NELLI TAKES TOC TITLE WITH FIRST HOBIE B.O.S. VICTORY

Storrs second, Patrick third in $100,000 event. Milton claims AOY crown. 

OCEANSIDE, Calif. (December 5, 2022) – There’s a new king on the Hobie Bass Open Series (BOS) Anchored by Power-Pole® trail and his name is Brian Nelli. The 39-year-old from Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, conquered an extremely talented field on Lake Caddo in Shreveport-Boissere City, Louisiana, to win the event and take home the $45,000 top prize in the guaranteed $100,000 payout tourney.

Nelli finished second on Day 1 and led the board on Day 2 and Day 3 of the competition, while racking-up 295.4 total inches of largemouth bass to win the three-day, 50-angler, catch, photograph and release (CPR) event by nearly 20 inches. Runner-up Brady Storrs, 21, from Gibbon, Nebraska, tallied a very respectable 274.75 inches of bass to take home a second-place check worth $15,000. Justin Patrick, 36, from Bartlett, Tennessee, nailed the third spot and a $10,000 check with a 274.50-inch total. Storrs landed the largest bass of the contest, a 23.5-inch brute, netting an additional $500 for Bassin’ Big Bass honors.

“This proved to be an amazing event, and Nelli’s performance was outstanding,” said tournament director A. J. McWhorter. “We put the top kayak bass anglers in the country on the same water and despite changing weather conditions every day Brian was able to lock down a consistent fishing pattern, dominate the field, and earn the Hobie BOS Sponsored by Power-Pole Grand Champion title. This is the ultimate crown in competitive kayak fishing, bringing together the 50 top anglers in the BOS Series, including the 2021 Grand Champion, Kristine Fischer, the top three non-qualified finishers at each of nine open events in the 2022 season, and the top 22 non-qualified competitors in the AFTCO Angler of The Year race.”

McWhorter noted sunny skies and local temperatures in the 70- to 80-degree range greeted anglers during their pre-event practice sessions, but the tournament opener on Friday saw some cold fronts pushing through with rain and winds. “The low on Friday dropped to about 60 degrees,” recalled McWhorter, “Saturday morning broke with chilly 40-degree temperatures, and Sunday witnessed bluebird skies with a 29-degree start that just never really warmed up.”

None of that stopped the tournament’s ultimate winner from dominating the field as he fished with confidence throughout the competition. “This is my first Hobie BOS win so it’s still kind of hard to comprehend, but I think it’s sinking in a little bit now,” allowed Nelli afterward. “I’m one of those guys who accomplishes something and then looks ahead to the next challenge, so I’m already thinking about next year. Still, this one feels pretty sweet.”

Nelli got off to a great start, finishing second behind Storrs on Day 1 with a 96.75-inch total before recording 96.25 inches on Day 2 and closing with tournament with 101.5 inches on Day 3. From start to finish, he hammered his quarry on a three-foot-deep grass flat positioned next to deeper water. “The bass were both pushing bait into that grass line and waiting around to ambush anything that came through,” he revealed. “I was throwing a Bomber Badonk-A-Donk® to work the surface early each day before switching over to a speed worm presentation. That surface lure really did the trick, though. It has a great profile, and it works well in a chop, which proved to be vital since we had a lot of wind. My biggest bass of the tourney was a 21.5-inch fish.”

Nelli’s original game plan was to focus on trees as structure targets and then move up into the river to work deeper water because of the cold temperatures in the weather forecast. When he didn’t find many fish in those areas during practice, he decided to do what he does best. “That’s fishing the grass,” he said proudly, “and it’s how I ran into a solid school of nice-sized bass I was able to work all three days. Despite the wind and chill, that action was about as good as it gets.”

Storrs, meanwhile, got off to a great start, catching the tournament’s biggest bass just ten minutes into the event, and posting 98.75 inches of bass to carry the day while fishing the same grass flat as Nelli. On Day 2, however, his first bite of the morning seemed a little bit “off.”

“I had a fish hit my ChatterBait right away, but it didn’t hit as solidly as the day before. I attributed that to how many fierce competitors were probing that flat. I’m guessing maybe seven of the top 10 finishers hit that area at some point. Figuring that flat have given me most of what it could, I opted to search for my bass elsewhere but couldn’t pin them down until later in the day when I tested some cypress trees. I ended up in 21st for the day with only 83 inches, which included a 19-inch bass late in the afternoon. For Day 3, I went back to the grass flat and managed 93.25 inches – but for that one I also needed a big fish late to give me a boost. It was a 19.5-incher that I time stamped at 2:59 and 30 seconds!

“Brian’s performance was total domination, continued Storrs. “He found the hot spot on the lake and made it count. It’s not often someone runs away with a tournament like this. Brian was really focused and saved his best for the final day after working those fish all tourney long. Holy smokes!”

As for Patrick, who has fished the Hobie BOS trail since its inception, and was making his third TOC appearance, bringing his A-game was the top priority heading into the competition. “With a field of 50 anglers who all had to earn the right to be here, I knew it was imperative to fish clean and strong. The TOC is just an amazing experience, and nothing less will get you anywhere close to being in the money.”

Expecting the fish to be transitioning thanks to the cold weather and late-fall time slot, Patrick concentrated on simply finding areas that seemed to hold a good population of fish. Day 1 saw him working trees in shallow water with a buzzbait. With colder weather on Day 2, he worked heavier weed cover with heavy line, a big rod and a punching jig. “Sunday brought my best action even though it was really cold out,” he revealed. “I found the fish grouped over hard spots, shell beds and brim beds with small pieces of grass. It was in one of those areas that I ran into a really big school of nice fish. I sat on them for about four hours with a fish on nearly every cast – but even that was no match for Brian’s production. He found the true mother lode and took full advantage of it. He put on a clinic and, after Day 2, most of us were fishing for second place. Heck of a job.”

While Nelli, Storrs and Patrick competed for the top spots on the leader board, a second title was also on the line for AFTCO Angler of The Year (AYO). For this prize, competitors tallied AOY points from their top three Hobie BOS performances of the season, plus the Hobie TOC. When all the casting was done, Cody Milton, from Searcy, Arkansas, stood alone at the top, having bested the Minor Brothers, Ewing and Nolan, from Charlottesville, VA, who finished second and third, respectively.

Milton strung together two fourth-place finishes (Toledo Bend) and (Santee Cooper), a third (Broken Bow), plus eighth-place at the TOC, to walk away with a $5,000 check, the Ketch Products Inc. Trophy, and a custom Hobie Pro Angler 14 360 with equipment from Hobie BOS sponsors valued over $8,000, plus a $1,000 gift card from AFTCO. The top three AOY anglers, as well as TOC Champion, Brian Nelli, qualified to represent the BOS and the United States at the Hobie Fishing Worlds! The updated Top 100 AFTCO AOY can be viewed at: https://hobiebos.com/aftco-2022-angler-of-the-year.

“It certainly was a great tournament and a great Hobie BOS Anchored by Power Pole season,” summed up McWhorter. Congratulations to all our winners, our AOY leaders, and thank you to all who came out and fished with us during 2022. We can’t thank you enough four your loyalty, participation and friendship, as well as your competitiveness and sense of fair play. It’s you that makes this trail such a success. We’ll be posting our 2023 schedule at https://hobiebos.com/events/ in the weeks ahead and we can’t wait to see you again next year for more thrills, laughs, super catches and great times.”