Hobie® has been hosting Hobie sailing world championships since the first Hobie 16 titles were held in Hawaii in 1976. The championships have always been fantastically competitive and ruthless events on the water, but they have also been great social occasions.
With that thought in mind, Steve Fields, Managing Director of Hobie Asia Pacific conceived the idea of the Hobie® Fishing World Championship back in 2011.
The Growth of the Hobie Fishing World Championship
Hobie has grown and diversified into new areas since those early days in the 1970s. The company’s venture into kayaks has built a huge, worldwide Hobie kayak fishing fraternity and Fields wanted to bring these people together somehow. Reflecting on his experiences successfully competing in, and later organising sailing world championships across the globe,he came up with the idea of the Hobie Fishing World Championship.
“I put the concept to Daiwa and they loved it so much they jumped straight aboard, as the major sponsor of the first ever world championship”, said Fields.
His concept carried over other ideas from the sailing class world championships where all sailors are placed on an even keel, by sailing in identical, brand-new boats, built and supplied specifically for the event.
With the difficulty and expense for a competitor of freighting a boat to an international venue having been taken care of by the event organiser, and the experience in event organisation of Hobie staff -through over 35 years of sailing world championships- the world championship in kayak fishing was set to flourish.
In 2011 a tournament site on the north coast of New South Wales, Australia, was chosen for the inaugural world championship. Like the sailing concept the event was designed around, all anglers were supplied with exactly, the same kayak, a Hobie Mirage® Pro Angler 14. All boats were rigged out in the Hobie Asia Pacific factory with quality accessories that were straight out of the packet.
In November of that year, after months of planning, the 1st Daiwa Hobie Kayak Fishing World Championship with 18 competitors finally pedalled off in Port Macquarie, New South Wales, Australia, and by all accounts it was a spectacular success.
Anglers, feasted on crocodile, kangaroo and emu and listened to the haunting, indigenous sounds of the didgeridoo, while Australian Scott Baker from Victoria (AUS) ate up the opposition and took out the first world championship title, chasing a single species, Bream. The first lure had been cast, and the first world champion crowned. The stage was set, and from little things, big things were set to grow.
World Championships followed in Texas, USA in 2012 on Lake Bastrop and Fayette County Reservoir just outside of Austin, where Marty Mood from Florida (USA) was crowned world champion. The list of competitors had grow from 18 in HFW1 to 43 competitors in HFW2.
The success of the tournament in the USA was staggering and anglers from across the world began to compete in qualifying tournaments to represent their countries in HFW3.
The championship returned to Australia in 2013, this time at two Bream fishing meccas, Bemm River and Marlo, in the East Gippsland region, in the state of Victoria. This time Australian Richard Somerton from Victoria was crowned the new world champion, establishing an enviable reputation that has since grown from one world championship to the next.
In 2014 the world’s best kayak anglers headed to Europe for the first time. Vinkeveense Plassen, just outside of Amsterdam in the Netherlands was the amazing location where anglers targeted Pike, Perch and what was to be coined “The Elusive Zander”. Steve Lessard from Louisiana, (USA), put in an amazing performance and rightfully won the 4th world championship. Lessard wasn’t about to stop there.
2015 saw the world championship take on an Asian flavour, heading to Shang Lake in Changshu, China. It was the most spectacular cultural and social event ever help at a Worlds, and on the water, it was the toughest Worlds to date, testing every angler’s skill to the max. Xiaohong Ma, from China, had been toughing it out, like all the other anglers, until the final hour or so of the championship when he dragged a huge Yellowcheek Carp aboard his Hobie. He jumped ahead of team mate Haiyang Li (who had been leading the championship over the first two days) to beat out 47 of the world’s finest anglers and claim the world title for China.
2016 saw the return of the worlds to the USA. This time, away from the freshwater Bass of inland Texas, that anglers had chased back in 2012, and over to the saltwater bayous of Leeville in Louisiana to battle huge Red Fish, Speckled Trout and Flounder.
On the days that counted in the world championship, it came down to a battle of two ex-world champions, 2013 world champion Richard Somerton (AUS) and 2014 world champion Steve Lessard (USA). It was a battle of the mighty, but as is often said, there can only be one winner, and the hometown boy from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Steve Lessard, applied his local knowledge and refined skills and fought his way to become the first two-time world champion.
The event was an amazing taste of southern USA hospitality, but more importantly an incredible fishing experience. The quality of fishing in the tournament made anglers from all over the world want to return some time in the future to the southern USA location and once again take on the “Bull Reds” of Leeville.
All six world championships have been absolutely, brilliant tournaments, with ferocious competition and extreme tests of skill, yet each overflowed with unrivaled camaraderie, just the way Steve Fields had envisioned back in 2011.
Lake Vanern and Amal in Sweden, it’s now your time to turn it on.
Late in the afternoon of May 20, 2018 we’ll know who is the newest Hobie Fishing World Champion.
Go get ‘em!