The Hobie Fishing Worlds 6 took place from 4-11 December 2016 in Leeville, Louisiana, USA.
Forty nine anglers from 17 countries competed in this tournament.
Each angler was equipped with a brand-new Hobie Pro Angler 14, a Lowrance Sounder and a Power Pole Anchor System.
German participants were Thorsten Klein, who qualified for the Worlds with a second place at the World Predator Classic, and the author, Wolfgang Schulze, who was third at the Hobie Predator Open 2016.
Preparation for Leeville
Mid-November I was informed about my nomination for the Hobie Worlds 6. From that moment on it was very hard for me to concentrate on issues which weren’t related to fishing, especially to speckled trout, redfish and flounder. In a short period of time I watched most of the YouTube videos about these tournament species.
Because of my late nomination I had to hurry up to pay the entry fee, to book the flights, to comply with the entry formalities for the USA and to book a hotel for an overnight stop-over in New Orleans. In general these tasks are easy to manage and not worth mentioning. But if you are not a user of Facebook and PayPal, insurmountable problems arise. So I had to give up my reluctance towards these e-worlds and by now I have to admit that there are also advantages in using these tools. But thanks to the advice of John Parker, Captain of the Team Europe, I remained steadfast in one aspect: I didn’t buy any equipment which seemed to be extremely necessary for fishing the Worlds. A good decision because the lure packages each angler received from Hobie and Egret Baits were more than enough. Thank you for this support!
Welcome to the USA
I had already been to the US several times before and had lived and worked in San Francisco for half a year. But this was a long time ago and thus I was amazed again by this country. Hey, what do you need these oversized cars, triple burgers and huge cups of sugar-rich lemonade, which can be endlessly refilled, for? And the mega stores like Bass Pro Shops and Cabelas — that just takes the biscuit, it blows your mind! You should only be allowed to enter these temples of the Divine Promise without a credit card and a limited budget of cash. But anyway, I said to myself: “Once won’t do any harm”.
Having left the Bass Pro Shop we were heading for Leeville which is a two-hour drive from New Orleans. The closer we came to Leeville, the more the tension increased. The waters got bigger and bigger and the marvelous marsh landscape, which I had visited so many times on the internet, became reality. There was devotional silence when we drove the last five miles on the Leeville stilts bridge. To a European, this landscape appears gigantic, and to a kayak angler paradisaical.
Upon arriving at Moran’s Hotel in Leeville on Sunday, the 4th of December, the positive impression we had received from photos of our tournament accommodation was confirmed. A fantastic location! A waterside motel connected by stilts with a quaint pub named Finn‘s Bar, a restaurant and a small corner shop. After the check-in everybody automatically ended up in Finn’s Bar. There was a big hello of the people who had met each other before and the constant cheers of those who had known each other only from the tournament website. Thank God that the official part only started the next day at 3pm with the registration and a briefing of the tournament rules. But neither the jet lag nor the side effects of the visit to Finn’s bar prevented most of the guys from fishing the waters near the hotel. Together with Thorsten Klein and Rene Winklinger (Austria) we tried our luck at a water inlet of a little harbor. The success was not long in coming. By jigging small shads with light rods we caught some trouts and little reds which was a lot of fun and a promising start.
Organisation and Introduction to the Tournament
To sum up: The Hobie Fishing Worlds 2016 were perfect!
And this is not a thoughtless and biased statement. The main organizers, Keeton Eoff and Steve Fields, Gero Priebe who is responsible for Hobie Europe´s Fishing department and the whole Hobie team did a great job. Everything went smoothly. Thank you so much, guys, for your efforts!
To get familiar with the sounder and the anchor system, special introduction courses were provided by Lowrance and Power-Pole experts. It was an absolutely fantastic idea to invite local kayak anglers as guides for the two Pre-Fish Days. Considering that an American has only a few days of leave from work, the commitment of these guys cannot be appreciated highly enough. Thank you so much, guys, for sharing your experience with us.
Paul Rountree (New Zeeland) and I were pleased to be guided by the local Lance Burgos who gave us a detailed and competent introduction to the waters and the techniques of fishing for speckled trout, redfish and flounder.
Waters and Fish
The terms “Pelican” or “Bayou State” for Louisiana already indicate the special relationship with water. Bayou stands for slow-flowing and still waters. And these were exactly the conditions we found in the marshes around Leeville. Except for the shipping canals which are up to 5 meters deep, the average depth of the marshes is 10-90 cm. Due to the shallow water of the marshes’ labyrinth, you had to paddle quite often because the use of the MirageDrive was not possible. Thus I was surprised to learn that you can catch redfish up to a size of 130 cm and 15 kilos in these shallow waters.
During the tournament Rene Winklinger was lucky to locate the fin of a big red in an area surrounded by reeds. After several casts directly in front of the red’s mouth he succeeded in setting the hook. Also the European Kayak Champion Daniel van der Post (Netherlands) caught a good red on the first pre-fish day. Thorsten Klein was even more fortunate on the second tournament day. Under extremely difficult weather conditions he found a shallow spot only 15 minutes from the starting point where he caught several “specks” and a good sized red. This was enough to put him in the second place in the day’s ranking.
I myself hooked a giant red on the first pre-fish day unfortunately on my light spinning rod. In a two hour fight I succeeded twice to pull this giant to the surface but it was not possible to get him into the kayak. Finally when I tried to drag him into shallow water, the line was cut, probably by the edge of an oyster. What a pity! But that’s fishing.
Speckled trout: Because of the good weather conditions during the pre-fish days it was quite easy to catch them in big numbers with any kind of lure. This was very different from the cold and windy competition days. In this context a special lure presentation – the popping cork – has to be mentioned. When pulling this cork, a popping noise is produced which should attract the attention of fish. On the very cold and windy first competition day I used this technique and was able to catch at least some minor specks.
The flounder remained a mystery fish. To my knowledge not a single one was caught during the whole tournament. Maybe it was not the right season for this kind of fish.
During his coronation celebration the new and now double Hobie Fishing World Champion Steve Lessard from Louisiana, put it in a nutshell: “Everybody could have become World Champion.” This sounds simple but it isn’t. Because he added: “If the weather had not changed in such a dramatic way, I wouldn’t have benefited from the home advantage.” And this statement is very true. To achieve victory was far from easy. The Australian World Champion of 2013, Richard Somerton, called ”The Fishing Machine” by his teammate, Mitch King, delivered an exciting fight till the end.
From this duel and the overall result you can draw several conclusions: Even if it comes to fishing, success is not a matter of coincidence. The competitors from the USA and Australia are in a class of their own. This becomes even more apparent when evaluating the results of the former Hobie Worlds.
In 2011 and 2013, when the Worlds took place in Australia, three Australians were on the podium. In 2012 and 2014 (Steve Lessard) US anglers took the World Championship.
From my point of view this dominance is caused by the enormous competition experience. The knowledge and experience you can gain from fishing tournaments regularly is considerable. Since there are, up to now, only a few kayak tournaments in Europe, it is difficult for us Europeans to reduce this gap.
Not to speak of the conditions in Germany where tournament fishing is not allowed at all and fishing from a boat is very restricted. It is obvious that especially in the US fishing has a much higher and better reputation in politics and society than it is the case in Germany. Successful US fishing pros are famous and have cult status (see below for more information). Thus it is no coincidence that the top ranks are dominated by US and Australian anglers and that the best Europeans, Igor Azevedo, Spain, and Ronald Traas, Netherlands, are to be found in positions 13 and 14.
With whom to start? Best with Jackie Smith. At some point everybody noticed this tall, athletic and always hard-working elderly man with the firm handshake. Captain Parker explained to me that Jackie Smith is a football legend, member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Hobie representative and co-developer of the Pro Angler. Wow, that left a big impression on me. I was even more impressed when Jackie was singing the American national anthem before the start of the competition. I am not a very patriotic person except for when it comes to soccer but despite the storm and cold I got goose bumps from listening to his fervent performance.
Keeton Eoff and Steve Fields: I have already mentioned them. They did a great job in organizing and moderating the Hobie Worlds 6. In my opinion one reason for their success was that both managed to deal affably with all participants but to keep an appropriate professional distance at the same time.
Gero Priebe: Hobie Europe´s Fishing Product Manager, 5th place at the Hobie Worlds 2012 in Austin/Texas. Together with his colleagues, Zachary Barth and Tim Strijbosch, he organized the Worlds’ qualification tournaments in Europe and took care of the Worlds 6 Team Europe on the ground. What was legendary were the early rides from Moran’s Hotel to the starting point with Gero as a bus driver and DJ playing AC/DC at a deafening volume.
John Parker: Captain of Team Europe. Working and living as an American in Italy he started as a competitor under the Italian flag. Everybody appreciated him as a reliable, helpful and most likable person. Thank you, John! You were the good soul of our team.
Maik Penner: Renè, Thorsten, and I were quite amazed when the Brazilian Maik Penner talked to us with a southern German accent. It turned out that Maik is the third generation of a family which originally comes from Germany and that German is still the main language spoken in his village. So we had the perfect conditions to learn something about kayak fishing in Brazil.
The competitors: Directly after the Worlds a lot of the participants stressed on social media how fantastic the fellowship among all anglers had been. I would like to endorse this statement very much. During the whole tournament there was a friendly and cheerful atmosphere.
Our hosts in Louisiana: We got to know them as open-minded and hospitable people. They have every reason to be proud of their cuisine, especially the preparation of seafood. The all-you-can-eat-dinner with shrimp and crawfish was the absolute culinary highlight of the Worlds 6!
And then there was: the fantastic, the incredible Mr. Mike Iconelli! I must confess even I had heard of him before. Mike is an icon of bass fishing (and promotion) in the US. When he was introduced, the hooting of the crowd and of course the selfies with him didn’t want to end. That is what I meant before when I mentioned that fishing is much more appreciated and recognized in the US than in Europe.
Hobie Fishing Worlds 2016 – the Experience Factor
Sure, I was looking forward very much to fishing the Worlds in Louisiana.
But from time to time I asked myself: “What the heck are you doing? Spending 10 days of leave, paying a considerable amount of money, exposing yourself to a 20-hour flight with a jet lag guarantee for a fishing tournament?”
But when I was back to Germany and had overcome the jet lag, I started to write this report, still in an enthusiastic mood. In conclusion I have to say, fishing in Louisiana together with all of you guys was an absolutely awesome experience that I will never forget.