Steve Lessard is no stranger to the podium when it comes to kayak fishing tournaments. His determined, skilled fishing style consistently puts him at the top of a variety of local and national competitions.
But on Oct. 10, Lessard rose to the top of the top by pulling off a commanding win to earn the title of world champion.
Lessard was one of 47 international anglers from 19 different countries who qualified to fish the 4th Annual Hobie Fishing Worlds tournament in Vinkeveen Plassen in the Netherlands.
He earned his spot in the invitational-only tournament by winning the 2013 IFA Kayak Fishing Tour Championship.
A native of the Baton Rouge area, Lessard is a precision fisherman when it comes to trout and redfish.
However, travelling overseas to chase pike and perch was cause for concern. As modest as he is skilled, he didn’t hesitate to turn to his local kayak fishing friends for advice.
“I did as much research as I could and started gathering lures. I then put out a call for information and suggestions on the Bayou Coast Kayak Fishing Club’s web forum,” he said.
Within minutes, responses came pouring in with suggestions ranging from actual lure names to tips for dealing with jet lag. Lessard made contact with several fellow fishermen that had experience fishing these northern, freshwater species. One member actually grew up fishing in Denmark.
For the tournament, all anglers fished in identically rigged Hobie Pro-Angler 12 kayaks. The scoring was done by catch-photo-release, with the combined length of one fish for each species added for a total length aggregate.
The three species included pike, perch and zander (walleye). However, not a single zander was caught during the competition.
All the research and advice paid off — Lessard was one of only three anglers that had a two-fish combination of a pike and a perch on Day 1 of the three-day event. He held second place, trailing the previous year’s world champion by just under 4 inches.
Lessard never looked back, and his two-fish entry for Day 2 launched him into first place with a commanding 27-inch lead.
His tactic was throwing a large 12-inch eel into shallow areas for pike, and using a small crankbait for perch.
Comfortable yet cautious, Lessard was thrown a curve ball on the third and final day of competition.
The weather changed and though it made for more comfortable fishing conditions, his bite pattern disappeared and he found himself skunked during the first couple hours of fishing.
“It was nerve racking. The ‘power fishing’ method that had me leading was no longer producing,” he said. “The fish moved and I went to finesse fishing. I went to a small jig and I caught my first pike and was able to stay with that pattern and upgrade to a larger one."
He quickly moved on to perch and caught his largest of the competition.
Feeling pretty good about completing his two-fish entry again, Lessard had no idea at the time that he would be the only angler in the competition to weigh-in two fish each day of the event.
When all was said and done, Lessard ran away with the title by amassing a total aggregate of 143.3 inches, and he beat out the second place finisher by almost 3 feet. His Day 1 monster pike that measured almost 42 inches also earned him the Big Fish Award for the tournament.
Lessard took every chance possible to thank and praise his fellow competitors.
“Even though I didn’t speak many of the foreign languages, when they looked over, words were not necessary. I tried to hold back the excitement and be my normal, modest self because it was not me, but the ‘man upstairs’ showing me the way. I want to say thanks to all my BCKFC friends and Pack & Paddle for supporting the club’s Angler of the Year series that has been my classroom for the last few years,” he said.