Champions: Australians Richard Somerton, Chris Burbidge, and Grayson Fong finish 1-2-3.

Champions: Australians Richard Somerton, Chris Burbidge, and Grayson Fong finish 1-2-3. Photo courtesy Hobie Fishing Worlds.

World Clash: The Tournaments that Claim to Award Kayak Fishing Championships
Kayak anglers weigh in on current crop of contests, share their ideas
By Paul Lebowitz

Hobie just crowned its kayak fishing king. In 2013, Australian Richard Somerton is the best of the best – on the strength of his outstanding 6.15 kilogram haul of bream. For those who don’t speak metric, Somerton’s three-day, 7-fish Hobie Fishing World Championship total amounts to a kingly 13.56 pounds.

The result prompted observer Craig Davis, who first fished off a kayak in 1978, to say it is “hardly a way to find out who is the best in the world. I wish they would come to NorCal and go over 8 miles out with Rob Bray [who represented Team USA]. Might be a different story then.”

Davis isn’t alone in his views. For some kayak anglers, basing a world championship on a target fished with two-pound string comes across as silly, no matter how feisty pound for pound.

Let’s give Hobie a chance to explain. Company representatives freely admit that the event determines Hobie’s fishing world championship – they make no claim that Somerton is the best kayak angler in the world, whatever that is. Teams assemble from most corners of the globe, and fish it out. A home team angler has won each time, although the visitors have come as close as second.

Now three years in, Hobie’s contenders have fished for bream twice and largemouth bass once. Both fish support healthy tournament action in each country. In the US, B.A.S.S. and FLW are the major leagues of competitive fishing. Bass are ready biters – it’s rare for a contender to blank or zero-out. There’s also that finesse, fish of skill thing, but I’ll leave any evaluation of that claim to you.

Putting the words “World Championship” in the name of your event is sure to draw scrutiny. With the inclusion this year of major US kayak fishing tournament winners, Hobie has at least strengthened its claim of legitimacy. Remember, they are determining the world champion among Hobie anglers, not the wider kayak fishing population. In 2014, Hobie is taking its Fishing World Championship to Europe.

What of the other events that claim to bestow a world title? Is there anything to them?

New Zealand’s Kayak Fishing World Cup is two years in. Part of the larger New Zealand Beach and Boat competition, it’s hard to justify the worldy claim. Few international competitors attend the offshore event (a handful), and none on Hobies – they are banned, or were the first year. The targets are worthy, all hard pulling saltwater gamefish: kingfish, snapper, kahawai, John dory and trevally.

Then there’s the Adventure Fishing World Championship, a new entry from Native Watercraft and veteran event organizer Eric Grace. More adventure than world-spanning competition, two-angler teams are challenged to catch fish at checkpoints scattered across miles of the Everglades. You better come ready to paddle or pedal a long way.

Grace says this year’s winning team paddled and fished across 21 miles over 9 hours and 20 minutes. “There’s a ten-hour cutoff. If you didn’t make it, DNF, did not finish,” he adds.

The 2014 edition will be contested on February 22. It’s nearly full; at the time of the interview Grace had room for no more than three more teams. For 2015, most entries will be through regional qualifiers staged in Arkansas, Louisiana, New Jersey, North Carolina and Florida in mid to late 2014.

In the next story in this series, kayak anglers have their say. What should a kayak fishing world championship look like? Share your thoughts.

Paul Lebowitz edits Kayak Fish. He had one good year of kayak fishing competition way back when. He’s counting the days until there’s a world championship among kayak fishing writers.