GONZALEZ AVOIDS CROWDS, HAMMERS BASS IN PICKWICK LAKE WIN
Fishes slow and alone to nail first Hobie BOS Anchored by Power-Pole® title
OCEANSIDE, Calif. (September 27, 2021) – The Hobie Bass Open Series (B.O.S.) Anchored by Power-Pole® rolled into Counce, Tennessee, at the end of September for its final open event of the 2021 season. At stake for 82 elite kayak bass anglers was not only the Pickwick Lake event championship, but a final chance to qualify for the prestigious Hobie Tournament of Champions (T.O.C.) to be held at Lake Eufaula, Alabama, November 12 – 14 and improve their standing in the Angler of the Year (A.O.Y.) presented by FarWide, the Outdoor Access App, competition. While most expected to see fast action at the 43,000-acre bucket-list bass-fishing destination, many also realized they would have to compete not only with the Hobie fleet, but with some intense fishing pressure from other bass tournaments and private boat anglers that would converge on the famed waters for the last weekend of summer.
“There sure was a serious fishing presence here,” chuckled Guillermo Gonzalez, “but I guess that was a blessing in disguise. It made me determined to get away from the crowds and find some overlooked water. I didn’t know all that much about the lake other than most of the tournaments are won from the middle on up towards Wheeler Dam, but I had heard that there were big fish scattered throughout the lake so I decided to run far downstream and see what I could put together. Lucky for me it turned out to be a solid strategy.”
Indeed it did as Gonzalez, recognized in kayak bass-fishing circles as a serious threat to finish in the money in any kayak bassin’ tourney, tallied 181.25” of bigmouth bass in the two-day catch, photograph and release (CPR) tournament to win his first Hobie Bass Open Series (B.O.S.) Anchored by Power-Pole® event and cash the $4,633 first-place prize. Kristine Fischer, 33, of Nebraska, finished in second place with 179.75” to earn $2,645, while Matt Scotch, 31, of Weatherford, Texas, grabbed the bronze with 177” worth $1,912.
Additional prize winners included Garrett Ward who took home $400 for the Bassin’ Big Bass Award, which goes to the angler catching the largest bass of the two-day event. He drilled a monstrous 22.75”, 7-pound 2-ounce largemouth on Day 1. Meanwhile, Jesse Halverson went home with the Dakota Lithium Power Move award, which recognizes the angler with the greatest leap up the leader board from Day 1 to Day 2. He jumped from 34th. place on Day 1 to 12th. place on Day 2, earning a Dakota Power Box with a 10-amp lithium battery. Both Fischer and Scotch also qualified for the Hobie Tournament of Champions (T.O.C.), as did Jaxon Orr, who advanced since Gonzalez, 31, from Fort Worth, Texas, had previously qualified for the 50-angler limited-field championship event.
Determined to fish alone, if possible, Gonzalez set his sights on the lower end of the lake, pre-fishing three ramp areas where he didn’t expect to encounter too many anglers. Aggressively probing grass flats on one practice session, he had little success but decided to slow down his approach before moving on to new water. As soon as he made the change in tactics, he began to connect and realized there were a ton of fish in the area – and he had them all to himself. Applying the same approach to other nearby flats, he realized almost immediately that he might be on a winning pattern.
“You can bet I headed straight back to those flats once the competition started, and I was excited to find the fish were still stacked along the grass edges,” said Gonzalez. “I must have drilled 50 bass on Day 1 with my top fish measuring 21, 19.5 and 17.5 inches. That put me in second place and boosted my confidence for Day 2. When I went back out, I found similar action but with slightly smaller fish after the water depth dropped a bit overnight. On Day 1, I think the higher water moved some of the bigger fish up shallower. On both days, most of my bass came from less than 3-foot depths.”
Photo by Garrett Ward
Shunning large, loud and flashy lures, Gonzalez dragged Texas-rigged Senkos and cut-tail worms slowly through grass on a St. Croix Victory 7’3” medium-heavy power, fast-action casting rod to patiently tease his quarry into striking. “I started with a 5-inch, black and blue Senko but went through about eight bags of worms, using all that I had in the boat since I was hooking-up at such a furious rate,” he said.
Fischer took a similar approach, moving away from a crowd of over 30 kayaks and vessels that were plowing an area where she won this tournament in 2019. “I stuck it out on the mid-lake flats for Day 1 and actually finished atop the leader board with 95.5” inches of largemouths and my top two fish at 21.5 and 21 inches,” she said. “Still, I couldn’t see the fishing here holding up with so much pressure, so I decided to do something totally different on Day 2. While looking on Google Earth for small areas that others might have skipped, I found a subtle flat where the smallmouths had moved up to feed in the current.”
Realizing that most of the other anglers she had seen were power fishing, Fischer opted to go small and alternated between a weedless Ned Head, Z-Man CRD Baby Frog, a weightless Dixie Wacky Rig, and a little baby finesse jig with a Z-Man CRD trailer on it. “I went super small and that was the ticket,” she revealed. “I absolutely hammered the fish but came up a little short from Guillermo’s total. I fished well, so did he, so I’m really thrilled with the results.”
As for Scotch, he decided to meet the “hornet’s nest of fishing pressure” head-on and jumped right into the frey at mid-lake. “Those fish were pretty much shut down from all the attention early on Day 1,” he noted. “In fact, it took me six hours to catch my first keeper. A lot of other anglers seemed to be having a tough go, too, and by early afternoon most had cleared out.”
That’s when the bass began busting on top back in the grass and Scotch discovered he could get a lot of them to bite on a white fluke. By the end of Day 1, he was in 5th place overall. Day 2 saw a decent bite throughout, he related, but he just couldn’t make up the deficit with Guillermo and Kristine fishing so well. “I’m pleased with the results,” continued Scotch. “It shows that some days you need to grind it out. I’ll tell you one thing, though, my Hobie Outback really helped me stay in the game. It’s an awesome boat for bass fishing. It’s super maneuverable – and if you need to paddle through thick grass, you can easily take out the drive and just glide over the top to reach fish anglers in bigger kayaks can’t get to. It certainly was a difference-maker for me in this event.”
Fischer also credited her Hobie with an exceptional performance at Pickwick Lake. “There’s no better boat on the market than my Hobie Pro Angler 14 360 for fishing in current,” she stated. “I was able to hold myself in position and make the casts I had to make time and again. Fighting big smallmouths in those conditions are a logistical nightmare. If you can’t turn you boat in time to follow those fish when they get angry, its total chaos. My Hobie Pro Angler 14 360 was exactly what I needed to put myself in the best situation to land those fish and stay in contention through the final minutes of competition.”
And speaking of competition, Gonzalez offered his appreciation for the overall skill level of anglers you’ll find at any Hobie Bass Open Series (B.O.S.) Anchored by Power-Pole® event. “This is the most competitive bass-fishing series in kayak fishing so to finally win one, after winning events in so many other series over the years, really means a lot to me. If you want to fish against the highest level of competition, this is where you need to be. This one was really special. I don’t think I’ve had a win that means more.”
“Congratulations to all our competitors on a fine season,” summed up tournament director, A.J. McWhorter. “We thank you all so much for your participation, your competitiveness, your camaraderie and support of everyone who enters these competitions. That’s what it’s all about in these events. It’s more than fishing; it’s a sense of community and we couldn’t be prouder to be part of it. Thanks also, of course, to our sponsors, hosts, and the terrific Hobie staff that puts each event together. This wraps up our open season, but there’s still the Hobie Tournament of Champions (T.O.C.) to be held at Lake Eufaula, Alabama, November 12 – 14 for those of you who have qualified – and we can’t wait to crown our grand champion this year. Be sure to check the Angler of the Year (A.O.Y.) presented by FarWide, the Outdoor Access App, standings, too. The top 19 anglers in the standings among those who have not already qualified with a top three finish at a previous 2021 B.O.S. event have also punched their ticket to the big show.”