The finest kayak anglers from around the world converged on the Vinkeveense Plassen, 20 minutes outside Amsterdam, during early October for the 4th Hobie Fishing World Championship presented by Rhino-Rack. They came from four continents and 20 nations to take part in the first Hobie Fishing Worlds to be held in Europe.
Hobie Cat Worldwide, its subsidiaries and partners have worked together for over a year to put together an event of this scale. The event, born out of Hobie Cat Australasia, was first held in Port Macquarie in 2011, then in Bastrop Texas in 2012 and again in Australia in 2013 at the Bemm River and Marlo in Victoria.
As with all Hobie Fishing World Championships, anglers compete from identically rigged Hobie-supplied kayaks. This year they were 2015 model Hobie Pro Angler 12s. Each kayak was rigged with Lowrance Elite-4 HDI sounders, Power-Pole Micros and Ram mounts and accessories. The identical kayaks level the playing field.
The competitors’ first taste of what was to come was on the ‘Lowrance Navigation Day’ when anglers hit the waters of Vinkeveense Plassen for the first time. Fishing was prohibited but anglers used their time on the water to gather information about structure, locations, distances, water conditions and survey the arena with their Lowrance Elite-4 HDIs.
Vinkeveense Plassen is a huge manmade lake created over centuries of peat harvesting. It has stretches of water that separate long, narrow strips of land. The deep cut-out canals offer protection from wind and related heavy chop and provide structural overhangs from which the predatory pike, zander and perch ambush their prey.
Anglers were able to put what they learned into practice during the Daiwa Pre Fish Day, taking on the perch, zander and massive pike in the non-competitive Daiwa Pre Fish Day. The day’s fishing was cut short by the Tournament Director Keeton Eoff for safety reasons, but not before more than one angler landed some 90cm+ pike – a taste of what was to come over the next three days.
On the first day of competition at daybreak, anglers stood for the national anthem of the Netherlands and then with the cry of “Power-Poles up” the tournament director sounded the starter’s siren.
Winds of 35km/h+ tested the anglers’ patience, resulting in many heading for the protection of the canals away from the more open southern lake. The 2011 world champion Scott Baker from Mornington in Victoria was upbeat about the first day of competition, however.
“I had a really good day today,” he said. “I fished with Richard Somerton [2013 world champion from Melbourne] but I dropped a couple of perch early on and Richard caught a few. Then we headed into a bay, came out and I got a 68cm pike, and my legs started to shake. I couldn’t even pedal I was that excited. I dropped a couple of other fish near the boat, but that’s fishing. I watched Richard land some absolute behemoths, so that was great fun.”
Steve Lessard from Louisiana, USA, enjoyed his first day in a Hobie Fishing World Championship. He was interviewed after coming straight off the water and unknown to him at the time had finished in second place on day one.
“I had an awesome day,” he said. “I got a pike and a perch, a very nice pike and my perch is a legal perch, it’s a 25 but that’s good enough. I’m very excited to try to duplicate that tomorrow.”
Richard Somerton came out of day one leading the leading the tournament.
“It started off pretty slow,” he said. “I could find fish but getting them to bite was pretty hard. I ended up getting a couple of perch pretty early. Then I gave Scottie (Baker) a bit of a hand with one of his fish and then I picked up a nice pike myself. I upgraded a perch later on, while looking for zander. It was a cracking perch too, 47 I think.”
Pike and perch continued to be caught in good numbers throughout the competition and it was the anglers who landed more than one species who made it into the top of the Lowrance Leaderboard. A 26cm could be enough to push you into the top five when added to an 85-95cm pike. It was definitely a game of tactics when it came to targeting species. Many competitors hit the pike early, got one on film, then went for the perch and later (time permitting) tried to upgrade the pike and repeat.
The zander remained elusive. On the third day of competition, Richard Barth offered up a Hobie Revolution 11 as a prize for the largest zander caught over 53cm. Many anglers tried, and it became quite crowded in the zander’s preferred murkier waters, but not a single one was caught.
There was a lot of movement on the scoreboard on the second day. Day one favourite Richard Somerton (VIC) came back empty handed, making way for the USA’s Steve Lessard to jump into the top spot. Canada’s Kyle Moxon climbed seven places to move into second for the day while the UK’s Rob Appleby-Gouberg moved into third.
Somerton’s day one perch measuring 47cm was the largest of the species caught, with Jason Reid from Sydney giving chase and landing a 45cm specimen. Lessard’s (USA) day one 106cm pike remained the largest for the competition.
The third and final day of the competition saw things mix up again, with four Australians finishing in the top 10. Lessard (USA) and Moxon (CAN) held on to first and second, but third place was picked up by NSW, South Coast Fisho Kevin Varty, landing a 95cm pike and a 35cm perch to move him 14 places up the leader board.
Varty’s tactic was to hop soft plastics across the bottom in 2m of water under the cover of trees. He soon got a couple of quality fish, again proving that catching two or more species was the key to getting ahead.
Having won the St Georges Basin NSW round of the Hobie Fishing Bream Series just two weeks prior to qualify, and with limited preparation time, Varty was amazed by his podium finish.
“On day one I didn’t catch any fish at all and I was pretty unhappy with that,” he confessed. “On day two I got a 76cm pike on 3lb braid and 3lb leader and that put my heart in my mouth for a few minutes. Just as I got him in the net the line broke, but I had him so that was all good!
“Today I wasn’t sure what to expect. Could I get another pike? I didn’t know, but I just went back to the same spot and did the same thing. Just casting under the trees and letting the lure sink to the bottom, slowly hopping it back to the kayak. It paid off, I got my pike at 95cm.
“Then I went after the perch. I got one at 30cm and I was just about to take the photo when he flew off the measuring board and into the drink. I was really panicking then! I quickly cast back into the same spot and fortunately pulled out one at 35cm.
“Seriously, this is a great place. I love being here and I’ve had a great time. Great sponsors, great people, everybody’s been awesome. I couldn’t have imagined it could be so good and I’m stoked to be third in the world.”
Even happier was Steve Lessard from Baton Rouge, Louisiana USA, who was crowned Hobie Fishing World Champion after consistently landing two species on each day of competition. Lessard was ecstatic after finding out his day 3 score of 112cm from a pike measuring in at 83cm and a perch at 29cm was enough to win him the world championship.
“Wow! What a tournament! I am so excited to have won,” he said. “Thank you to all of the competitors for being so courteous, working together and for the tough competition. Anyone of us could have won, it’s just that it was my day and I want to once again thank everyone who has supported me.
“Today I struggled for the first two hours with the pattern that I was on yesterday. That pattern didn’t pan out so I had to make an adjustment and the power fishing that I had been doing was not working. The fish had moved and I went to finesse fishing.
“I switched to a small jig and I caught my first pike and was able to stay with that pattern and upgrade that pike to another one. I went from a 65cm up to an 83cm with my second pike. Then I went perch fishing and immediately I got it in the area that I wanted to be in. It was the biggest perch that I caught in the tournament – a 28. So I’m just very, very excited.”
At the awards presentation dinner, anglers were asked to pick a fellow competitor who they thought best exemplified the spirit of the event. Each participant could vote for one angler that they thought best represented the highest level of sportsmanship, ethics, character, camaraderie and acts of selflessness in what was to become the “Hobie Fishing Worlds Sportsmanship Award.”
The award was picked up by the UK’s Ian (Dizzy Fish) Harris. He was overwhelmed to find out he had been awarded the honour by his peers, and also to find out that he had been awarded entry, travel and accommodation to next year’s Hobie Fishing Worlds by naming rights sponsor Rhino-Rack.
The Australian team stayed on in Amsterdam for an extra day’s relaxation where Jonathan Chen (NSW) and Simon Morley (NSW) both managed to land the elusive zander while fishing in the built-up city canals of Amsterdam. – Peter Costello
DAY 3 RESULTS
|Place||Angler||Country||Fish||Pike||Perch||Zander||Day 3 Length||Day 2 Length||Day 1 Length||Total Length||Total Fish|
|7||Rob Appleby Goudberg||GBR||0||0||0||0||0||76||98||174||2|