CATSKILL, N.Y. – The Hudson River was supposed to be an extremely tough-bite tournament, but don’t tell that to Pete Gluszek. He caught fish this week like it was nearby Lake Champlain.
The pro from Franklinville, N.J., astonished Stren Series Northern Division fans in Catskill on Saturday afternoon by catching yet another five-bass limit in double digits and trouncing the final-round field of 10 in a surprisingly action-packed weigh-in. While the other finalists struggled just to catch five keepers, Gluszek managed to shovel up a limit weighing 14 pounds, 15 ounces Saturday – his second catch over 10 pounds for the week – and won the Pro Division with an amazing four-day weight of 45-8.
To put that in perspective, when all was said and done, Gluszek’s closest challenger was Thomas LaVictoire, who finished 17 pounds, 13 ounces behind the winner.
“When the fishing conditions are as tough as they are and to have a limit of that capacity, I mean, it even blew me away today,” Gluszek said. “It’s just an amazing feeling because it’s such a special thing to win one of these tournaments. Everything has to come together just right. I’ve had a 10-year career, and I’ve only had three wins. Now that I’ve done it two years in a row, it feels absolutely wonderful.”
Last year, Gluszek won his first FLW Outdoors tournament at the Northern Division event on Lake Champlain. As usual at that bass factory, that event was a catchfest. This year on the tough-fishing Hudson River, it seemed like Gluszek didn’t even know that he’d left Champlain.
Of course, it was more complicated than that. In fact, Gluszek’s huge win this week probably stemmed from the fact that he – likely more than anybody else – realized that this fishery is not Lake Champlain. For starters, the Hudson is a tidal river, and it’s a relatively narrow one up here around the Catskills. So it tends to fish pretty small for a 107-boat field. Add to that a 15-inch minimum size limit on the fish and schizophrenic weather conditions that would give Al Roker a coronary, and you have the ingredients for one tough tournament.
And that was true, for everyone except Gluszek. Even so, it was true for him a little bit, too.
Gluszek actually started slowly, catching just 4 pounds, 12 ounces on day one. Then he caught the limit of the week on day two, 16 pounds, and never looked back. He stretched his lead to more than 8 pounds on day three by catching nearly 10 pounds. By day four, the final round, he was just piling it on with his 14-15 limit.
How did he do it? In short, he leaned on an old tournament pro’s mantra: adapt, adapt, adapt.
He made the finals – including catching his big 16-pound sack on day two – by using the same run-and-gun technique that many of the top pros were doing. He followed the low tide up and down the river, flipping jigs and finesse worms into the nasty vegetation known here as “chestnuts.” Maybe he also snagged a few fish on a spinnerbait at high tide later in the day if the area looked right.
That worked fine the first couple days when the sun was out, but when Thursday morning’s fog ushered in a front that brought fits of rain and especially wind the last couple days, Gluszek changed up. He still ran south, chasing low tide, but he stayed away from the chestnuts Saturday and instead turned his attention to main-river points.
“I caught almost all of my fish today on a Bagley Killer B crankbait,” he said. “The wind was harsh today, and the chestnuts are very unproductive when you get wave action. So I stuck almost exclusively to points today. This is actually a great crankbait river; there’s no doubt that they chomp them here. With the vicious winds that we had today, I went to a wide-wobbling, loud-looking chartreuse power bait.”
Obviously, it worked to a T. Gluszek caught two quick fish – a 4- and a 2-pounder – at his first stop this morning and, given his 8-pound lead, thought he probably had the win in the bag. He kept running, though, and caught two more fish on his crankbait. Late in the day at high tide, he made one last stop at a honeyhole near Esopus Creek.
“I’ve already had four bass for about 10 pounds, so I figured I had enough,” he said. “But we stopped there at high tide, which is normally one of my best places at low tide, and the big one hit. I had literally just told my co-angler (Charlie Reed, who also won), ‘Last cast.’”
That kicker largemouth weighed around 4 ½ pounds and really just served as icing on the cake.
Other finalists compete, but for second place
When the 10 finalists’ boats took off from Catskill Point Saturday morning, it was cold, dark, rainy, windy and just generally miserable. Given the previous days’ overall dismal results in terms of fish catches, the outlook appeared bleak for a big final-round showdown.
But the Hudson River – actually, the anglers – had a few surprises in store today. With only 10 tournament boats on the water, the pros were able to spread out and fish areas that had been crowded the first three days. Plus, some of them abandoned the tougher largemouth patterns and leaned on easier smallmouths to fill their livewells. Consequently, one by one the pros hauled fish to the scale, demolishing the notion that this fishery is all that tough. Only two pros failed to catch at least one keeper Saturday.
And with the Stren’s king-of-the-hill weigh-in format for the final round, some even threatened to knock Gluszek off his pedestal.
Like the first two days, LaVictoire again caught some good, solid bass, but just not enough of them. His three bass Saturday weighed 8 pounds, 4 ounces, and he finished second with a four-day total of 27-11.
Brian Hensley caught four weighing 8-9, and he ended up third with 27-11.
Chris Baumgardner popped a limit of smallies for 9-3, and he climbed to fifth with 26-4.
Day-one leader Ed Cowan also leaned on the smallies, catching four worth 7-9. He finished fifth with a 24-1 total.
But that was all before the winner weighed in. Even without his catch Saturday, Gluszek won the tournament. But when he hoisted his limit of fish into the water scale, he was just showing off. And deservedly so. He even mixed in a rare smallmouth – he fished almost exclusively for largemouths this week – at which point ninth-place pro Sparky Petersen shouted, “You’re just rubbing it in!”
“You’ve got to hand it to Pete,” LaVictoire said. “He made all the right moves this week. I don’t know how he did it, but you’ve got to give him credit.”
The next Northern Division event, the fourth and final of the year, is scheduled for Lake Gaston at Bracey, Va., Oct. 3-6. This event was originally scheduled for Kerr Lake in North Carolina, but due to that lake’s low water levels, it has been moved to Gaston. The dates remain the same.