Flint River colored but not dark; and Spring Creek, clear. To that, he expects bass to be caught and registered in all three environments…but at the hands of very different techniques.
“Given Seminoles diversity, anglers can fish to their strengths, making the event very competitive no matter your style of fishing,” said Williams.
On a recent prefishing expedition, Williams fished everything from grass flats to channel breaks and boat docks, to sprawling beds of hydrilla and hyacinth. And he has some theories going into the tournament: “It’s been a warm winter, and until the recent spells of cold weather, the fish were still shallow, hanging in creek mouths and grass. By tournament time, if the current warming trend continues, we might be looking at prespawn behavior.”
Beyond the battle on the lake, Williams points out the even more meaningful camaraderie the tournament scene bestows. “I’m sharing a rental house with kayak anglers from all over the country. Some are driving in, and I’m picking people up from the airport, too. Really looking forward to spending time with these guys.”
Williams ends by describing Bainbridge, Georgia and Seminole as a “very different environment than we’re used to fishing.” “It’s a quaint and historic town, and you can still see some of the aftermath left by Hurricane Michael. From the fishing side, it’s not about marked brushpiles and classic go-to spots. This thing is wide open for everyone.”
Registration is now open for the entire B.O.S. 2020 season. Don’t miss out on the action! Whether you’re just starting out and new to the competitive kayak fishing scene or a seasoned veteran, this tournament series is for you.