Hobie Tournament of Champions set for Knoxville, TN.
Top Kayak Bass Anglers Compete this November for Tournament of Champions Crown
OCEANSIDE, Calif. – The dates are set and the location has been determined. The 2nd Annual Hobie Tournament of Champions (TOC) – the final chapter of the 2020 Hobie Bass Open Series (BOS) – will be held November 14-15 in Knoxville, TN.
That’s right, Knoxville. It’s an international travel center that played host to the 1982 World’s Fair and gave Elvis Presley and Dolly Parton their first big career breaks. Renown for great music, terrific food and brews plus an atmosphere both artsy and friendly, it’s bordered by vast and picturesque parklands including Great Smokey Mountains National Park, which makes it an excellent destination for just about any outdoors activity.
“Knoxville is also a bass angler’s dream and that’s what really turned our heads,” says Hobie BOS tournament director A.J. Mcwhorter. “The Tennessee River runs right through downtown and the city is nearly encircled by more than half-a-dozen large lakes and rivers filled with smallmouth, largemouth and spotted bass. It’s an ideal setting for kayak fishing with plenty of structure, weedy expanses, deep channels, rivers that snake through beautiful country, and two primary lakes to anchor the action. I think our participants are really going to put on a show here.”
It’s no secret that bass run big and plentiful in the Knoxville area, or that the local residents welcome anglers. The 49th Annual Bassmaster Classic was held here in March of 2019 and fans turned out in droves to watch the competition. In fact, they broke the all-time Classic attendance record as the entire community welcomed visiting fans from every state in the U.S.A.
“We are thrilled to welcome the Hobie Tournament of Champions to these East Tennessee waters,” said Chad Culver, Senior Director of the Visit Knoxville Sports Commission. “We know these anglers and their families will be appreciated in Knoxville, a place where big bass and southern hospitality await. We’re expecting a super tournament and a great turnout as well.”
This fall’s TOC will provide competitors the opportunity to work within the same basic boundaries as last year’s Classic event, focusing on the headwaters of the Tennessee River, the Holston River below Douglas, French Broad River below Cherokee, Fort Loudon Lake and Tellico Reservoir.
“That’s a lot of water to cover,” says Eric Thomason, 47, a BOS competitor and Knoxville native, “so be sure to bring your full bassin’ arsenal because you never know what patterns will develop here. Although it’s likely to still be warm, it can get cold in these parts during November and fishing conditions can change from hour-to-hour. I plan on packing my Hobie Pro Angler 14 to the max.”
Thomason finished 7th in last year’s inaugural TOC at Arkansas’ Lake Ouachita and is working hard to get back in the mix this year. “I’m pumped already,” he revealed. “It would be so sweet to qualify again for the TOC on familiar waters. I think I can put some quality numbers on the board if I get the chance – and I’d love to do it in front of a hometown crowd.”
In terms of where to fish, Thomason stresses that every stretch within the tournament boundaries has potential to produce a winning haul. Still, he’ll probably focus on the two big lakes. The waters of Fort Loudon Lake, he noted, offer abundant grass, timber, laydowns, islands and creeks to probe but tend to be a bit on the greenish side. “Expect 3- to 4-foot visibility here and a nice mix of bigmouths and bronzebacks,” he advises. “Throw big topwater lures like a Whopper Plopper, Buzz Bait, Pompadour, Spook or Lucky Craft Sammy. Large swimbaits, spinnerbaits, chatterbaits and crankbaits produce well, too, but you’ll want to go with bright colors to help the bass spot these offerings.”
Tellico Reservoir, by comparison, sports clear water with 9- to 10-foot visibility, so you’ll need to adjust your colors. “Since the fish are likely to get a real good look at your baits, it’s important to match the hatch as much as possible by using silver skirts or natural shad patterns,” Thomason advises. “Try throwing a big bull shad or gizzard shad. If you like a muskrat imitation, throw something big and brown. In addition to largemouths and smallmouths, you’ll find spotted bass at this location. Also, be aware that a small passage joins the two lakes. Put in at the launch ramp off Tellico Parkway and you can fish both on the same day.”
While Thomason loves the lakes, 24-year old Jordan Marshall of Maryville, TN, favors the rivers. “The Holston and French Broad are probably my two favorite places to fish in this region,” he states, “and both are less than an hour from my home. They are fantastic smallmouth waters that can hold their own with any bronzeback hotspot I’ve ever fished, and the French Broad has plenty of big largemouths as well. If you are coming from out of town, expect to be impressed because the bass in these rivers are just as mean as they are in any big lake.”
Marshall suggests anglers should expect to find river bass on an early fall pattern that will see them aggressively targeting shad to bulk up for the winter ahead. That can set up an awesome topwater bite, but Marshall says competitors should keep a collection of spinnerbaits and crankbaits handy just in case.
“I’d spend the most time casting around grass and plant life just outside shallow flats,” explains Marshall, who also fishes from a Hobie Pro Angler 14. “The bass often stack up in such areas when focused on shad. If the topwater theme doesn’t hold, basic shad colors and willow-bladed spinnerbaits are a good combination. Keep in mind that the French Broad is wider and slower than the Holston, making it the better choice for bigmouths. My Hobie gives me a real edge on either river. It’s great for covering a lot of water on the French Broad and, with new Kick-up fins, I don’t have to worry about hitting rocks if I push into the shallows on the Holston.”
Marshall qualified for last year’s TOC by picking up a roll-down spot in the final BOS tournament of the season. This year, he’s intent on qualifying right up front. “I’ve been fishing these rivers since I was a kid, so I really want to be part of this,” he revealed. “Because it’s easy for spectators to get up close to see what goes on, this is a great opportunity for all of us that make the TOC, and it’s a terrific venue for kayak fishing in general.”
To qualify for the TOC, anglers must compete in the Hobie Bass Open Series. There are eight two-day open events plus a one-day Shootout, spread across the country, which allow the 50 top anglers in the series based on accumulated points to showcase their skills to the nation, compete for the toughest title in kayak fishing, and gain the final qualifying spot for the Hobie Fishing Worlds of 2020. Anglers are also fishing for cash that has been building within the series structure all season. The total TOC payout, dispersed to the top 10 anglers (or 20% of the field), should approach $60,000.
BOS anglers can also compete for Hobie’s BOS Angler of the Year (AOY) crown, which is based on the culmination of points from their three highest finishes in the current BOS season, points for the largest daily limits or big fish of the day, plus points earned at the TOC.
TOC qualifying anglers will enjoy three complimentary meals and the comforts of the Farragut Community Center as their tournament headquarters. The first-class accommodations are central to everything in the Knoxville area, so if you want to enjoy the city or the great outdoors with family and friends after the competition has ended, this is the perfect jumping-off spot.
“Hobie really does a fantastic job with the TOC,” says Marshall. “They go above and beyond any other tourney trail I’ve been on. The contests are well-run, competitive events with great payouts and every serious kayak bass angler wants to enter. They knocked it out of the park last year, so we are all excited to see what they can do with another season under their belts.”
“The combination of top-shelf competition, bass-filled waters, easy access, quality payouts, camaraderie and a host city ready to roll out the welcome mat all help build anticipation for this premiere kayak bass fishing championship,” said Mcwhorter. “Naturally, we’ll be keeping an eye on the coronavirus pandemic as we get deeper into the season, and we’ll be following whatever safety regulations are in place at the time in all of our events. We want everyone to be competitive and have a lot of fun, but the health of our participants is our greatest concern.”
Anglers can view the remainder of the Hobie B.O.S. schedule and check for updates here.