CATSKILL, N.Y. — On a normal day, Pete Gluszek talks with the speed of a carnival barker, peppering his conversation with nearly audible exclamation points and italics.
When he's leading a tournament, Gluszek's conversation heads into warp speed, as it did Thursday when he blasted to the top of the leaderboard at the CITGO Bassmaster Northern Open presented by Busch Beer on the Hudson River.
"The magic thing today was the fish," said Gluszek, whose 18 pounds, 11 ounces put him 5-12 above his closest competitor, Pennsylvania's Dave Wolak. "When everything goes right, you don't lose any."
Gluszek, who lives in Franklinville, N.J., has been fishing the Hudson since the late 1980s and won his first tournament here. Gluszek is known as a tidal fisherman and said he used two very different styles — power fishing with heavy line and finesse fishing with light line — to adapt to the changing water levels throughout the day.
"The tide was moving very aggressively, then very subtly," he said, adding that his 6-1 big bass struck while he was using 8-pound-test line, setting Gluszek up for the biggest battle of the day. "You have to change with the water."
The tides aren't the only factor affecting the 172 boaters and 172 non-boaters fishing the second Northern Open. Stiff breezes bearing buckets of rain tore across sections of the Hudson River Valley late Thursday and shook up the behavior patterns the fish displayed during practice earlier in the week; forecasters are calling for more of the same through the weekend.
"It'll probably be all right as long as there's wind," said Tim Carini of Shirley, N.Y., who had sunny weather most of the day Thursday and landed in 75th place. "You don't want sunny, no-wind days here."
The anglers are fishing for more than the $108,700 prize purse that will give $50,000 to the top boater and $24,000 to the top non-boater. They are also chasing the chance to qualify for December's CITGO Bassmaster Open Championship presented by Busch Beer, which will qualify five anglers for bass fishing's world championship, the 2005 CITGO Bassmaster Classic presented by Busch Beer. The top 20 anglers in each division's point standings after the three-event Northern Open series will earn berths in the Open Championship.
"Obviously, making the Open Championship is something that's important to me and the chance to make the Classic is something I'm going to focus on," said Gluszek, who finished 7th at the first of the Northern Opens and will sit solidly near the top of the season point standings with a win or strong showing this week. "Once you get to a certain level, everyone's good at reading water, at pitching, flipping and casting. Then it's about what's in your head; it's about who's the best chess player."
The leaders in the boater division include Gluszek with 18-11; Pennsylvania's Dave Wolak, 13-15; New Yorker Bill Alexander, 12-3; and Virginians Kurt Dove and Tony Black, who are tied for fourth with 12-1. The non-boater leaders include Maryland's William Sanders, 11-3; Bryan Moeller of South Carolina, 9-0; Pennsylvania's Harold Dunlap, 8-1; James Wylie of Ontario, Canada, 7-8; and New Yorker Wesley Coy, 6-11.
In addition to the lead, Gluszek also earned the Purolator Big Bass of the Day award with his 6-1 bruiser, which puts a $1,000 check in his pocket and has the potential to earn a bonus $1,000 if it holds out to become the Purolator Big Bass of the Tournament. On the non-boater side, Dunlap of Orefield, Pa., won $400 for a Purolator Big Bass of the Day weighing 5-7.
Friday's round is a make-or-break day for the anglers, whose numbers will be cut from 172 in each division to just the top 50 boaters and top 50 non-boaters who will fish Saturday's final round.
Daily weigh-ins will take place at Catskill Point Park at 2:30 p.m. Anglers launch beginning at 6 a.m.
Sponsors of the CITGO Bassmaster Northern Open include CITGO Petroleum Corp., Busch Beer, Purolator, Triton Boats, Mercury Marine, Berkley, Abu Garcia, Lowrance Electronics, Flowmaster Exhaust Systems, MotorGuide, Bass Pro Shops, and BankOne.
Local Sponsors include Greene County Tourism Promotion Office.