I am not sure what I had in my mind when I found out Sweden was going to be the location for Hobie Fishing World's 7. I had these mental images of mountains, ice, snow and freezing cold temperatures. It couldn't have been further from that. The last leg of my journey there began with a descent over lush green fields pot marked with ponds, creeks, and streams of water as far as I could see. The countryside reminded me of driving through Ohio or Indiana in the summer, with lots of farm country!
Sweden’s Small Town Feel
The small town feel and friendly people made me realize this was going to be a very special week. Everyone in Ămål was very curious and at the same excitement that anglers from all over the world were descending upon their small town. One thing that stood out to me was when a man and his wife stopped to ask me if I was enjoying my time there and how the fishing was. They truly wanted to make sure that I was enjoying myself and they offered assistance of any kind if I needed it, almost felt like home for a moment. I would be remiss if I didn't mention how incredible the food was. From the traditional Swedish meatballs, the moose and red deer venison and even caviar. I must say I had several culinary firsts on this trip.
When I was gearing up for this event I treated it as I would any other tournament, I asked myself what do I need to do to win? That's how I approach all tournaments...how do I win this thing? My preparation centered on research, YouTube videos and tackle. All while learning all that I could about Pike and Perch fishing. I was told this event is not like any other I have been to, but in my mind, it was just a bigger tournament on a bigger stage.
Hobie Worlds: The Bigger Picture
Once I got there, I realized that it's not just a bigger tournament. Winning became secondary and it was clear this was different from anything I had done before. The atmosphere surrounding the event was more about comradery and the betterment of our sport of kayak fishing. Once I felt that change of attitude, I was able to relax and take it all in. There was a competitive edge of course, as a competitor you never lose that, and you always want to win. At the same time, you knew that no matter what you were going to be better off just by simply being there and being a part of this.
The Fishing Venue
When the person next to you catches a huge pike, you stop fishing and go snap a picture for him; you don't think about it you just do it. You realize that picture with a great fish, his country flag and his name on the boat means more than just about anything. Once you get that mentality, you will realize what the Hobie Fishing World's is all about!
The fishing on Lake Vänern, Sweden's largest lake was a touch overwhelming and intimidating. You see this huge expanse of water dotted with islands and bays and you just cannot imagine where you will start looking for two very different species of fish. Water temperatures ranged from 55-65 and depths ranged from a couple feet out to several hundred.
Once you paired it down and realized what your boundaries and limitations were you just made it fish small. I found some weedy bays and rocky islands that looked promising. I have to admit I did not have the best fishing but even I managed to put some decent pike in the boat and unfortunately only managed one small perch on a pre-fishing day. Fishing for pike was truly a blast, I have done a little bit of pike fishing here in the states, but I had the opportunity to chase these fish for 5 days, it is something that every angler should try! Pike are so aggressive when they do decide to eat their strikes are bone jarring!
My go to bait for pike was a Keitech 7.8" swimbait and those toothy critters sure made a mess of that soft plastic. The pike can be temperamental though and don't really like the bright sun, of which we had plenty. The mornings were brisk and bright but the afternoons were downright hot with temperatures nearing 80 degrees. I never really got on a solid, consistent pike bite enough to spend much time chasing the perch, so I, unfortunately, don't have much to show in that regard.
Thoughts, Feelings & The Takeaway
My biggest takeaway from Hobie Fishing World's 7 won't be the fishing, the food or even the beautiful country of Sweden. The people I encountered is what made this event so special and has created a lasting impression that I will carry with me forever. In all honesty, I have been a pretty sheltered guy; I come from the mountains of eastern Kentucky and have never been out of the country before.
This event brought people together from every corner of the world. I got the opportunity to meet, interact and thanks to social media connect to these people for untold years to come. It's amazing to think that somewhere in China Fudong Li is kayak fishing. Somewhere in Kuwait, my new friend Mokhlid Al-Mutairi is fishing from his kayak in saltwater. The guys from Spain are bass fishing. My new friends in Brazil are fishing for peacock bass from their Hobie's, the list goes on and on. Very few of the 47 anglers knew each other and I feel that we all left Sweden feeling like we now have friends for life all over this world.
I have learned that language can be one of the toughest barriers in this world but when it comes to my reflection on this event, it became clear that fishing is truly a universal language. Wherever you find an angler, especially a kayak angler, you are likely to find a friend no matter the language, religion, culture or politics.