Angling for the Ages
By Steve Chaconas
Whether a top level pro bass tournament or five boat bragging rights get-togethers, finding a winning pattern is tough. In single day events, it’s all or nothing. Catch as many fish as you can and bring back 5 big ones. However, multiple day top level pro events are much more complicated. There are another two hundred boats chasing the same five fish. To further complicate the process, fishing almost always varies day to day. You must save fish for the next day and learn as much as possible every day. It doesn’t get easier.
A recent Bassmaster Open event added more intrigue. Big name pros, some legends, and top regional and local anglers piled into Chesapeake Bay tributaries. These are the toughest events in pro bass fishing. It’s nearly impossible to find a sweet spot all to yourself. Instead, many anglers are fishing the same massive grass beds, trying to find needles in grass edges where the secret bait with the unique presentation will perform for two consecutive fishing days enabling an appearance in the top ten to compete for the $100,000 prize.
Winning pro level bass tournaments is nearly a once in a lifetime experience. Winning continues to excite 30 year veteran NJ BassCat pro Pete Gluszek, who has 3 wins under his championship belt. Legend has it that his lead on the final day on the 2007 Hudson River tournament was so insurmountable he returned to the boat launch early and ordered a pre weigh-in pizza! When he saw the Upper Chesapeake Bay scheduled for mid-September, Pete looked to work for another trophy. He considers the Upper Bay his home waters and has been guiding there for three decades. The late summer conditions were very tough, which worked Gluszek’s favor to dial in a particular pattern.
“September scatters fish; baitfish are scattered, the bass are doing a bunch of different things and that makes it a little bit challenging,” he said. “I had a thing in the Susquehanna where I was fishing hard cover adjacent to grass beds and that’s where I was able to get bit consistently doing that.” Gluszek targeted stumps, laydowns, and docks where bass positioned to ambush bait. His main baits were a Rapala DT Fat, Texas-rigged Strike King Rage Bug with 3/8- and 1/2-ounce VMC weights and what he calls the Bass University Dean’s Rig — a Texas-rigged worm with a 1/16-ounce VMC Half Moon tail weight. But, in multiple day events, conditions change, even more with tidal fisheries. Performing well on the first two days qualified Gluszek for the final day top ten championship. Ultimately, he finished third.
Into his mid-50s, the mental part of the game outpaces physical demands. No longer his youthful physical specimen, only means he can’t move as fast and long days test his endurance. He feels physical stress but insists he’s mentally tough with additional wisdom to see conditions change. While never considered spry, Gluszek looks back upon his early competition days as having youthful enthusiasm. He is thrilled to test himself again against the best anglers in the world, just as when he began his pro career. “Now I’ve done 200 tournaments…nothing really is brand new to me…done it 1000s of times.” He still loves to compete and test himself in solving the evolving pattern. He calls it the ultimate hunt. Quiet time without distractions, he executes his plan, adjusting as required.
“It’s overcoming the disappointment that what worked yesterday won’t work today.” Gluszek says if this takes too long to get over, mental suppression prevents bites from coming and enthusiasm is lost, letting the wind out of your sails. He anticipates the bite to go away and doesn’t plan on everything staying the same. “Get your demons out of your head.” He simplifies the strategy. “You go to do what you did yesterday…similar conditions…best spot, then when you’re not getting bites…something has changed.” Weather fronts, tides or boat pressure, force adjustments. But it’s recognizing changes have taken place that’s most important.
Gluszek attributes the pressure of finding fish for guide clients for being able to make decisions to save trips. Fishing several consecutive days and observing the needed changes and then making the adjustments was the on the job training others don’t get. “Fish do not do the same thing for very long.” Is it color, not working baits correctly? He says fish also move. Why don’t people leave? Staying put limits the amount of water you can cover. The clock is ticking. The quicker you make decisions the better you’ll be. If they’re under positive conditions, keep moving. Cold front, slow down.
When youth leaves, wisdom carries you through the day. Expecting change has made Gluszek more mentally prepared to compete and become a successful tournament angler. But his legacy is and will be his Bass University where he has conducted hundreds of in person and online instructional videos, hosting hundreds more with the top pros in the business. He is the Dean!
Potomac River Bassing in November
Colder water is putting fish closer to deeper water. They are still eating and can be caught with a variety of lures. In the early part of the month, topwaters in clear warmer shallow water are effective. Poppers, walkers and buzzbaits.
Shallow crankbaits can cover water to contact hard cover like rock and wood. Line is key. Time to downsize line to 10 pound test Gamma Edge fluorocarbon.
A variety of soft plastic spinning reel techniques will work. Drop shot, shaky head, ned rigs pitched to hard cover including docks also work along drops at falling tides and shoreline cover at rising tides. The line set up is 10 pound test Gamma Torque braid with 8-10 pound test leaders.
Don’t forget to keep a jig of some sort on deck. Pitch jigs to cover and cast to areas. Time to tie on hair and finesse jigs.
Author Capt. Steve Chaconas is Potomac bass fishing guide. Potomac River reports: nationalbass.com. Check out YouTube page, NationalBassGuide.