OCEANSIDE, Calif. (June 11, 2021) – It was no secret last weekend’s Hobie Bass Open Series (B.O.S.) Anchored By Power-Pole® event on Lake Sam Rayburn in Jasper, Texas was going to be challenging. Recent flooding in the region had left the waters of the 140,000-acre reservoir, the largest lake in the Lone Star State, a whopping 8 to 12 feet above normal in some areas.
Still, with the opportunity to fish what many bass fans consider a “bucket list” destination for fast action and lunker fish, 114 kayak anglers set out fully focused and determined to make the best of their shot in the two-day photo, catch and release (CPR) tournament – no excuses. As things turned out, none were needed as the elite fleet of kayak sharpies fanned out across the big lake and tallied 1,406 largemouths measuring up to 24-inches in length, nearly two dozen of which stretched the tape past the 20-inch mark.
“I can’t tell you how proud I am of these anglers,” said tourney director A.J. McWhorter at the event’s conclusion. “These guys and gals put it all on the line every time we get together. They’ll rise above any challenge Mother Nature puts in their way and keep on catching. With the high water and many launch ramp and access points closed due to the flooding, it would have been easy to get down at this competition, but not with this crew. Although I feel like we only scratched the surface of the overall potential here, this lake and its surrounding community gave us a serous glimpse of what it has to offer on an everyday basis while our fleet got to showcase their incredible determination and amazing fishing skills.”
Indeed, 88 anglers filled their five-fish limits on Day 1 and 84 anglers limited out on Day 2. The top seven finishers all measured at least 170 inches of bass for their full two-day ten-fish limits. Still, none scored better than Bryan Scarberry. The 32-year-old from Boerne, Texas put up a solid haul of bass measuring 86.25 inches for the seventh spot on Day One, then followed up with a whopping 97 inches on Day 2 to seal a victory in his first-ever Hobie Bass Open Series (B.O.S.) Anchored By Power-Pole® event. Jim Ware, 51, of Rome, Georgia captured the silver with 177.5 inches of bigmouths while 26-year-old Caleb Helbig of Connor, Texas, also fishing in his first Hobie event, grabbed third place with a 176.25-inch total.
For their efforts, Scarberry took home a $6,300 first-place check, Ware pocketed $3,450, and Helbig walked away with $2,150. All three anglers also qualified for the 50-angler Hobie Tournament of Champions (T.O.C.) at Lake Eufaula, Alabama, November 12 – 14. Additionally, Jeff Isham of College Station, Texas received a $400 check for Bassin’ Magazine’s Big Bass award with a 24-inch brute tempted with a Zoom Ol’ Monster 10.5-inch worm on Day 2. Robert Harris, from Dallas, Texas, was the winner of 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 61st. place to tenth place, earning a Dakota Power Box with a 10-amp lithium battery. Of course, all-important points toward Angler of the Year (A.O.Y.), presented by FarWide the Outdoor Access App, were distributed to the top-100 competitors.
“I had very little time to practice but found some fish in the right places, so I came into this tournament with a good mindset,” said Scarberry. “On Day 1, the fish were where I expected them in some hay grass and hydrilla beneath the floodwaters, but they didn’t chew my baits quite right. I was picking away with a variety of moving lures including Rattletraps and spinnerbaits, but nothing was consistent. Late in the day I switched to an 8-inch green-pumpkin ribbon-tail worm and that really paid off as I drilled three fish to fill out my limit.”
On Day 2, Scarberry headed right back out to the same spot throwing the ribbon-tail and a red swim jig tipped with a Zoom Magnum Ultra-Vibe Speed Craw. On both days, he found it tough to catch anything over 15 inches after noon, but he did notice a bit of a flurry with bigger fish between 8:00 a.m. and 11:00 a.m. “I really tried to make the most of that time slot on Day 2 he said. All of my big fish on both days ended up biting in that part of the day.”
Around 8 a.m. on Day 2, Scarberry had connected with a 22.5-inch largemouth that had a big red crawfish claw sticking out of her throat. That little clue prompted him to throw his red swim jig to mix it up and get some bites that he may have been missing with the ribbon-tail. With that adjustment he landed two more fish in the 20-inch range to pull ahead of his closest competitor by almost 10 inches. With his smallest bass measuring 16.25 inches, and recognizing the stout competition you’ll find at any Hobie B.O.S. event, Scarberry worked hard to cull that fish and guarantee the win. That didn’t quite play out, but he still held on for the victory. “It’s hard to believe I pulled it off,” he said.
Like Scarberry, Ware was concentrating his efforts on a pod of bass holding in flood water. “Normally, that spot would have been a fairly shallow grass flat with lily pads,” he revealed, “but with all the rain of late those pads had ten feet of water on top of them so it was actually 16 feet deep. There was a huge concentration of solid fish there holding along a creek bed, so I attacked that piece again and again from all angles on both days.”
In practice, Ware had shaken off two fish that were 5 or 6 pounds apiece. On Day 1, he pulled a limit by 6:45 a.m. After that he culled all day long with a Texas-rigged finesse worm and a slow-rolled Picasso Shock Blade Pro ChatterBait. “I ended the day in the top slot with 92.75 inches of bass. I was plenty happy with that result,” he chuckled.
On Day 2, Ware tried to pick up where he left off but found his finesse worm ineffective. Still marking fish, he switched to a Texas-rigged Berkley Power Worm and dragged it painfully slow through the ditch to catch his first fish. From there, he rotated through a variety of lures including an Owner Flashy Swimmer, just picking away without ever moving out of casting range from his initial hot spot.
“I leaned really hard on those fish because I was only culling up a quarter-inch at a time,” revealed Ware. “On Day 2, I thought about moving to a new area for the later part of the day but was reluctant to leave the fish to look for something better. In the end, it worked out pretty well, I just couldn’t find a couple bigger fish. Still, I’m on ‘Cloud 9” right now with a second-place finish and a berth in the Hobie Tournament of Champions. I’ll tip my cap to Bryan, too. He had a heck of a tournament.”
Helbig, meanwhile, set his sights on what was dry land only weeks ago. “With the lake so high, I didn’t know what to expect but I came in with a game plan and stuck to it. I spent the entire weekend flipping and pitching, focused on thoroughly probing fishable water rather than covering a large area. The section I fished would have normally been dry land with forest cover, but it was under 15-feet of water this weekend. Still, the bass there were pretty aggressive. I was often getting smacked before my lure settled more than a couple of feet.”
Fishing from his Hobie PA14 180 was a big help, added Helbig. “I just love that boat,” he stated. “It covers a lot of water when I need to, lets me stand up for pitching and flipping, and quietly gets me in and out of the tangles I like to fish. It really performed great this weekend as there was a lot of debris along the shore and I was able to just pick my way through it, hands free, while I continued to work my baits.”
Scarberry, who also fished out of a Hobie PA14 180, praised his fishing platform as well as his competitors. “You need every edge you can get when you fish these Hobie Bass Open Series (B.O.S.) Anchored By Power-Pole® ,” he said. “The competition is so sharp that you have to get right on the fish, stay on them, and keep your line in the water as much as possible. My Hobie helps me get the job done. This is a terrific series, the best one on the kayak trail right now. I’m thrilled to have won this event, and can’t wait to test my skills against everyone else who qualifies for the Hobie Tournament of Champions (T.O.C.) at Lake Eufaula, Alabama, this November.”