Tom Michael Wins Inaugural Hobie Bass Open
Earns a ticket to compete in this year’s Hobie Fishing World Championship
Words and photos by Chris Funk
Thirty-three seasoned kayak anglers stood beside their vessels waiting on the 06:00 launch time; I was one of them. I had not planned it that way, my ‘job’ was to photograph and tell the story of the tourney. The excitement before the captains meeting just drew me in and before I knew it five $20 bills flew out of my wallet for my entry fee. So there I was standing with several others looking out at the placid surface of Kentucky Lake waiting for legal fishing time. I didn't have a plan or much of a hope truthfully but I just figured I would fish as hard as possible and let the results speak for themselves.
The Hobie Bass Open and World Championship Qualifier was held on Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley on May 31 and June 1, based out of Kentucky Dam Village State Resort Park. Anglers could use any public launch on either lake and it was a three-fish, catch-photo-release format. The energy level was high at the captains meeting but after day one the sunburnt and wave beaten anglers were a little more subdued. Everyone caught fish, but those with electronics and the ability to interpret them were definitely in a league of their own. Anglers who meticulously picked over ledges in deeper water realized the biggest catches.
Hundreds of schooling fish in the 12- to 14-inch range were in the back bays and I found myself having too much fun catching fish after fish to concentrate on the three big bites I needed. I picked my way through the schoolies to a 46.5-inch finish and was in 9th place after day one. Tom Michael took the lead on day one with 57.25 inches and was followed closely by Drew Russell with 52 inches and Richard Offner ending the top three with 51.25 inches. The rest of the field was separated by less than the length of a standard finesse worm.
Day two started at 05:30 and I was measuring my first keeper a little less than five minutes after launching. From the talk of the rest of the crew, most of them had keepers very early on. An early frog bite was the ticket for many of the anglers to boat their first measurable fish. Later in the day the wind waves picked up and a vast army of pleasure boats and fishing vessels made staying in one place a serious chore. The competition from other anglers was intense as well. “I watched five or six professionals pull limits off my spot then leave," said day one leader Tom Michael. He had to wonder how many fish were left on the ledge he was fishing.
Apparently there was enough for a win because when the final tally came in Micheal held fast to first place with 110.75 inches. He was followed by Robbie Milam in second place and Richard Ofner in third. Only half an inch separated second and third place. I lost a decent fish early on then ground my way through several upgrades but a late-day beast broke my heart. A solid five pounder, easily 21 inches, came unbuttoned on a vicious jump. I couldn't catch a break and it was even my birthday!
The Hobie crew did an outstanding job of putting this event on and Kentucky's Marshall County tourism folks made us all feel at home. I was once again amazed at the camaraderie and left with many more friends than I came with. Tom Michael was a true gentleman and I was honored to spend some time with him at the launch both mornings. He has not only won the Kentucky tournament but has won the opportunity to fish in a second consecutive Hobie World Championship, this time in Amsterdam in October 2014. I have no doubt he will give them a run for their money. Congratulations Mr. Michael, we at Kayak Fish Magazine wish you much luck and tight lines for your adventure this fall.