OCEANSIDE, Calif.– With a two-day event that showcased a super-talented field of competitors, the Hobie Bass Open Series (B.O.S.) Anchored by Power-Pole® kicked off its 2021 season at Lake Seminole in Bainbridge, Georgia, last weekend. Doubling down on last year’s success at this 37,500-acre impoundment of the Chattahoochee and Flint rivers, 175 kayak bass anglers from across the country descended on the world-famous bassin’ hole. All were intent on working up big fish and record-breaking totals. Some would get both as an impressive 891 bass hit the measuring boards in the catch, photo and release tournament.
“This was the largest event we’ve had in terms of competitors,” said tournament director, A.J. McWhorter. “With $34,125, paid out through the first 18 places, plus $400 for the Bassin’ Big Bass award, it also had the biggest payout ever for the series. To top things off, the first- and second-place finishers both broke the all-time Hobie B.O.S. two-day event record for total bass limits. What a great way to set the tone for an amazing season ahead.”
To be sure, not every angler was on fire throughout the tournament, as a drop in water temperature between practice fishing and Day 1 competition seemed to chase a lot of pre-spawn fish off the flats. Those anglers who stayed shallow tended to have a tough time, while those who pulled back to deeper staging areas pushed their way up the leaderboard. When all the drags had stopped screaming, Bryan Howell, 28, of Dallas, Texas stood alone atop the field, the proud holder of a new Hobie B.O.S. two-day event total haul record with a whopping 205.5” of bigmouth bass.
Also breaking the former record was second-place finisher Joey Vanyo, 29, of Northfield, Minnesota, with a tally of 201.5”. Finishing third with a very respectable 184.5” was Zack Hall, 30, from Birch Run, Michigan. Reigning Angler of the Year (A.Y.O), Drew Gregory, of Ravenna, Ohio, took fourth with a 178.5” total. The 2021 A.O.Y. award is presented by Farwide, the Outdoor Access app. The previous all-time Hobie Bass Open Series (B.O.S.) Anchored by Power-Pole® two-day record was 194.5”, set at the 2019 Lake Fork, Texas, event in June, 2019.
Howell noticed a change in the bite from practice to game day immediately upon setting out on Day 1. “I was feeling good because I had found a little stretch of shallow water where I drew quick hits from several quality fish during practice,” he revealed. “To reach it, I had to launch my Hobie Pro Angler 14 360 through about 20 feet of reeds. I headed straight for that spot once the competition began and drew a big zero – not even a bite! Luckily, I had found a couple of back-up spots, so I made a move after about an hour and started connecting immediately along a 100-yard stretch of bank. I pulled a limit in an hour on a white Z-Man JackHammer® ChatterBait and began to cull. Everything I was catching was a quality fish. At 99”, I decided to let that spot rest and headed over to another where I quickly drilled a 19.75” fish to end the day with 101.75” – my personal best for a single day of competition.”
Day 2 found Howell heading back to the same spot with the same bait and plenty of confidence. Two hours later, he hadn’t had a touch. “At that point I tried a red lipless crankbait and drilled two good fish, so I knew the bass were still in the area.”
Switching to a green pumpkin Strike King Thunder Cricket with a little tighter action, he quickly connected with a 20.5” bass and decided to grind with that lure the rest of the way.
“That fish told me all I needed to know,” said Howell. “For the rest of the day I had tons of bites. I was casting around lily edges and grass with some timber mixed in and 2 feet of water above. I would rip my lure through the vegetation and as soon as it came free those bass would wallop it. I knew Joey was having a tremendous tournament, too, so I just kept working. He was breathing down my neck the whole way. I had 200” of bass over two days and I was still looking over my shoulder until the very end. That’s wild. I’m so glad my spots held up through Day 2.”
Indeed, Vanyo was enjoying his most productive tournament ever. During practice, he had found a stretch of water where every fish he hooked topped 20”. On Day 1, he tallied a limit there on just five casts before he started culling.
“I’ve believe strongly in looking for patterns rather than blind casting,” Vanyo explained. “I tried flipping shallow waters and looking for beds in pre-fishing but didn’t have much luck, so I figured the fish weren’t ready yet to move shallow and spawn. That prompted me to look deeper to find where they were staging. I found them in 15 feet of water, holding tight in some grass along the outside edge of a small depression in an old creek bed. On Day 1 I had to yo-yo those fish by ripping a ½-ounce Z-Man ChatterBait through the weeds. As soon as it emerged into open water, the bass would attack – but only as the lure fell. Day 2 saw the fish follow the same basic pattern, except they moved out of the weeds and into the middle of the depression, so it was actually easier fishing.”
As things turned out, Vanyo may have had the fish he needed to get over the top hooked-up on Day 1. “I had one that looked to be at least 24” long,” he lamented, “but it came unbuttoned about halfway to the ‘yak. That fish would have bumped an 18-incher. Wouldn’t that have made things interesting? Either way, congrats to Bryan. He earned this win. It’s a bummer that I lost with 200” but I gave it all I had. There wasn’t a fish left in my spot when I finally packed it in.”
Hall, meanwhile, was also having his most productive kayak tournament ever. “I actually had some slow practice sessions, although I did stick a few quality fish,” he stated. “Despite the strong winds, I decided to concentrate on the main lake and work Jackall Rerange 130 and 110 jerkbaits both days. I was covering an area the size of a football field in 10’ of water with standing timber and two feet of hydrilla rising up from the bottom. I just kept rotating through different retrieves and the bites added up. I have a lot of confidence in jerkbaits, and I’ve caught some really big fish on them. Still, there was no catching Bryan and Joey. They were just on another level this weekend, so hats off to them both. What an awesome performance.”
For his efforts, Howell took home $9,600 for first place plus the Bassin’ Big Bass honors he earned with a 23.5” brute decked on Sunday. Vanyo pocketed a cool $4,800, Hall walked away with $3,000, and Gregory collected $2275. The first three finishers automatically qualified for the 50-angler Hobie Tournament of Champions on Lake Eufaula in Eufaula, Alabama, this November. Both Vanyo and Hall were fishing in their first Hobie event and visiting Lake Seminole for the first time in their careers.
“This really is the best-run kayak series in the country,” said Howell, who has several Hobie B.O.S. Anchored by Power Pole® events to his credit. “It has the highest payouts, runs smoothly, and has clear rules so you know everyone gets a fair shake. It draws the best kayak fishing anglers in the country, too – and we all have a great time even while competing. If you win here, you know you are on top of your game. You have to be. Nobody gets a free pass on this trail.”
For more information on the Hobie B.O.S. Anchored by Power-Pole®, or to register for an event, visit: Hobie Bass Open Series (hobiebos.com).