By Paul Lebowitz
The challenge is set. Seven kayak anglers hailing from North America are on their way to 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 from October 5-11. This year the Catch-Photo-Release targets are pike, zander (walleye) and perch.
Team North America will be led by returning competitor Justin Carter. On day one in 2013, Carter shocked the homestanding Australian team and the rest of the international field with a convincing win. A rough final day knocked him off the podium and into seventh overall. Australians finished 1-2-3, with Richard Somerton capturing the championship.
For this edition of the Worlds, Hobie dramatically widened the opportunities to qualify. Events across the continent offered their winners a spot on the team and travel support. The other six North American team members each used their winning ways to punch their 2014 tickets. Their specialties are all over the map, from largemouth to fluke, redfish to rockcod. Tom Michael demonstrated the excellence that propelled him to a ninth place finish at the 2013 Worlds when he won the inaugural Hobie Bass Open at Kentucky Lake.
Elias Vaisburg turned in the best striped bass / bluefish / fluke grand slam at the Kayak Fishing Classic at Jamaica Bay. Canadian Kyle Moxon took top honors at the Border City Classic. Steve Lessard is the defending 2013 IFA Kayak Tour champion.
Justin Ritchey qualified by winning the IFA Kayak Tour Jacksonville tour stop. Oregon Rockfish Classic second place finisher Scott Brenneman took the qualifying spot when event winner Kenneth Dickens could not make the trip.
Team North America will compete on identically rigged Hobie Pro Angler 12s, outfitted with Power-Pole Micro Anchors and Lowrance fishfinders. Earning a place at the 2014 Hobie Fishing Worlds wasn’t easy, but the most difficult task remains. The home team has won all four tournaments. If they can break the trend and win on European waters, they’ll make history.