It was luck.
Chuck Peterman admits that was the main reason why he landed a five-and-a-half pound largemouth bass to win the championship for the Harveys Lake Wednesday Night tournament.
“I threw it in the right spot, set the hook and that was it,” Peterman said. “Lucky.”
He’s hoping luck is on his side again this year when the new tournament season kicks off on June 19.
The Harveys Lake Wednesday Night tourney is one of several to be held in the area - some weekly, after the June 15 opening day of bass season. Lakes throughout the region, along with stretches of the Susquehanna River, will be the focus of bass tournaments this summer. The tournaments offer anglers the opportunity for a decent payday, but many choose to participate for the thrill of the competition and the camaraderie among those who simply love to fish.
Joe Kosloski, tournament director for PA Bass Casters, said his group holds several open tourneys each year that non-members are welcome to compete in. Turnouts for open tournaments are usually pretty good, he said, and Kosloski has taken steps to make them more appealing to the casual angler.
“I keep the entry fees down and I dropped the limit to five fish because it keeps the weights closer,” Kosloski said. “Anglers see these tournaments on television and they want to experience what it’s like. I try to keep my tournaments geared more toward the amateur anglers who like the small tournaments.”
Since 2004 the Suskie Bassmasters have been holding a Wednesday night bass tournament on the Susquehanna River, launching from Nesbitt Park. The weekly tournament kicks off on June 19, and treasurer Lynda Morris expects an increase in participants.
“Last year we had a lot of new anglers and we’re already getting calls from anglers interested about fishing this summer,” she said. “Last year we had up to 30 boats in one night, and I’m hoping for between 30 and 40 this year.”
Part of the reason for the continued rise in interest, Morris said, is anglers are continuing to realize just how productive the smallmouth bass fishery is in the Susquehanna. Even at the weigh-in, she said, the event attracts onlookers just interested in seeing the fish that can be caught in the river.
“We welcome that because it promotes the fishery,” Morris said. “The tournament is about educating anglers and the public about how good the river is. The anglers are out there, they just didn’t know of the potential.”
Duke Dalley, who runs the Wednesday night tournament at Harveys Lake, said he has also gotten a considerable amount of phone calls from anglers wanting to know if the event will be held this year.
Like Morris, Dalley is expecting an increase for his tournament and is hopeful that he can get between 30 and 40 boats.
“A lot of people are anxious for it,” Dalley said. “Bass fishing itself is increasing in popularity and people like the tournaments because it combines fishing with competition and camaraderie.”
Still, the bass tournament trail has hit some rough water along the way. Last year a concern over liability if an angler got hurt nearly derailed the Harveys Lake contest until Dalley and his partner, John Niezgoda, stepped up to post insurance and had participants sign a waiver releasing them from liability in case of an injury.
The entire issue, however, has forced some of the smaller tournaments to cease operations because of the cost of insurance.
“The insurance ordeal last year scared people and some tournaments folded,” Kosloski said. “With the bigger tournaments, I think it peaked like NASCAR. Now it seems the smaller ones - those that are three or four hours, are more popular.”
Still, there is one factor that drives tournament success more than money, competition or camaraderie.
It goes back to the sole reason why anglers cast a line in the first place.
They want to catch fish.
“I get people from Allentown and Scranton to the Harveys Lake tournaments. If the bite is on at Harveys Lake, the guys will be there,” Kosloski said.
So far things are shaping up nicely at the Harveys Lake in anticipation of tournament season. Dalley said he has done well fishing the lake this spring and is confident that there are plenty of monster bass topping the six-pound mark in the lake.
Morris said her tournament on the river has seen plenty of smallmouths in the five to six-pound range over the years - most of them caught north of the boat launch.
The chance to land a lunker is what has brought Peterman, who is a member of PA Bass Bandits, out to the tournament trail for the last five years.
That, and a little luck.
“The guys at the tournaments are very friendly and there’s always a good chance to catch something big in the lake,” he said. “It’s just a fun time. A night out. Some guys are in to golf or bowling leagues. I fish for bass.”