By Steve Chaconas
Bass Tournament Angler OR Guide? Or Both?
Tournament bass fishing offers income from winnings and sponsors. Not many make a very good living from this occupation. Expenses and prize money don’t often allow them to break even. Guiding is another way to cast for cash. Expenses, limited season and licensing keep this from becoming a lucrative endeavor. Why not do both?
A good number of recreational anglers opt for tournament fishing at some level. Many dream of turning their hobby into a career. Former full-time top-level pro Pete Gluszek fished the FLW and B.A.S.S. trails with an impressive 4 wins, more than 30 top ten finishes and appearances in both championship events. At the peak of his career, Gluszek fished 15 tournaments a year.
Many pros round out their tournament time with part time jobs or with guiding. Tournaments and guiding require fishing skills, but that’s where the similarity ends. Fishing pro tours since 1996, Gluszek says his mission was simple. “I have to do my job and that means catching everything I possibly can, bringing every ounce to the scale.”
Dabbling in guiding about 10 years ago coincided with a cutback in his tournament schedule. Today, Gluszek fishes 3 events a year and guides a bit. In the beginning, he took around 10 guide trips a year to fill in gaps between tournaments. More recently he was doing around 100 trips a year. Guiding is unlike tournament fishing. The focus is on clients and each client is different. “I want my clients to advance their fishing to have the best chance to catch a fish.” Often this entails teaching everything from basics, like casting, to advanced strategy tactics. He admits there’s crossover with fishing skills.
Gluszek says guiding on his home water has some advantages. Less time is available to “pre-fish” which is fine since he knows his home waters. Rather than preparation, he relies on history and extensive experience. He must evaluate quickly if the fish are where they should be and if they are biting. Locating fish in real time keeps client confidence up. But sometimes he has to revert to tournament mode to accomplish this, fishing focused and intently. “I fish somewhat aggressively once things get tight…once fish are located and patterned, I can go back to teaching and focusing on my clients.” A day on the water is a continuous back and forth between focusing on the fish and focusing on the client. Even though tournament competition is tough, Gluszek says the time pressure on guiding is intense. “It’s all about using time as efficiently as possible so they can learn more effectively.”
Participating in tournaments as well as guiding comes with drawbacks. Good habits for a guide are bad habits for a tournament angler. Switching gears from guiding where he is focused on clients to competitive fishing, where he must focus on only the fish, is challenging. Boat positioning is different for clients, as their casting skills require them to be closer. Something as simple as parallel casts to banks has to be relearned by the pro. No more Mr. Nice Guy, Gluszek puts on his game face. “You can make mistakes or miss opportunities because you are fishing like a guide.”
Avoiding his home waters for fishing tournaments is part of being a good guide. This allows him to spend time on his best spots, rather than saving them for tournament day. Opting out of tournaments prevents him from competing against possible and potential clients fishing the same event, which could cost him guide business. It’s also counterproductive, as his spots and successful fishing strategies have been revealed to his clients. Additionally, if he wins, some would cry foul, as he is a guide. No win? His credibility as a pro is challenged.
Gluszek says not catching fish is unacceptable as a guide. “I feel like I didn’t do my job well.” Successful tournament anglers are always making decisions. Guiding provides benefits for tournament performance as the sense of urgency to make decisions is elevated. Prior to guiding, Gluszek says he might have lingered too long in unproductive spots.
Pete Gluszek has added the highly successful The Bass University to his resume. Known today as the “Dean”, he continues to teach fishing skills and techniques in the classroom, online and on the water. He admits he has benefitted from the teaching side of fishing, winning a tournament and taking 5 top ten finishes, while only fishing 3 events a year. “Learning to find fish fast and re-locating fish has improved my tournament angling.” But can you be a tournament angler and a guide? Gluszek sums it up. “To compete at the highest level, focus on tournaments. To be a great guide, focus on guiding. You can be good at both, but you can’t be great at both.”
Potomac River Bassing in November
Cool water starts the month with cold water by the end. Using suspending Lucky Craft Pointer 98 or 100 jerkbaits can entice fish through the month. Varying the length of pauses and choosing bigger size for deeper applications make this a versatile fish catcher this month.
Cranking comes into full swing. Start the month by covering water, looking for grass remnants, with a Mann’s Baby 1-Minus. By the end of the month find deeper hard cover with a Mann’s Baby-X crankbait. Use 12-pound test Gamma Edge. Replace trebles with Mustad KVD short shank triple grips.
Texas rig with Mizmo tubes on 3/0 Mustad Mega Bite hooks. Soak in garlic Jack’s Juice Bait Spray. Start with 14-pound Gamma Edge fluorocarbon line and downsize, as water gets colder.
Mann’s Classic spinnerbaits cover water. Use ¼ ounce for grass cover and 3/8 for contacting deeper wood cover. Also slow roll near drops with a 3/8 Colorado willow combo. Use white skirts on 12 pound test Gamma Edge.
Author Capt. Steve Chaconas is Potomac bass fishing guide & contributing writer for BoatU.S. (BoatUS.com) Potomac River reports: nationalbass.com. Book trips/purchase gift certificates: info@NationalBass.com.