Louisiana is known for world-class fishing, so it’s only natural that it also produces world-class kayak anglers. Preparations are under way for the Hobie Fishing World Championship 7, to be held in Amal, Sweden this May. The field has been set for the combination invitational/qualifying event consisting of 45-plus kayak anglers from 20 countries. Of the 10 U.S. competitors traveling to Sweden, three are from South Louisiana. How’s that for bragging rights?
Perennial kayak tournament winner Steve Lessard from Prairieville is making his fourth trip to the HFWC. Unlike any other participant, he has the distinction of being the only two-time Hobie Fishing World Champion, having won the title in the Netherlands in 2014 and in Leeville in 2016. He also fished the 2015 event in Changshu, China. Lessard is excited to again be representing the United States as the returning Hobie Worlds Champion, and is looking forward to seeing old friends and meeting new ones from around the world. “As a Louisiana native, I’ve learned hunting, fishing and cooking from friends and family, but also complete strangers,” he said. “This culture of sharing information and passing down skills is what makes us unique. I’ve been blessed to compete and win this world-class event and know the pressures of tournament fishing, but when the heat is on, I always remember who I am representing. I always hope to do well, but never take for granted the opportunity to fish in another Hobie Fishing World Championship.”
Lessard also has another unique distinction. He is the only Hobie Worlds participant to claim a championship as a visiting angler, which he did in the Netherlands in 2014. All other previous and subsequent Hobie champions have come from the host country, a tradition Lessard continued in Leeville. As the returning champion, Lessard is an odds-on favorite, particularly since he has some previous experience fishing for European perch and pike, as he did when he won the event in Amsterdam.
Capt. Ty Hibbs
Capt. Ty Hibbs is a full-time fly fishing guide in South Louisiana, but is no stranger to the kayak. He qualified for the HFWC 7 by winning the 2017 IFA Kayak Fishing Tour Championship held in Venice. Hibbs is looking forward to fishing for the targeted species of European perch and pike- both species he has never caught.
“It’s pretty darn cool that we have three guys from Louisiana going, especially considering there are only a few from the entire United States,” he said.
Hibbs has competed in some big tournaments over the years, but knows that this stage is his biggest ever.
“Nothing will compare to the scale that this one is on. Just to get the chance to compete against some of the best anglers from all different countries will be truly incredible,” he said.
Hibbs has been doing diligent research on tackle and techniques, and plans to be prepared when the competition begins. “It definitely won’t be an easy task considering how good some of these guys are, and it’s a completely different area and a fish that I’ve never seen before. However, I will do my best with the knowledge that Louisiana has taught me to bring the trophy home to the Bayou State for the world to see,” he said.
It’s hard to mention a kayak tournament without the name Brendan Bayard coming to mind. Be it Louisiana or regionally-based, Bayard has made more trips to the winner’s podium than he can count. As one of the early pioneers of kayak fishing in Louisiana, he’s also one of the original founding members of the nationally recognized Bayou Coast Kayak Fishing Club. This will be Bayard’s third trip to the HFWC, having participated in the 2012 event in Texas and the 2016 event in Louisiana. Being a local angler for the Leeville event, Bayard was looked to by American and foreign anglers alike for guidance and tips on fishing Louisiana’s waters. His assistance was much appreciated by his fellow anglers: so much so, they voted him the recipient of the Rhino-Rack Anglers’ Choice Award, which qualified him to fish the Swedish event — his first fishing trip abroad.
“I’m just honored to be there with the rest of the guys and was totally beyond shocked to get the Anglers’ Choice Award. I think it helped that I brought eight cases of Bayou Teche beer to share with the anglers,” he said with a chuckle.
Free beer aside, there is no doubting Bayard’s kayak angling skills, which certainly qualify him to compete with the best of the best. While the event provides fierce completion, Bayard knows it is much more than just a fishing tournament.
“It’s all about the adventure of doing it together with people from all over the world. Making friends from all over, seeing old friends, catching a new species,” he said. “Experiencing a new culture and getting out of our local bubble. I’m excited to be a part of team USA.”