“It taunts me. It teases me. It keeps me coming back for more!”
These sentiments drifted in conversation among the anglers after the first day of fishing at the 4th Annual Hobie Bass Open. I listened to the men and women speak about Kentucky Lake as though it had a mind of its own, as the first day proved especially challenging. The sweltering June heat tested the anglers’ stamina and determination, though some folks found success fishing at the surface due to a sudden hatch of mayflies.
The Hobie Bass Open returned to Kentucky Lake in Marshall County for the fourth straight year on June 10-11, 2017, drawing 115 anglers in the adult division and five in the youth division. This catch-photo-release tournament served as one of a series of qualifiers to choose the representatives for Team USA at the Hobie Fishing World Championship 7, which will take place later this year at an as-of-yet undisclosed location.
As I continued listening, one name in particular kept coming up in conversation, and by the end of the second day, I waited as anxiously as the anglers to see if Jay Wallen of Lexington, Kentucky, would finally pull off the first-place finish he had been chasing for three years.
Wallen finished the first day of the tournament as the frontrunner, but the battle was fierce for the top 12 placements on the second day. He worked the ledges close to the dam, where he had fished the day before, and knew he had a chance to win when he netted a 20-inch largemouth for his three-fish daily limit. In the final 30 minutes of the tournament, he caught an 18-incher for a daily total of 56¾ inches and a two-day total of 115½ inches.
Wallen had finished third for the last two years at the Hobie Bass Open, and this year the tension in the conference hall steadily intensified as the top 12 placements and cash payouts were announced. Wallen and Joshua Stewart of Waverly, Tennessee, were eventually left as the top two, and the moments stretched in agonized silence as we awaited the verdict. Finally, Stewart was announced as the second-place angler with an impressive 114¼ inches, and the room erupted into applause as we all cheered for Wallen.
“I’m overwhelmed,” Wallen said as he was presented with a check for $4,000. “I’ve wanted to win this tournament since I drove away last year.”
In addition to the cash payout, Wallen earned an all-expenses-paid trip as part of Team USA for the Hobie Fishing World Championship 7 later this year.
For his second-place finish, Steward earned $2,500 and an invitation to the Hobie Fishing World Championship 7.
“This is the biggest one, the most meaningful finish of my kayak-fishing career,” he said.
If he accepts the invitation, he will have part of his travel expenses reimbursed thanks to the proceeds from raffle-ticket sales during the tournament. Drew Russell of Louisville, Kentucky, rounded out the top three in the adult division. Jaxton Orr secured the win in the youth division with a two-day total of 102¼ inches and plans to enter the adult division next year.
Kayak anglers seeking to represent Team USA have two more chances to qualify for the Hobie Fishing World Championship 7 at the Border City Classic on June 24-25 and the 2nd Annual IKE Foundation Celebrity Pro Am Tournament Kayak Division on July 7-8. Hobie will announce the location of the championship tournament later this year.
For more information on Hobie products, visit hobie.com.