When asked about the development of the idea of the world fishing championships Steve Fields, deliberated, "Hobie Cat has been hosting Hobie sailing world championships since the first Hobie 16 titles held in Hawaii in 1976. They are fantastically competitive and ruthless events on the water but they are great social occasions as well".
"People from all over the world with similar interests not only compete but share expertise, knowledge and skills. In the end, there is one World Champion, but everyone goes home feeling better about themselves, with new friends, new skills and having had a cultural experience in a part of the world they, otherwise, may never have visited."
"Hobie Cat has grown and diversified into new areas since those early days. Our venture into kayaks has built a huge, worldwide Hobie kayak fishing fraternity. I wanted to bring these people together somehow and came up with the Hobie Fishing World Championship. I put the concept to Daiwa and they loved the idea so much they jumped straight aboard, as the major sponsor of the first such event ever to be held."
The concept carried over other ideas from the sailing class championships where all sailors are placed on an "even keel" by sailing in new boats built and supplied specifically for the event.
An event site in northern NSW was chosen and like the sailing concept the event was designed on, all anglers were supplied with exactly the same boat a Hobie Mirage® Pro Angler, all rigged out in the factory with quality accessories that were straight out of the packet and transported and maintained at the event site by Hobie Cat Australasia factory staff.
With the difficulty and expense of freighting a boat to an international venue taken care of by the event organiser and the experience in event organisation of Hobie Cat through over 35 years of sailing world championships, the world championship in kayak fishing was set to flourish.
The 1st Daiwa-Hobie Fishing World Championship was held in Australia on the Camden Haven and the Hastings Rivers, Port Macquarie, New South Wales Australia from 27 to 30 October 2011.
Anglers attended from five nations:
They competed for the prestige of becoming the first ever Daiwa Hobie Fishing World Champion.
The target species for the competitors was Yellow Fin Bream, a prolific hard fighting Aussie species in coastal saltwater estuaries. All competitors fished from identical brand new Hobie Pro Angler kayaks that were set up and delivered to the venue by Hobie Cat Australasia. Each Pro Angler was fitted out with a Hobie Live Well, a Lowrance Elite 5X Sounder, a Hobie Anchor Trolley and drift chute, and a Hobie Stake Out pole. The International competitors were also provided with a tackle box with carefully selected and proven top water lures, crank baits and soft plastic lures, as well as top shelf rod and reel combo’s that were supplied by Daiwa. The Australian anglers used their own rods, reels, line, braid, leader and lures.
The event was held over three competition days with a combined bag total with a maximum of three fish per session. All fish were brought in by 2pm each day, weighed live and then released to fight another day.
There were two pre fish days held prior to the first competition day on the Camden Haven River and the Australian competitors were teamed up with international anglers, and mentored them on the local species.
Day one of competition saw Jose Chavez from Florida lead the field with three excellent fish. Jose had two nice bream in the bag on the way back to the weigh in but knew he would need a full bag to be competitive. He was taken under the wing by Aussie Kevin Winchester, who said to Chavez, “the game isn’t over till we’re out of our kayaks”. He worked his way back with Chavez in the overcast conditions and encouraged him to keep casting and retrieving in amongst the oyster racks, as they pedalled to the weigh in. With barely any time left Chavez landed a “horse” of a fish and had his full bag and the lead on the first day of the inaugural Daiwa Hobie Fishing World Championship.
The venue moved on to the Hastings River with a pre fish day before two competition days on the new waterway. The world’s competitors were joined by around 50 Aussie anglers competing in the grand final of the Australia wide Hobie Kayak Bream Series.
Anglers set out in a mass start on Saturday the penultimate competition day in perfect conditions. Keeton Eoff from the USA pulled on board the catch of the day for the international competitors with a total of 0.93 kg followed by Kelvin Ng from Thailand with a 0.67 kg and Khoo Wee Lee from Singapore third with a 0.26kg bag. The USA’s surprize packet Chavez continued to bring in the fish but dropped to third place by the end of the day with the Aussies starting to come good in the tournament.
The weather forecast for Sunday the final day of competition was a Max 25 Celsius, partly cloudy with light northerly winds tending south west up to 30 km/h around midday with a few showers and possible thunderstorms in afternoon and evening.
The weather held and good fishing conditions persisted throughout the day with some anglers returning to the same locations as they had fished the day before but many, in the hope of finding something special, sought out new fishing grounds in amongst the many oyster leases and small waterways off the large main channel on this large estuary.
After the final weigh-in Scott Baker from Mornington in Victoria was crowned the 1st Daiwa Hobie Kayak World Champion with second place going to Jason Meech from the New South Wales Central Coast. Kevin Winchester also from the New South Wales Central Coast stepped up onto the podium to collect his third prize after a gruelling day three of the championships.
Winchester shot down surprise packet and all round nice guy Jose Chavez who, unfortunately for him, was a mere 190 grams behind "Big Kev" when it counted. Chavez took out fourth place ahead of 3 time Australian Angler of the Year Greg Lewis from Burrill Lake on the New South Wales south coast. Lewis had a slow start and while he remained confident throughout the tournament he just couldn’t get the bag of fish he was after to take out the championship.
Lewis combined with Scott Baker to take out the inaugural teams World Championship trophy for Australia with fellow Aussies Matt Petrie and Jason Meech coming in second. The United States team of Keeton Eoff and Jose Chavez were a creditable third in the teams section of the event, chasing a species that they were initially unfamiliar with and on water ways on the other side of the planet.
The Australians created a level of organisation, atmosphere, camaraderie and competition during the first worlds that set the bar high for future championships and created an unstoppable enthusiasm for the concept.
Bring on the 2nd Hobie Kayak Worlds in the United States it is going to be huge.