Jay Wallen with his 20-inch largemouth. Photo by Julie Ofner.

KENTUCKY LAKE, KENTUCKY (June 11, 2017) – The third time is a charm. Jay Wallen of Lexington, Kentucky, after finishing third the past two years, has battled through to take a Hobie Bass Open win.

“I’m so happy I pulled it off. I’m going to Hobie Worlds 7. That’s what this whole thing is about. I just couldn’t be happier,” he said.

Wallen went into day two of the two day Catch, Photograph, Release kayak fishing tournament with a one inch lead. A crowd was chasing close behind. He felt the pressure. Changing up from day one, he hunted his fish on a ledge farther north, closer to the dam, where he’d finished the first day on a furious flurry. However, on the final day the bite proved to be a grinder. He averaged one fish every two hours, but they were good ones.

Wallen’s three-fish daily limit was backstopped by a 20-inch largemouth that he said he probably shouldn’t have caught. The jig pulled right at the boat, but he got the net under the fish before it hit the water.

RELATED: Third Time a Charm? Wallen Leads Hobie Bass Open After Day One

“That’s when I knew I had a chance. I didn’t think I had it won but I had a chance,” he said.

Wallen fished clean, converting all his bites. It proved essential. With just thirty minutes of fishing time left, he culled an 18 incher, giving him a daily total of 56.75 inches. It was just enough. His two-day total of 115.5 inches narrowly beat his closest challenger.

“The biggest thing about this tournament is you compete against your peers and some of the best kayak anglers out there. That’s what makes it special. You do this in front of all your peers and a lot of them are happy for you. We’re all for the most part friends,” he said.

Matthew Scotch with a good one at the Hobie Bass Open. Photo by Julie Ofner.

The win earned Wallen a check for $4,000, but it was the trip to the Hobie Fishing World Championship that had him most excited. The destination is expected to be announced in July. Wallen is ready, wherever it winds up.

“You could put it on the moon and we can catch whatever kind of fish you want to catch. I’m ready to go, to represent team USA,” he said.

Joshua Stewart of Waverly, Tennessee nearly matched Wallen inch for inch, but ultimately finished second with a total of 114.25 inches. He fished a jig in shallow water in the New Johnsonville area. Stewart earned $2,500 and an invitation to Hobie Fishing Worlds 7.

“This is the biggest one, the most meaningful finish of my kayak fishing career,” he said.

Drew Russell of Louisville, Kentucky rounded out the top three. He earned $1,700. “I was shooting for a top ten. I’m thrilled with third,” he said. Russell fished worms and jigs on ledges and points. “I’ll be back. We’ll get it next year,” he said of just missing the Hobie Worlds.

The Hobie Bass Open paid out to twelfth place, with 100 percent payback. 115 anglers fished the adult division.

The youth division was won by Jaxton Orr, who compiled an impressive two-day total of 102.25 inches. He was followed by Will Stumbo (95.5 inches) and Cole Kleffman (83.75 inches).

Kentucky Lake Convention & Visitors Bureau and Hobie Worldwide sponsored the first-place finisher’s entry to the Hobie Worlds. Additional sponsors include lodging host Kentucky Lake Dam Village State Resort Park, the host city of Calvert, Hobie Polarized, Lowrance, YakAttack, Bassin’ Magazine, RAM Mounts, St. Croix, Daiwa, Power-Pole, Mustad and Gerber.

Final Adult Division Leaderboard

Final Youth Division Leaderboard