OCEANSIDE, Calif. (July 27, 2021) – The Hobie Bass Open Series (B.O.S.) Anchored by Power-Pole® rolls into Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, late this month where an elite field of kayak anglers plan to mine the Susquehanna River’s world-class smallmouth bass fishery in the hopes of striking gold. This famed stretch of rocky river boasts one of the most productive bronzeback fisheries in the country as it weaves its way through scenic hills, and the bass here are renowned for their willingness to feed ravenously throughout the day on the 40-plus mile stretch within newly expanded tournament boundaries.
“If the fishing is anything like last year this is going to be a highly competitive event – and a ton of fun,” says tournament director, A.J. McWhorter. “As an avid river angler myself, there’s nothing that gets me more excited than cool flowing water in the middle of summer paired with an aggressive smallmouth bite. The anglers making this trip are going to have an incredible time on the Susquehanna River. We’ve expanded the boundaries a bit this year to give everyone more room to spread out, especially those who may be a little intimidated by shallow, fast-flowing water. They’re going to be able to find a few deeper pools a bit downriver that hold some grass and presents significant largemouth opportunities that could come into play. We’ve also opened-up a stretch of the Juniata River that will allow anglers access to an area with less flow than the main river while still offering terrific fishing potential.”
Last year witnessed a hotly contested tournament as Hobie B.O.S. veteran Jody Queen racked up 171.50 inches of smallmouth bass to lead the field in the two-day catch, photograph and release (C.P.R.) event which saw the top four finishers separated by only two inches. With plenty of ledges, shoals, deep cuts, shallow flats, fast currents and quiet pockets to probe – and the fishery’s reputation for explosive topwater strikes this time of the year – anglers should see more of the same exciting action as they battle for substantial cash prizes. As always, the top three non-qualified anglers will punch their ticket to the Hobie Tournament of Champions (T.O.C.) at Lake Eufaula, Alabama, November 12 – 14. All-important points toward Angler of the Year (A.O.Y.) presented by FarWide, the Outdoor Access App, will be distributed to the top 100 competitors, and the largest bass of the two-day tournament will earn a $400 check for the Bassin’ Big Bass Award. Also up for grabs is the Dakota Lithium Power Move award, which recognizes the angler with the greatest leap up the leader board from Day 1 to Day 2. That prize is a Dakota Power Box with a 10-amp lithium battery.
“I think anglers are going to need to cover a lot of water to win here this year, and they’ll probably need to stop and seriously work any areas where they come across a few fish,” says Queen, 56, from Bluefield, West Virginia. “I’m expecting the water to be a little higher than last year due to recent rainfalls, and that might spread the fish out a little more. The bass might also come in tight to shore if the water is a little discolored. I’m thinking that reaction baits are going to be key since the bass are likely to be aggressive.”
Queen suggests anglers new to these waters concentrate on tight cover and laydowns. “Last year I found the fish mostly on wood,” he notes. I expect they’ll be on a wood pattern again this year because they’ll slide up into the shallows if there is any kind of color to the water. If it turns out the river is crystal clear like it was last year, then it might make more sense to beat the current seams. Either way, my Hobie PA14 with Mirage Drive and Kick-Up Fins offers a significant edge when river fishing. I like to work in areas where obstructions impede waterflow and create seams,” he explains, “My Hobie holds those seams really well. Because I can pedal and steer with my legs, I don’t need to put my rod down to reposition, and I can get through five or six inches of water when necessary. With the Kick-Up Fins, I can even slide over the top of small logs or brush without changing course. That gives me the kind of edge I need to win here where the competition and river can both be fierce.”
Photo by Jake Susky
Local angler Jake Harshman, 37, of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, lives only ten minutes from the Susquehanna and gets to fish it about three times a week. Another Hobie PA14 fan, he suggests competitors come prepared for some smokin’ hot surface action. “The topwater bite here has been on fire all summer,” says Harshman enthusiastically. “So, I’d bring my favorite surface lures, along with some spinnerbaits, chatterbaits and other reaction baits just in case the topwater bite slows down a bit. It’s also important to really be prepared from an equipment standpoint. This river is rocky and quite shallow in spots so leave nothing to chance when prepping your gear. The waters here can be unforgiving, so don’t leave yourself short. Bringing along an extra paddle, drive and fins is a good idea if you have spares. Be sure, also,” he reminds, “to bring along a tether for your kayak so you can get out and fish if necessary – and carry a good pair of wading boots as the rocks here can be quite slippery.”
Make no mistake about it, the Susquehanna smallmouth bass action is first rate. With a substantial segment of the population measuring between 16” and 19” long, and some considerably larger, these fish can be quite aggressive given the right conditions. Chunky and heavy, they look very much like Great Lakes smallies, and some anglers believe they battle even harder given their river upbringing. This year’s expanded boundaries may also bring some good largemouth fishing into play. “There are some really nice bigmouths in the new pools to the south that have been added to the playing field,” says Harshman. “Some of them hold significant submerged grass fields and trophy bigmouths. My biggest in that stretch weighed nearly 7 pounds.”
Both Queen and Harshman can’t wait to get started, and it’s a good bet the rest of the field feels the same. “We’ll all be keeping our eyes on the weather forecasts over the next few days to see what’s coming downstream,” says McWhorter, “The water levels here can fluctuate significantly, so we’ll see how things turn out. No matter what, our competitors always manage to solve the puzzle – and on the Susquehanna River there’s great stock to get things started. I have no doubt this is going to be another super exciting event. This mid-Atlantic stop is going to be something special. It’s one you won’t want to miss.”
Photo By Jody Queen
Field, a Hobie Team member, noted that her PA14 360 played a big part in her success over the weekend. “That boat let me hold my position around the bridge abutments when the wind was really whipping. I was casting in rollers, standing up and working big bronzebacks away from zebra mussels around the bridges, and my Hobie kept me stable, protected and right on top of where I needed to be. It’s just an amazing boat. I’ve had back-to-back Hobie B.O.S. top-20 finishes but this is the first check I’ve earned on a national tourney trail – and the first piece of hardware I’ve taken home from competition. I couldn’t be any happier.”
And that’s exactly the point of the Hobie Bass Open Series, reminds McWhorter. It never hurts to be a pro, but everyone has a fair shot as long as they enter. “You just never know who’s going to show up in the top ten at these events,” he says. “You don’t necessarily need to have a fish-finder, the ultimate kayak, years of experience or even time to pre-fish. It’s all good.”
Indeed, you can even take a dunking – or two – and still come out on top. Just ask Travis Von Neumann. We’re sure he’d agree.
Next up on the Hobie trail is the Susquehanna River in Harrisburg, PA, July 31 – August 1. This location offers super smallmouth action in a mostly shallow-water environment. Set the hook here and you’re in for plenty of fun.