These Aren’t Your Mama’s Kayaks!

The 2015 Hobie Bass Open qualifier at Kentucky Lake set the stage – or should I say water, for viewing the ultimate in “tricked out” kayaks.

Seventy-three kayak anglers from around the U.S. and Canada brought their top game to compete in the catch-and-release bass tournament hosted by Hobie Cat and Marshall County Kentucky. These vessels are plotted, planned and produced to be supreme fishing machines. It’s not only the 100-percent cash return in prize money that is at stake, but a coveted berth on the 2015 Hobie Fishing World’s Team, representing the United States, on Shang Lake in Changshu, China, that goes to the winner.

Kentucky Dam Village State Park was the headquarters for the event and where kayak anglers gathered with the proven and the best in ‘yaks and accessories. Every inch counts when it comes to outfitting one’s vessel for convenience and ease in accessing gear, tackle and whatever is necessary for providing that extra edge on the water. Add a sponsor’s wrap and the only difference between these vessels and a turbo-charged bass boat is that these watercraft are self-propelled, and that is the way these anglers like it.

No need to explain the advantages of fishing from a vessel with the stealth of a jaguar for sneaking up on fish, or the fact that these boats can go in the back or on top of most vehicles for transporting to just about any shoreline – no boat ramp needed. Kayaks are friendlier on the wallet too, without the added fuel costs.

But, what do these tournament ‘yak fishermen add to their arsenal for that extra edge when competing?

Don’t Leave Home Without…

What is that must-have item (not including rod & reel) for these kayak fishermen, that makes for a successful day on the water? I polled anglers to learn what that essential piece of gear or accessory could be the difference in fish being brought to the kayak or not.

Products mentioned ranged from the highly technical to the simplest of gadgets.

Louisiana angler Tommy Eubanks who placed fourth in the Kentucky Bass Open, didn’t need to think long when asked what accessory was most valuable to him – the Power Pole Micro. The Power Pole Micro is specifically designed to efficiently and quietly anchor the kayak, and a handy remote control aids in deployment.

Michigan kayak fisherman, Dave Mull relies on his Humminbird 597 unit for finding ledges, cover and fish. Dave’s “tricked out” kayak also includes the Hobie H-bar for ease in standing and his go-to anchoring system is an Anchor Wizard that cranks for easy anchor retrieval. Placing seventh and “in the money,” Dave also got some use from his Buck Knives’ Splizzors. cutting out fishing line that was wrapped around the anchor.

Jerry McBride, editor of Kayak Fish Magazine, depends on a very simple, but necessary tool – the Boomerang Tool for trimming braid, fluorocarbon and mono fishing line. Jerry attaches it to his shirt for easy access at all times.

Jameson Redding, of Jackson Kayak’s Fishing Factory Team, doesn’t head out without his YakAttack BlackPak rod holder and storage system. His fishfinder of choice is Raymarine’s Dragonfly.

Morgan Promnitz designs fishing kayaks for Hobie and is a member of the Hobie Fishing Team. His must-haves for a day on the water, includes the Elite 7-CHIRP by Lowrance, a good pair of pliers, Boomerang snips, and Power Pole Micro. Morgan also mentions the importance of a good pair of polarized sunglasses and a Frabill net. Morgan and the others emphasize that having a good net in the boat, can save the day when fishing tournaments.

Ben Duchesney, digital editor at Kayak Angler is a fly fishermen. He covers the deck of his kayak with SeaDek padding. Having the padded surface under his feet and gear makes for a quieter approach for getting closer to his prey.

Another handy item that is popular with these anglers, is the Assault short paddle manufactured by Backwater Paddle Company. The handle is only inches long versus several feet. It can be kept up front for easy access to quickly propel the boat back into position, without requiring setting down your rod and reel, camera or whatever, to pick up a 7-foot paddle.

A Hobie Kayak with Mirage Drive was the common denominator with many of the tournament anglers at Kentucky Lake. Being able to peddle the vessel with the legs rather than using a paddle, kept hands free for making more casts. Just being able to maintain or quickly manuever the kayak to a certain position without having to set down the rod and reel can make the difference in the amount of time one’s lure stays in the water, certainly a plus when it comes to tournament angling.

A map of Kentucky Lake by Fishing Hot Spots proved invaluable to my fishing partner Jimmy Jacobs and myself. This was new territory for us and the map showed locations of structure, brush piles, coves and water depths. Since fishing from a kayak, it was important to plan our strategy and have a launch site determined ahead of time.

[divider]Kayak Tournaments[/divider]

The number of anglers who fish from a kayak, as well as the number of kayak tournaments has “exploded” in recent years – and we are not talking decades, but in just the last four to five years. Kentucky Lake Outdoors tackle shop in Culvert City, is just a few miles from Kentucky Dam Village State Park, headquarters for the Hobie Bass Open. Owner Jack Fuller agrees that kayaks are popular in his area too, and says it is a growing market for his retail business, with Jackson being his top selling brand of fishing kayaks. “A few years ago we didn’t have a kayak tournament on the lake and now we have three or four including the national qualifier for Hobie Cat,” said Fuller.

Bass & Gas is another Kentucky Lake area tackle retailer that benefits from the area’s kayak anglers and fishing tournaments. Owner Matthew Quinn says that the greatest amount of their business comes from non-local fishermen that travel to fish Kentucky and Barkley lakes.

Seventy-three anglers in addition to five youth anglers, more than doubled the number of entrants compared to Hobie’s 2014 inaugural event held on Kentucky Lake. This tournament is the second in a series of four giving entrants a chance to claim a coveted spot on the North American team that competes later this year in China.

Tyson Peterson of Lexington, KY took top honors in the tournament with 116 inches. Entrants submit the lengths in inches of their top three bass each day of the two-day event. By early morning on the second day of the tournament Tyson had already caught, photographed and released his three-bass limit measuring 59.5 inches that would help to secure the lead. He then had the luxury to boat a total of 21 fish by the end of the day, even tossing back 18.5-inch fish to eventually add a few more inches to his day two total of 61.5 inches.

Second place went to Tom Michael with 109.75 inches and Jay Wallen took third place with 109.25 inches. Winner of the Youth Division Dylan Crystaloski logged in a strong score of 103.25 inches.

Anglers used the iAngler Tournament app for logging in their catches. Besides allowing anglers to log their catch data while still on the water, the system also collects and stores vital angling data for marine research. Bass brought to the boat are measured on a Hawg Trough measuring device and photographed before being released.