The 2015 Hobie Fishing World Championship
My trip started off at 7:30am on Sunday November 8th, with meeting Richard Ofner (pikecreek) and Dave Lesar (the American qualifier from the BCC). Richard was kind enough to drop Dave and I off at the Windsor Airport for our 9:30am flight to Toronto.
With a quick flight to Toronto then a 14-hour direct flight to Shanghai, we arrived in Shanghai around 3:30pm on November 9 (Shanghai time). There was a bit of a lineup to clear Customs, but that was rather painless.
After clearing customs, we were created by the enthusiastic volunteers/interpreters, which were young university students. The volunteers would be with us all week where ever we went. They were there every morning when we went down for breakfast, getting on and off the buses to go to and from the lake. Handing out our snack bags before we went on the water and at every dinner. They were a joy to have around and helped us understand the culture a little better.
Once we figured out where our bus was, it was a 2.5-hour ride to the Merryland Hotel in Changshu. It was about 10:00pm by the time we got to the hotel. It only took a couple minutes to check in, then straight up to my room. When I got into my room, there was a little care package on my bed, which consisted of; an official sealed letter welcoming us to the event, a nice Hobie Fishing Worlds 5 pin and a Hobie Fishing Worlds 5 monogrammed tie.
The Merryland Hotel was great. Your typical ‘North American” style hotel. The rooms were very clean and beds were comfortable. They have a nice bar in the lobby, that I may or may not have visited on occasion. A great dining area where we would have breakfast every morning. The breakfast was buffet style, but there were a couple cook stations where you could have an omelet prepared the way you like. Besides bacon, sausage and eggs, there was a variety fruits and Asian style cuisine. I think Dave had fried rice with his breakfast every morning.
Day 1: Registration and Opening Ceremonies
Breakfast 8:00 am
Registration 9:30 am where we received our official Hobie Worlds 5 jerseys, water bottles, lure pack and a few other gifts. The way the banquet hall was done up should have been a clue as to the effort Hobie, Chinese Anglers Association and everyone else put into this world class event.
Briefing 11:00 am – this where I find out, being the only Canadian, I would take part in the Opening Ceremony.
Bus Departs for Opening Ceremony 1:30 pm. We arrive at Shang Lake and get our first view of this picturesque park with mountains for a backdrop. There are Hobie Fishing World 5 banners on every lamp post and a flags everywhere.
They have a huge stage setup with a large video screen. They show us how the video screen would open up as a competitor from each competing country would pedal by in a Hobie Pro Angler carrying their country’s flag.
Myself and 19 other competitors are directed to another part of the lake where we hop into our ceremonial kayaks, sporting our county’s flag.
We had a couple hours to kill until we would be called upon to do our pedal-by. So the 20 of us pedaled around and socialized out on the water until it was our turn to pedal by the stage.
Opening Ceremony 3:00 pm – I wasn’t able to catch any of the entertainment…being out on the water, but after I did my pedal by, I made my way to the stands in time to catch the introduction of a number of government official and dignitaries.
The ceremony was capped off with a fireworks display to officially open the 2015 Hobie Fishing World Championship.
After the ceremony we boarded the buses and headed back to the hotel to get ready for the opening ceremony dinner.
The dinner was amazing; great food and a little alcohol. This is where the Chinese competitor and now 2015 Hobie Fishing World Champion, Ma Xiaohong introduced us to what I call; “Chinese Firewater”. I believe it’s some kind of rice alcohol. It seems to be a cross between rubbing alcohol and paint thinner, but with a higher alcohol content. I think if I was able to get more than a half a shot down, I would have been laid out on the floor.
After a little social time, I turn in for the night.
Day 2: Lowrance Navagation Day
Breakfast 5:00 am – Bus departs for Shang Lake 5:40 am
We arrive at Shang Lake and this is the first time we get to see the official ‘arena’ and our Hobie Pro Angler 14’s, all decaled with our names and country flag. The kayaks are equipped with a Lowrance Elite 4 CHIRP fishfinder, Power Pole Micro Anchor, Hobie Livewell XL and specially made YakAttack bumpboard.
At 7:00am we are set loose for the Lowrance Navigation Session and to explore Shang Lake…no fishing gear.
I find an area at the back of the lake that looks interesting to me. It turns out is use to be a rice field that they dredged and used the soil to build the resort that is on the lake. It was about 10 acres with a berm around it. There was a small cut in the berm that they probably opened after dredging it. This was the only way in and out. I noted some interesting contours, mark a few fish on the Lowrance and I decide this is an area I’m going test on pre-fish day.
We are off Shang Lake by 12:00pm, after a quick lunch we hop back on the bus and head back to the hotel.
At 4:00pm there is a social hour in the hotel bar, before the Hobie Cat Australasia Dinner – Foods of the World at 6:00pm. I get to know more of the competitors over another great meal.
After dinner I head to the bar for a little more social time, before turning in for the night.
I’m not getting much sleep, partly from the time change, but mostly from the excitement. It seems I’m awake every night at 2:30am, so I try to get some Facebook post in.
Day 3: Power Pole Pre-fish day…finally get to test the waters
Breakfast 5:00 am – Bus departs for Shang Lake 5:40 am
At 7:00am we are on the lake. We do a little starting line practice session, then we are free to test the waters.
I head back to the old rice field and try the open area, but can’t get a bite so I work around a couple little islands…still nothing.
I decided to try my luck working the banks with a shallow jerk bait. After working a couple hundred yards of the banks, I finally get hit. After a short fight I land a 58cm Yellowcheek Carp; not a big one, but I can cross that off my species list.
After working the rest of the banks, I head out into the main lake to test the waters out there. I never did get another bite.
We are off the lake by 1:00pm. From what I’m hearing, there were only a couple other fish caught. It turns out, the pre-fish day was probably the best bite of the week. Finn Hansen from Denmark did managed to land a massive 58” Yellowcheeck Carp.
We load the buses and head back to hotel. This was one of only two nights that we had to fend for ourselves for dinner.
We spotted a Kentucky Fried Chicken down the road and decided we would give that a try for dinner. It turns out, the chicken was pretty good, but no gravy.
There was a market beside KFC so we walked around looked at some interesting products on the shelves…like Roasted Squid Flavor Lay’s potato chips.
Back to the hotel and I turn in for the night. The lack of sleep is catching up with me, so no social hour for me.
Day 4: 2015 Hobie Fishing World Championship begins
Breakfast 5:00 am – Bus departs for Shang Lake 5:40 am
We get to lake, head to the registration table were we pick up our numbered key tag. The numbered key tag would have to be in the photo of any fish caught (I never needed it for that). Your key tag would also have to be returned to the board by 2:00pm each day or you would be accessed a penalty.
We get all our gear organized in our kayaks and wait for the group of workers to get our kayaks in the water. Once in the water all the competitors make there way to the staging area where power down our Power Pole Micro Anchors to form a straight line… love the Power Pole Micro Anchor, I will have one on my Pro Angler next season. We all stand for the Chinese national anthem, then wait for the countdown.
The countdown begins and then we are off, 45 competitors (I believe that was the final number) take off past the docks and out in the lake for the first day of competition.
I should clarify one thing at this point… 44 competitors took off from at the start. One competitor initially went backwards for a bit. If you are going to reverse your Mirage Drive to get yourself in position on the starting line, remember to flip it back before the start. I won’t say who the competitor was, because I would like to be nameless.
It’s a couple miles to get back to my pre-fish spot, so I buckle-down and race to try and be one of the first ones back there. After about 10 minutes the burn in my legs subsides and I settle in to 4.25 mph pace.
On the way back to my spot I notice some fish jumping along the one bank, so I decide to throw my lure in their direction. I work that area for a bit before giving up to continue on to my spot.
I make it back to the old rice field and there are only a couple competitors in there, but they are working the middle, so head to the banks and start working them.
After working the banks for a couple hours, I pack it in and head back out into the main lake.
The rest of the day was spent fishing several areas with various lures and techniques, but I couldn’t even manage a bite. I would check with any other competitor I came across and it appeared no one was having any luck.
I get back to the docks just before 2:00pm, turn in my key tag and wait for the reports.
It turns out the only fish of the day was caught by one of the Chinese competitors, Li Haiyang.
So, Day 1 of the competition only one fish caught…you will start to see a theme develop.
I was a little disappointed that I didn’t catch anything, but I was in good company and with only one fish being caught, I knew the Championship was still anyone’s to take.
A quick lunch at the lake, load up our gear and we jump on the buses to head back to hotel.
A little time to clean up before we jump back on the buses for a dinner put on by the Chinese Anglers Association.
We arrive at a local restaurant where we are greeted at the door by a couple dragons. We all settle in for a night of amazing food, entertainment and a few drinks…yes, that damn ‘Chinese Firewater’ made another appearance. I think the one entertainer that was breathing fire was using this stuff.
Back to the hotel for a little more social time before heading to bed.
Day 5: Second day of competition
Same routine as the first day of competition; Breakfast, bus ride to Shang Lake, register, get gear organized, on the water, get lined up, ensure Mirage Drive is in the forward position, Chinese national anthem, countdown and we are off.
Another race to get out into the main part of the lake. I power through the burn again… at this point, I don’t know where I’m going, but I know I want to be the first there.
There is one main weed bed out in the lake, so I decide to try my luck there. I’m one of the first there so I stake my spot, drop the Power Pole Micro Anchor and settle in.
After a couple hours of working the weed bed, I pull up for new ground. I spend the rest of the day trying several areas using just about everything in my tackle boxes, with the same results as Day 1.
Speaking with several competitors throughout the day, it seems everyone else is having the same results.
Back to the dock for 2:00pm, rumours are circulating that a couple fish were caught. Li Haiyang caught another Top Mouth Culter and Ian Harris from Great Britain also landed a Top Mouth Culter.
After two days of competition, I’m tied for third…with 42 other competitors.
Quick lunch and back to the hotel. We are on own for dinner, so it’s a KFC night again. A little social time before I pack it in.
Day 5: Third and final day of competition
The day is spent working a couple areas of the lake I hadn’t tried. I went through my tackle boxes and made sure there was a lure or technique I hadn’t tried yet.
Part way through the day, I hear some screaming coming from across. Turns out one of the Chinese competitors, Ma Xiaohong landed a 115cm (45.25”) Yellow Cheek Carp.
So, by 2:00pm my day and tournament ended with Shang Lake being the winner.
On the docks information is surfacing that only three fish were caught; Ma Xiaohong’s 115cm (45.25”) Yellow Cheek Carp, Finn Sloth Hansen of Denmark 90cm Top Mouth Culter and Huang Sheng of China with a 78cm Top Mouth Culter.
Here is how the scoring worked; There were three target species (Yellow Cheek Carp, Top Mouth Culter and Chinese Perch). You can turn in three fish each day, one from each species. You are accessed points based on total size in each species. The competitor that has the largest total length in each species category gets 45 points, second gets 44 and all the way down. So you could catch a Yellow Cheek Carp each day, with a total length of 90cm, but someone could catch one 91cm Yellow Cheek Carp and he would get more points than you, in the Yellow Cheek category. They add up your points from each category and the winner is the competitor with the most total points.
Only six fish were caught during competition and none of the competitors caught more than one species.
Both Ma Xiaohong and Li Haiyang had 45 total points, but Ma was the 2015 Hobie Fishing World Champion based on the largest fish or largest total length.
We headed back to the hotel to get ready for the Awards dinner.
It was another great meal and entertainment at the awards dinner.
Some people may question the venue and the lack of fish caught, but I assure you, you will not hear one competitor complain. The fish are always the unknown at any tournament. The fish were there, I saw them and marked them on the Lowrance. For whatever reason, they were just off during this time.
This was an amazing life experience for me. The Chinese people were gracious host.
I can’t say enough about my fellow competitors. I believe I now have some new life-long friends around the world. I got to witness some amazing sportsmanship from some of the competitors…I will leave it at that. I hope I get the chance to fish with many of you in the future.
I will be working my butt off to make sure I’m at the 2016 Hobie Fishing World Championship, where ever it may be.
I can’t say enough about Steve Fields, Keeton Eoff and the rest of the Hobie crew for the work they put into this event. This was a world class event.
Thanks to sponsors: Rhino-Rack, Power-Pole, RAM Mounts, YakAttack, Chinese Anglers Association and all the rest.
Thanks to Dave Lesar for being a great travel companion.
Chatham-Kent Police Association for your support
Team Canada Pro
frogg toggs for the Pilot Rain suit, it kept me warm and dry.
Monoprice for the MHD Sport 2.0 Wi-Fi® Action Camera. Unfortunately, I didn’t get any good fishing video, but hopefully now that I’m back home I can capture some nice Muskie and Steelhead video before the ice moves in.
Okuma Fishing; The Helios rods and reels worked flawlessly. The were light and well balanced, which was great after the number of cast I made.
LIVETARGET Lures for the great lures.