OCEANSIDE, Calif. (February 18, 2022) – Windy weather, rough water and sharp temperature changes greeted an elite field of kayak anglers primed for the season-opening event in the 2022 Hobie Bass Open Series (B.O.S.) Anchored by Power-Pole. Held February 12 – 13 on legendary Toledo Bend Reservoir, the two-day catch, photograph and release (C.P.R.) tourney was sold out weeks in advance with 200 participants, all hoping to kick off their season with a great start while challenging the largemouth population on one of the nation’s best-known bass waters.
“Gathering our community together is something this series has been based on from the start, so to have such a great turnout from across the country felt fantastic,” said tournament director A.J. McWhorter. “The conditions were incredibly challenging and kept changing throughout the weekend but those who were able to adjust and adapt best were the ones who ultimately finished in our top 20 paid places.”
Indeed, the weather featured several shifts that truly tested the skills, intuition and determination of the Hobie fleet. Just prior to the tourney the temperature hit 71 degrees on Thursday and Friday. Then a big front pushed through on Saturday bringing fierce winds and heavy rain to parts of the lake. Temperatures plummeted after the front passed, and anglers had to endure a sub-freezing morning with bluebird skies and challenging post-frontal conditions throughout Sunday.
“To come out on top of our first 200-angler field which included some of the top anglers in our sport says a lot about our winner and his ability to overcome the competition, crazy weather, and the heavy boat pressure on Day 1,” continued McWhorter.
That winner would be Rolando Nandin, 39, from San Antonio, Texas. Competing in his first Hobie B.O.S. Anchored by Power-Pole event, Nandin culled five-fish limits each day, tallying 90 inches for second place on Saturday and 88.5 inches for third place on Sunday. His combined winning total of 178.5 inches edged out runner-up Cody Henley, 29, of Kamas, Utah, with 177.5 inches and Michael Sebastian Mera, 32, of Knoxville, Tennessee, who finished third with 171.25 inches. For their efforts, Nandin took home a first-place check for $10,500, Henley cashed a second-place prize of $5,500, and Mera walked away with $3,200 for third. Jonathon Carter from New Orleans, Louisiana, took home Bassin’ Big Bass honors with a 23.25-inch brute caught on Day 1. Angler of the Year (A.O.Y.) points were also distributed to the top 100 competitors.
“I generally fish local tournaments, so 200 anglers in one event are the most I’ve ever competed against,” said an ecstatic Nandin. “My plan was to just dig in and hopefully cash a check when the event was over. Going in with the expectation of winning against such heavy and fierce competition just seemed to be reaching a little high. So, I did a lot of map research, factored in the weather conditions and decided to let things flow from there.”
Ultimately, Nandin settled on two areas where he might dodge the elements and hit less obvious pieces of structure before they got pounded by the fleet. On Day 1, he focused his efforts along a lee-side creek mouth that emptied into the main lake, providing a highway to a nearby spawning area. The spot featured a bridge with pylons to offer obvious structure, had protected water at the back of a creek, and some deeper water at the creek mouth where he could use his electronics to find more isolated pieces.
“Throwing jerkbaits in 10- to 12-foot depths around laydowns and brush piles, I hit those less obvious locations first,” Said Nandin. “That worked out well because most of the nearby anglers raced to the visible structure while I was able to get my limit early without much competition. Late in the morning I had an hour-long slot when I was able to use my Hobie PA14 360 to muscle out into the main lake. I had found some good fish there in practice. They were still there, and I was able to cull my way to second place for the day.”
On Day 2, Nandin figured his creek-mouth area had seen enough pressure and that less wind would allow him to hit some docks. Thus, he put in near the dam at the southern end of the lake and took advantage of his electronics to find a solid pattern in the vicinity of Indian Cove.
“I was looking for docks surrounded by deeper water, but the lake was low so I adjusted my maps to isolate docks jutting out into decent depths. I started casting jerkbaits but wasn’t having any luck so I switched to an Alabama rig that I could throw with my Daiwa Tatula 300 and that proved to be the winning ticket. I only hit five docks but pulled fish from each of them. Over both days, my Hobie platform really played a big part in my success. It really handles the elements, has 360-degree maneuverability, and I love it in conjunction with my electronics. At this level of competition, it can actually be a deciding factor.”
Henley, meanwhile, got off to a rough start on Day 1. Initially, he found “about 20 kayaks too many,” along with a bunch of tournament boats, in the first place he ventured. Pushing ahead, he hit a succession of 20 trees he had marked in practice but came away empty. Then he noticed a small pocket in the back of a cove. “It was a bit crowded but it was also out of the wind and had warm water,” he explained, “So I pulled in and culled up all my fish. I rolled out of there about 2 p.m., hoping to save some bass for Day 2, but after talking with other anglers who didn’t score as well in that stretch I decided to try a new location in the morning.”
Henley kicked off Day 2 by heading out onto the main lake and experienced a sluggish start. Returning to the pocket, he found the water had cooled off along with the bite. At that point, he pushed farther back where he found 50-degree water and the bite came alive. “I caught a limit of 14-inch fish and said a little prayer,” he recalled. “Suddenly, I had a feeling that I should turn around. I did, sent out a cast, and drilled a 21-inch bass, then an 18-incher. I started working that clear water with a Z-Man Golden Shiner ChatterBait and it turned out pretty good. I was trading places with Rolando but eventually he finished on top, so hats off to him for a job well done.”
Like Nandin, Henley noted that his Hobie PA14 360 played a big part in battling the elements. “I think it’s the number-one kayak on the market,” he stated. “You name it, I like it when it comes to this platform. It’s amazingly stable, offers 360-degree capability, and you can walk to the nose or stern. It really suits an active angler like me.”
While Nandin and Henley took gold and silver, Mera had the comeback of his fishing life on Day 2. After finishing in 49th place on Day 1, he led the field with a 94-inch limit to close out the tourney and leapfrog his way to an improbable third-place overall finish.
“I sat out the first two hours on Day 1 due to the weather,” said Mera, “but I fished well once I got out. I actually left my initial area and ran to my Day 2 spot because there were white caps where I first planned to fish. Eventually, I scored well with Berkley crankbaits, and finesse shaky heads bounced across the bottom.”
On Day 2, Mera decided to work an area about two miles from where he had his Day 1 success. “As I was pedaling my Hobie Mirage Compass,” he related, “I got an uneasy feeling that I should turn around and start where I ended Day 1, and maybe extend that area a little bit. That intuition turned out to be right on target because it resulted in the biggest bag of the tournament and the biggest fish on Day 2, the latter earning me extra A.O.Y. points. I crushed the bass once I finally started casting. I really wish I had spent more time actually fishing both days. It’s hard to compete when you give away a couple hours to such a talented field.”
In the end, Nandin, Henley and Mera all noted that despite the challenging conditions the Toledo Bend event was impressive not only for the fish that were caught and released, but also in the level of competition, camaraderie, and how smoothly the tournament was run.
“I’ve fished about 70 tournaments on the local level, but this was a completely different deal,” summed up Mera. “I’m elated with my results, and Hobie couldn’t have done a better job. The competition was top shelf, the rules were clear, and the competitors were friendly, supportive and focused. It really was a great experience.”
Which, concludes McWhorter, is exactly what this series is all about. “It’s exciting to see our events exploding on the national scene, and we’ll keep doing all we can to ensure our competitors have a thrilling, fun and respected series to compete in.”
The next two Hobie B.O.S. Anchored by Power Pole events, Santee Cooper Lakes, March 26 – 27, and Lake Eufaula, April 23 – 24, are already sold out. Registration for the Broken Bow event, May 14 – 15, opens February 25 at 12 p.m. EST. Visit Hobiebos.com/events for details.