By Paul Lebowitz
World champion is a weighty title. Marty Mood wears it easily. Mood took on 41 other competitors assembled from Hobie's far-flung pro staff network to become winner of the second annual Hobie Fishing World Championship, the first held on U.S. shores.
"I don't know about all that. For the next year maybe. There's no crown. Some people say I should get a championship belt made. I won a nice trophy," says Mood lightly.
Mood, a U.S. Navy flight instructor pilot based in Pensacola, Florida, became the reigning king among anglers who fish from the manufacturer's distinctive pedal-drive kayaks. They came for a not-so-traditional Texas fishing throw down centered on an American angling obsession, the largemouth bass.
The November contest featured all the trappings of a high-stakes fishing competition: trophy-caliber water, cagey strategy, and top fishing equipment including the latest fin finding gizmos from Lowrance and Daiwa.
Everything but exhaust fumes - those were exclusive to the camera boats for future TV airing that shadowed anglers in the hunt. Or the big money purses and sponsorship cash dangled in front of the glitter boat jockeys of the pro bass circuit.
"None of us are Jimmy Houston or Roland Martin. All of us dream the kayak fishing scene will get to that. Maybe not to that extent because it is so commercialized," Mood says of his fellow competitors.
Fishing from behind each of the three tournament days, Mood calmly rallied, topping all comers. Mood credits his cool demeanor from his experience piloting lumbering P-3 Orion maritime search aircraft in Maine's turbulent skies, and his current assignment flying the aerobatic US Navy T-6 trainer.
"My second T-6 flight, I puked. There's real stress and perceived stress. My life is never in danger in a fishing tournament. It's just fishing; this is easy," Mood says.
There was a beautiful symmetry to Mood's win. Let the first be the first to win a world title on US soil.
"Some people don't believe this. I was the first fishing team member for Hobie. It was total luck. It really was. I was in the right spot at the right time," Mood says with characteristic modesty.
When Mood was in flight school in Corpus Christie, Texas, he wasn't the only one earning his wings. Kayak fishing was just starting to take off. The lifelong angler was wading a shallow flat when a hoard of redfish went into a wild frenzy just out of reach across a narrow deep-water channel.
"Here comes this guy in this little P.O.S. sit-inside. I was like why oh why didn't I think of that. Two days after that I'm flipping through the TV. I happened to come along (legendary bass pro) Hank Parker's Hobie promo. The Outback. I said that's what I want," Mood says, recounting his moment of discovery.
Mood dived into the then-nascent kayak fishing tournament scene. Years later, he's reached a pinnacle, if a modestly lucrative one. This world championship title comes with bragging rights and $2,200 in merchandise and travel vouchers. Mood doesn't care; he feels he and his fellow competitors have arrived.
"One of the guys filming from the camera boat said he wasn't expecting to see quality fish and high caliber angling. It's the perception among the bass boat crowd that kayakers can't do the same thing. He was just blown away. There isn't much of a difference in what we can do from the kayak," Mood says.