Jay Wallen was bass fishing on Reelfoot Lake recently when his cellphone rang, breaking
the silence of the morning that found him so far back in the sticks that he hadn’t heard the sound of a boat motor for hours.
Other than buzzing mosquitoes and songbirds it was total silence.
The caller was checking on how Wallen’s fishing had gone that morning. “Not bad,” he said. “I’ve got this area to myself and it’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood. It’s why I do what I do.”
What he does is bass fish out of a kayak. Not just any kayak, mind you, but the newest and hottest fishing kayak on the market, Hobie Boat’s Pro Angler 14 equipped with a Hobie MirageDrive that enables Wallen to silently glide through the shallow waters of Reelfoot Lake … or the big waters of Kentucky, Percy Priest and Pickwick lakes.
At the time of the call Wallen was in two feet of water not far from where Tommy Lee Jones chased Wesley Snipes through the backwaters of Reelfoot Lake in the movie “U.S. Marshals.” Even then, he had cellphone connection.
Silence is golden for Wallen and others who have joined the kayak fishing rush.
“It (fishing in a kayak) brings the sport back to its roots,” he said. “Kayak fishing has really exploded in the past six or seven years. I’m not what sure what spawned this explosion, but it’s got to be the thrill of silently working your way through the water without the sound of a big motor.”
Wallen made some noise of his own recently when he won the fourth annual Hobie Bass Open on Kentucky Lake based out of Kentucky Lake Dam Village State Resort Park. He had finished third in the past two events.
Wallen, 32, went into the final day of the two-day catch, photograph and release kayak tournament with a one-inch lead. On the final day the bite proved to be a grinder. He averaged one fish every two hours, but they were good ones. His three-fish limit was backstopped by a 20-inch largemouth that Wallen said he probably should not have caught. The jig pulled right at the boat, but Wallen was able to get the net under the fish before it hit the water.”
“On Day 2 I could not get them to hit the worm so I focused on the jig and this time I needed a ¾ ounce BC Lures jig as the fish were located near the bottom of the ledge in about 25-feet of water,” Wallen said.
Converting all his bites certainly helped.
With only 30 minutes fishing time left on Day 2 he culled an 18-incher, giving him a two-day of 115.5 inches, just enough to slip past Joshua Stewart of Waverly, Tenn., at 114.25.
The victory was worth $4,000 and a berth in the Hobie Fishing World Championship at a site and date yet to be announced. Stewart also claimed a world championship berth along with $2,500. More than 100 anglers fished the adult division.
A former bass boat angler, Wallen has been fishing out of a kayak for almost seven years. He was the 2016 Kayak Bass Fishing (KBF) angler of the year. In 2014, he claimed the same award fishing with the Bluegrass Kayak Anglers. His tournament resume is impressive: 32 top 10 finishes out of 69 tournaments, including five first-place finishes, runner-up seven times and eight three-place finishes.
“You have multiple states that have multiple fishing trails,” Wallen said. “I know Tennessee has three or four kayak fishing trails. The sport continues to grow and I don’t see it slowing down. Everywhere you look people are buying kayaks. It’s just a cheap way to get on the water, and you can access water that power boats can’t get to. It’s a sport that is really diverse in what it allows you to do.”
Dave Gabbard, Region 1 information officer for the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, agrees.
“Our (state) lakes are perfect for fishing out of a kayak because there is a no-wake rule,” Gabbard said. “I’ve noticed more and more kayaks on Lake Graham (adjacent to the TWRA’s Region 1 office in Jackson). You don’t have to worry about big tournament boats blowing by you.”
Of course, Wallen credits Hobie Boats for taking the sport to the next level.
The Oceanside, Calif.-based company has been in business since 1950 with subsidiaries in Australia, France and Brazil. Hobie’s bioengineered MirageDrive propulsion system for kayaks was revolutionary in its inception in 1997 and has been evolving ever since. The MirageDrive 180 produces full power in both directions.
“Hobie is the only one (company) that has the MirageDrive,” Wallen said. “There are other pedal drives on the market but Hobie helped originate the idea and they continue to refine it.”
Next up for Wallen is a Bluegrass Kayak Anglers (bluegrasskayakanglers.com) tournament on June 24 on Cedar Creek near Stanford, Ky., and he will back on Kentucky Lake on July 1 for a KBF Trail event (kayakbassfishing.com). For additional information go to jaywallenfishing.com.