What’s in a name? The Hobie Bass Open Series (BOS) is sponsored by Hobie, targets bass and a true “open” event. “There are no membership dues; anyone fishing in a kayak is welcome to participate in the series,” explains AJ Mcwhorter, BOS director.

Inviting anglers from any background and every skill level draws new blood and big-name pros from across the country.

After the success of the annual Hobie Bass Open, held each spring on Kentucky Lake, the Bass Open Series consists of nine regional tournaments building to the Tournament of Champions. Top anglers in each region, and top points earners through the series, are invited to the championship. Mcwhorter lists the objectives: “We offer great payouts, year-long incentives, food at each event, we visit welcoming communities with accommodating host venues, hitting great fisheries at the right time of the year.”

The Tournament of Champions is limited to 50 anglers and held on a neutral lake to ensure intense competition among the best bass fishermen. This year, event organizers cut the smaller satellite events to focus on larger, regional qualifiers. Mcwhorter explains, “We want to grow attendance and increase payouts for the regional events and the TOC.”

2019 Hobie Bass Open | Photo: Courtesy of Hobie
2019 Hobie Bass Open | Photo: Courtesy of Hobie

They have instituted a points system to fill 20 spaces in the final Tournament of Champions and Angler of the Year. While the 2020 season will increase payouts and prizes, Mcwhorter says the focus is still on the anglers. “We want each angler to have fun, no matter how they place,” he says.

A few weeks after the 2019 Tournament of Champions, BOS organizers released next season’s schedule. Minutes after the announcement, we were on the line with the top three anglers from last year. We wanted to know what they learned in 2019 and how they plan to fish 2020. We asked Cody Milton, Matthew Scotch and Jody Queen five questions about last year and the next Hobie Bass Open Series.

Third Place: Cody Milton

Hometown: Searcy, Arkansas

Cody Milton holds his 3rd place plaque
Cody Milton took 3rd place in the 2019 Hobie Bass Open | Photo: Courtesy of Hobie

What was your experience fishing the Bass Open Series?

Fishing the BOS was incredible! The events are run very well and they do a great job with their schedule. Next year’s events are going to be a slugfest for sure. They are headed to some fantastic lakes during peak times of the year.

What lessons did you learn after BOS 2019?

Winning big events requires me to exclusively target the right caliber fish. I tend to be a pattern fisherman. I love to cover a ton of water. This combo produces a lot of bites, but it’s a tough way to win a kayak tournament. There were several events last year when I only needed to find a little more of the right water to seal the deal but I would come up short. My plan for next year is to slow down and not spread myself out across the lake.

What is your strategy for 2020?

To qualify for next year’s TOC, my eyes are set to Lake Chickamauga in May. May is a great time to be on the lake. The last two times I went to Chick in May, I made a run at the podium doing the same thing. It’s definitely going to be harder to qualify next year. I believe an angler’s best chance to qualify is by fishing four events and attempting to finish in the top 20 in Angler of the Year points at the end of the season. Since they take your top 3 finishes for AOY standings, I plan to fish four events and cull one.

How do you prepare?

I practice very fast! Most days I launch from 4-6 different ramps and cover more than 20 miles. I really don’t do a lot of fishing during prefishing because I have confidence in my ability to find fishy places. The first thing I always do is check the “extremes” of the lake. I look for the dirtiest water and the cleanest water. I track how water temperatures vary across the lake. Then, I work my way to the middle of the extremes for a happy medium. I’m always looking for fish and bait on the fishfinder. Finally, I build on these patterns as I search other parts of the lake. I’ve noticed when I spend prefishing looking more than fishing, I tend to run into the target class I’ll need to win.

What do you like about Bass Open Series?

My favorite thing about the BOS series is the manageable schedule. The events are spread around the country so I can hit more than one. I really love the “open” format, matching top local anglers against traveling anglers for a true slugfest. Everyone loves a slugfest!

Runner Up: Matthew Scotch

Hometown: Fort Worth, Texas

Matthew Scotch holding second place trophy
Matthew Scotch took home second place in the 2019 Hobie Bass Open | Photo: Courtesy of Hobie

What is your experience fishing the Bass Open Series

My first Hobie Bass Open didn’t go as well as I planned. I struggled on Lake Fork, which isn’t uncommon for me, and finished somewhere in the middle of the pack. I traveled up to Lake St. Clair for a little revenge and tied Kristine Fischer for second place. She had the tie breaker and I ended up third overall and qualified for the Tournament of Champions.

What is a lesson you learned after BOS 2019?

I’m continually trying to learn new things and make improvements to my game. A good lesson is to slow down. If I’m in a productive area where I’ve found fish in the past, I need to slow down and find the fish. Many times, environmental conditions have repositioned the fish. Barometric pressure, sun, clouds and fishing pressure can force the fish to relocate. I take these factors into consideration and look for fish in the area where I have found them before.

What is your strategy for 2020?

I hope to place in the top three at Lake Fork next spring so I don’t have to worry about points or trying to qualify outside of my home state. Fork hasn’t been as kind to me as some other lakes. The BOS event will be in the early spring and I believe I can put together a winning pattern. The bass should be in a prespawn pattern staging just outside of spawning coves and flats. Reaction baits, like Rat-L-Traps and ChatterBaits will be popular in the early season.

How do you prepare?

YouTube, Google Earth, Navionics and other online resources are crucial to effectively scout a lake. I spend the weeks leading up to a big event poring over any information I can find online. It doesn’t have to be bass specific information, either. To put together a winning program, I gather information about habitat, recreational activity and past tournaments. I even watch past tournaments online for an idea of what to expect on a lake I’ve never fished.

What do you like about Bass Open Series?

The HBO Series is straightforward. For one thing, there are no side-pots, just one prize structure. Hobie did a great job picking lakes with plenty of room for a large field of anglers to spread out. I prefer to fish alone. This year’s schedule was great and next year looks just as exciting. This was Hobie’s first year running the BOS series, but I think they did a great job with their post- and mid-tournament recaps that provide valuable media exposure for the sponsored anglers.

Champion: Jody Queen

Hometown: Bluefield, West Virginia

Jody Queen holds his 1st place trophy for the 2019 Hobie Bass Open
Jody Queen was the champion of the 2019 Hobie Bass Open | Photo: Courtesy of Hobie

What is your experience fishing the Bass Open Series?

Fishing the Hobie BOS is a glimpse into the future of the sport; the series is built with the angler in mind. The tournament’s don’t have a mandatory check-in time after last cast. They have an upload deadline, which is an hour past last cast, but I’m not rushing to beat the clock to make a predetermined check-in. Large lakes and rough terrain can translate to no cellular signal and a long drive back to the headquarters. Check-ins and 30-minute deadlines force me to pack up an hour before the last cast in order to meet the marks. Having a one-hour window allows me to fish until last cast, load up and then find a cell signal to upload photos of my fish.

Hobie throws a good party. They feed us on tournament nights and present guest speakers who are legends in the bass world. This benefit saves time searching for the nearest fast food joint, then rushing back to the motel to study maps, repair gear before falling into bed for a few hours sleep. The Hobie B.O.S. is definitely about the angler experience. And the payouts aren’t bad, either!

What is a lesson you learned after BOS 2019?

I learned to trust my gut. Don’t spend too much time in an area with smaller fish while waiting for a big bite. Even if it costs me a 30-mile drive, I can’t be afraid to pack up and move.

What is your strategy for 2020?

This year, I will definitely trust my electronics when I’m eliminating unproductive water. I plan to fish at least two days ahead of the event. I’ll spend hours marking fish and cover without dropping a line. Before the tournament, I contact local bait shops and consult department of natural resources websites and resources to find channel swings, fish attractors, flats, creek channels and long points.

Preparation pays off big time on tournament day. I always start with my comfort baits. If things aren’t working, I’m not afraid to switch lures. As the 2019 TOC winner, I’m automatically qualified for 2020. Even though I don’t have to fight for a spot, I’ll still fish as many BOS events as I can.

What do you like most about Hobie Bass Open Series?

The BOS was created by anglers for anglers. Tournament director A.J. Mcwhorter is a competitive tournament angler. Working with Hobie, they have created a platform allowing any kayak angler to compete against the best in the nation for a chance to be a champion. The Bass Open Series really can make dreams come true.

Learn more about the Hobie Bass Open Series and register for a contest at https://www.hobie.com/blog/hobie-bass-open-series,974/.

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“Thank God my dad wasn’t a podiatrist,” jokes Ric about following in the footsteps of a famous outdoor writer. After graduating from Radford University and serving two years in Russia with the Peace Corps, Ric returned to Virginia Beach and started writing for The Fisherman magazine, where his dad was editor. When the kayak fishing scene exploded, Ric was among the first to get onboard. His 2007 book, The Complete Kayak Fisherman is one of the first tomes to introduce anglers to paddle fishing and hundreds of articles and seminars have brought countless anglers into the fold. When he’s not chasing every fish that swims, Ric teaches English at a school for at-risk teens.


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