PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. – Pete Gluszek has toiled and contended for a number of years in Northern Stren Series competition, but he had yet to win one – until today. Saturday the pro from Franklinville, N.J., iced his first FLW Outdoors victory by catching a hefty 17-pound, 6-ounce limit of largemouth bass at Lake Champlain, winning the Northeast Division season closer with a two-day, final-round weight of 33-0.
“This is so special. This year I made a decision to come over here and compete exclusively with FLW Outdoors,” he said. “I’m just so happy to be here. It’s so exciting to win after making that decision.”
Gluszek cleared some $20,000 in winnings and Ranger contingency money for the victory, plus a new boat, all of which he says will come in handy this fall.
“I’m getting married, so I’ve got a big wedding coming up, plus a new house,” he said. “This comes at a really good time for me.”
Gluszek certainly earned his keep at Champlain this week. With nasty winds and canceled competition dominating the first two days, plus an extremely tight limit-fest on Friday, it would have been easy to lose concentration.
But the winner stuck to a game plan he formulated in practice, relying Saturday on a cache of largemouths in the New York Arm area that he found last week.
“I found these fish the first day of practice. The first day, with that monster south wind, it would have been tough to fish that area with any success at all, so I found some other, more protected fish that helped me make the cut,” he said. “Today, the wind was perfect. It wasn’t blowing hard. We passed over the area and I caught a 4 ½-pounder on the first pass. It was one 3- and 4-pounder after that. We were culling out 3-pounders all day, and it’s a beautiful thing when that happens.”
Gluszek fished a variety of cover Saturday – rocks, trees, pilings, blowdowns – and caught the bulk of his fish on two baits: a Vertical Lures Jig X and a Net Bait Paca Craw. The air temperature never really climbed above 55 degrees all day, and that played right into his largemouth strategy.
“Today I fished deeper, about 10 to 15 feet. The weather really affected my decision-making,” he said. “On cold mornings like this, those fish get blasted right off the flats.”
Gluszek said he caught some 15 good keepers Saturday, but he wasn’t the only one in his boat whacking them. His co-angler partner, Tim George, actually outfished him by 2 ounces and won the Co-angler Division.
Said Gluszek, “At about noon I looked at him and said, ‘Do you think you won your division? I think I won mine.”
Friday’s pro leader, Aaron Wessels of Watervliet, N.Y., went south and mustered a five-largemouth limit weighing 15 pounds even Saturday but finished second with a total of 31-10. He earned $10,000.
“Today I pretty much boated everything I caught, but I feel I might have left just a little early down there. I just wanted to be sure to make it back on time. You never know on Champlain,” he said.
Wessels caught his fish on the Ticonderoga, N.Y., end of the lake, mainly pulling Texas-rigged Senkos through milfoil.
Jacob Powroznik of Prince George, Va., finished third for the pros and collected $8,900 with a final weight of 31 pounds even. He caught a limit of smallmouths weighing 15-10 Saturday.
“We fish for largemouths from January through August on the tour,” said Powroznik, who targeted exclusively smallmouths with a drop-shot this week. “When I come up here, I make a conscious decision not to have one (largemouth) in my livewell. I’m just up here to have fun with these smallmouths.”
Pro Charlie Hartley of Grove City, Ohio, finished fourth and collected $7,900 with a final weight of 30 pounds, 6 ounces. He caught a limit weighing 15-11 Saturday.
He, too, echoed his appreciation for the smallmouths of Lake Champlain. He fished deep water with a Venom green-pumpkin-copper tube for most of the week.
“They’re the prettiest fish in the world,” he said. “I’m a smallmouth-bass junkie. I probably caught 50 fish today.”
Kevin Kartesz of Jamestown, N.Y., rounded out the top five pros and collected $7,400 with a final weight of 30 pounds, 4 ounces. He caught a limit weighing 15-11 Saturday.
“It was a long way down there, But the smallies I was catching in practice just weren’t big enough,” said Kartesz, who caught the bulk of his fish Saturday, all largemouths, in the Ticonderoga area on a white rat bait.
Rest of the best
Rounding out the top 10 Pro Division finishers at Lake Champlain:
6th: Gregg Seal of Eldred, Pa., 10 bass, 29-10, $6,400
7th: David Reault of Livonia, Mich., 10 bass, 26-5, $5,400
8th: Dave Lefebre of Union City, Pa., 10 bass, 25-6, $4,900
9th: Kevin Bishop of Hilton, N.Y., seven bass, 19-7, $4,400
10th: Scot Dobson of Clarkston, Mich., five bass, 15-5, $3,900
Lefebre wins Northeast standings title
With the close of the 2006 season, Lefebre officially claimed the pro standings title in the Northeast Division. He finished with 750 points. Bishop chased him until the final two days, but he ended up second with 739 points. Powroznik came in third with 685 points.
Lefebre’s 2006 Northeast Division results: Kerr Lake – 41st, Lake Erie – 4th, Potomac River – 1st, Lake Champlain – 8th.
2006 Stren season done, championship next
This was the final regular-season event of the 2006 Stren Series. The next event will be the Stren Series Championship, to be held at Wheeler Lake near Decatur, Ala., Nov. 1-4.