Ritchey Honored to Fish for US at Hobie Worlds

"To represent the United States in any sport is an unbelievable honor. I've never had the privilege to compete on an international level before, so I'm preparing myself for the challenge," Team America's Justin Ritchey says. Photo courtesy Justin Ritchey.

“To represent the United States in any sport is an unbelievable honor. I’ve never had the privilege to compete on an international level before, so I’m preparing myself for the challenge,” Team America’s Justin Ritchey says. Photo courtesy Justin Ritchey.

Team America is headed to the Netherlands (Europe!) for the Fourth Annual Hobie Fishing World Championship. They will take on the best the globe can offer on the waters of Vinkeveen Plassen not far from cosmopolitan Amsterdam October 5-11, chasing pike, zander (walleye) and perch. Kayak Fish caught up with the members of Team America in the days leading up to the big event.

Justin Ritchey, IFA Kayak Tour Jacksonville Winner
As told to Paul Lebowitz

To represent the United States in any sport is an unbelievable honor. I’ve never had the privilege to compete on an international level before, so I’m preparing myself for the challenge.

I’ve NEVER traveled overseas. It’s exciting and scary all at the same time. Anytime I fish a new part of Florida, it’s sensory overload; visually, the feel of the weather, even how the fishing grounds smell is unique to each area that I explore. Fishing in Europe is going to be surreal. I have no idea what to expect.

Team America Captain Justin Carter is a wealth of knowledge. Not only is he a reputable guide of South Carolina, he also travels the entire Southeast competing in IFA tournaments. He spends countless hours researching local techniques and patterns in each area and is quite successful in his endeavors. I look forward to working and fishing side by side with him. I’m sure everyone has a lot to bring to the table. While each participant is competing for an individual title, everyone is in complete support of one another. We all want to bring home a victory for the USA.

I’ve always believed that success is a product of preparation, skill and a little bit of luck. There’s a definite advantage to being a local to the area, and it helps if you spend a good deal of time researching fish behaviors, patterns and lure types to throw. But a skilled angler is aware of so much more than a logical approach to fishing. Anglers like Justin Carter, Steve Lessard and others know how to switch gears and fish an entirely new location, or throw a completely different lure, simply because of their intuition. Never underestimate the wild card. Sometimes, the new guys come out of left field and sweep the competition. A fresh approach to these species might be the winning ticket to the Hobie Fishing World Championship.

Ritchey has never fished for pike, zander or perch. He hopes that his experience catching redfish, trout and snook will transfer or even provide him with an innovative approach. Photo courtesy Justin Ritchey.

Ritchey has never fished for pike, zander or perch. He hopes that his experience catching redfish, trout and snook will transfer or even provide him with an innovative approach. Photo courtesy Justin Ritchey.

Winning the IFA Kayak Tour in Jacksonville, FL came as a complete surprise to me. There were a lot of incredibly talented anglers competing in this event. I chose to compete simply to challenge myself and catch up with other anglers that I have befriended throughout the state. I never imagined going to Amsterdam for the Hobie Worlds, let alone taking first place. I’m still so humbled by this whole experience. And yes, I’d say this was probably my greatest achievement since I’ve started kayak fishing five years ago.

I’ve grown up in Orlando my entire life. The only freshwater species I’ve ever landed are largemouth bass, catfish and local panfish. I’ve never caught any of the targeted species for this tournament, but I hope that my experience catching redfish, trout and snook throughout Florida will provide transferable skills and an innovative approach that even the locals might not think to implement.

I started fishing from a cheap, low-end sit-in tandem that I would borrow from the Rec. Sports Center at the University of Florida. On weekends, I would grab a buddy from class and head over to Cedar Key in hopes of catching a few redfish, trout and flounder for fun. When I graduated college, I invested in a more standard fishing kayak and spent several months consistently fishing Mosquito Lagoon and the Indian River Lagoon Systems. Most of my time was spent sight-fishing for redfish and sea trout over shallow grass flats.

This is Ritchey’s Hobie Fishing Worlds debut. He fishes for Banks Lures, Tailin’ Toads, Pro-Cure Bait Scents and KBB Outfitters.

Hobie's worldy anglers will compete in identically rigged Hobie Mirage Pro Angler 12's outfitted with Lowrance electronics, Ram Mounting Systems and Power-Pole micro-anchors. Live weigh-ins will take place on each of the three days of competition with anglers weighing three fish per day. Follow the action on the web at Hobiefishingworlds.com.