Inshore Fishing Association (IFA) Kayak Tour angler Steve Lessard traveled to the Netherlands and won the 2014 Hobie Worlds Fishing Championship at Amsterdam on Oct. 11. The angler measured a combined length of 143.30 inches during the three-day competition, besting 47 international anglers from more than 20 countries. The Baton Rouge angler qualified for the international competition by winning the 2013 IFA Championship.
“It was the most unbelievable trip,” said Lessard. “I would do it again tomorrow. The event was outstanding and the accommodations were great. Hobie really went all out. Everything was done for us so we could focus on our day and focus on our fishing. “
After fishing the IFA Kayak Tour for only four years, Lessard has racked up quite a resume, including a championship victory, three IFA wins and a number of top-three finishes. He credits the experience gained from fishing the IFA Kayak Tour as one of his keys to winning the world championship.
“The IFA has taught me how to compete in a catch-photo-release tournament,” said Lessard. “It has taught me to manage the nervousness, how to manage my fish, getting them in and taking proper photos. Without that experience from the IFA, I could have never won. I really credit the IFA for this win.”
Lessard also attributes his fishing techniques honed at IFA events as essential to his success overseas.
“One of the big things that helped me is how we target big red bull fish on the IFA Kayak Tour,” said Lessard. “In Europe, there are huge 42- to 43-inch pike. I knew my experience pulling in redfish, working the drag, and letting them make their two or three runs would help. I never lost a fish in the whole tournament.”
The angler couldn’t exclusively rely on his redfish techniques though. During his practice days, Lessard plowed through his tackle box to find the right baits and presentation. The angler settled on a local bait, a twelve-inch eel in dark brown.
“In practice, we had some really nasty weather,” said Lessard. “I used mostly my freshwater and bass techniques. When it starts to rain many of these fish move up into shallow water and I found them against some cattail reeds.”
On day one, Lessard boated a 41.73-inch pike and a 10.24-inch perch, which put him in second place by 3.94 inches behind Richard Somerton of Australia. Day two brought more bad weather and a tough bite. While other anglers struggled to find fish, Lessard measured a 37.40-inch pike and a 9.84-inch perch to take a comfortable lead of 28.34 inches.
“I was able to throw into holes in the cattails between the lilies,” said Lessard. “This water was very shallow. I could make some noise and bang that bait against the reeds. Basically I was power fishing. The eel was a very effective bait.”
Day three brought more favorable fishing conditions. Lessard changed from power fishing to a finesse technique.
“On day three I was ready to go,” said Lessard. “I tried the same technique but the fish had moved. I moved along that bank and didn’t get a bite for two hours. I switched to a finesse bait with ten-pound fluorocarbon to try to pull a perch or very small pike.”
The angler fished a small swimbait in pockets shaded by fallen trees in ten feet of water.
“It didn’t take long before I was hooked up with a 25.59-inch pike,” said Lessard. “That basically sealed the deal right there. I slowed down and stayed with my pattern and landed an 32.68-inch pike and upgraded.”
Lessard later added an 11.42-inch perch. His aggregate length of 143.31 inches beat second place by 35.43 inches, giving him the title of 2014 Hobie Fishing World Champion.
Fellow IFA Kayak Tour anglers Justin Ritchey and Justin Carter had strong showings at the international competition with fifth- and 17th-place finishes, respectively.
The IFA Kayak Fishing Tour presented by Hobie Fishing continues to draw inshore anglers from Texas to the Carolinas with five different divisions, each with a two-event regular season. With budget-friendly entry fees, the IFA Kayak Fishing Tour offers opportunities to compete close to home while keeping anglers’ expenses to a minimum.
Blue Heron Communications
Image courtesy Inshore Fishing Association