When Waterways Conservation Officer John Cummings had Lake Wallenpaupack in his former district, he didn’t believe his career would take him to another place that held as many bass tournaments each summer.
And then Cummings came to northern Luzerne County and realized bass tournaments are just as popular.
This year, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission issued 106 permits for bass tournaments in northern Luzerne County, a figure driven mainly by events on Harveys Lake and the Susquehanna River. Most of the tournaments get underway after the June 16 opening day of bass season. Many are held weekly, well into the fall.
While bass tournaments have become popular in the area, the interest continues to increase.
Joe Kosloski, who has coordinated the PA Bass Casters tournaments for the last 15 years, said he already had 18 teams sign up for this season. Last year there were 12 teams, and Kosloski expects more calls as the season approaches.
“People have told me they want to join because it gives them a reason to keep going out there more often,” Kosloski said. “They have the boat and all the gear, so this gives them a reason to use it.”
PA Bass Casters run a tournament trail for club members in which points are accumulated for a championship, and a number of open events are available to all anglers. Turnout for each tournament varies, Kosloski said, and it’s often based on how well the bass are hitting in the days leading up to each event.
“Guys will go out and practice before a tournament and if the fish are biting, they’ll be in the tournament,” he said. “I think the anglers are eager to get the season started. They like the competition and the camaraderie.”
For the last eight years, Duke Dalley has been running a weekly Wednesday night bass tournament at Harveys Lake. Like Kosloski, Dalley said interest is growing in his tournament and he’s been contacted by a number of anglers, many of them younger and looking to get into the sport.
“I like to see the new blood get involved,” Dalley said. “Our anglers range in age from 8 to 75, and they’re serious and the competition is stiff. But we’re all having fun.”
While winning is an important goal for every tournament angler, Dalley said he’s been working to make his event family-oriented. Husbands and wives and parents and children fish together, and many families turn out for the weekly weigh-in just to see the fish, he said.
Dalley is also practicing the family component himself as his grandson, Tyler Dalley, 15, continues to help with the weekly event. Dalley said he plans to turn things over to Tyler next year and he’ll remain involved to a lesser degree.
“I’ve been looking forward to it since I was 13,” Tyler said. “There’s a lot involved with running a tournament, and I like being around that environment, being around the lake and fishing and just getting to know all the anglers.”
Another aspect that Dalley strives for with his tournament is the importance of getting along with those who own docks around the lake. He recommends that his anglers avoid casting near docks that are in use, and problems are rare.
Cummings agreed, noting that he receives just one or two complaints from Harveys Lake each year. In fact, problems with tournament anglers are uncommon, Cummings said, with the biggest issue being that some of the anglers forget to display their fishing licenses.
“Duke and the other tournament groups at the lake have a rule that if someone gets a citation for something, they’re disqualified,” Cummings said. “It’s very rare to have a problem with a tournament angler.”
But it’s not too rare for some big fish to turn up at the weigh-in.
The first couple of weeks at Harveys Lake are sometimes slow as the bass are in their post-spawn mode, Dalley said, and usually a 3-pound fish is big enough to win. Later in the summer, he added, is when bass weighing 5 pounds are often brought in.
“Sometimes all it takes is one cast to win the tournament, and I think that’s what makes it fun. Everyone has a chance,” Dalley said.
The statewide bass season opens on June 16 and continues through Oct. 31. Minimum size for bass in lakes and rivers is 12 inches with a daily limit of six. For more information on bass season, visit www.pfbc.pa.gov.
Local bass tournament scene (To publicize your tournament schedule and results, email [email protected]):
Duke Dalley’s Wednesday Night Bass Tournament at Harveys Lake
– First tournament on Wednesday, June 20 at the public boat launch; Registration opens at 4:30 p.m., boats launch at 6 p.m. and weigh-in is at 9 p.m. For more information call 570-991-0080 or email [email protected]
Suskie Bassmasters Wednesday Night Tournament on the Susquehanna River
– Begins on June 20 at the Nesbitt Park boat launch. Tournament will be held weekly with the chapionship on Sept. 23. Registration is at 5:30 p.m. and weigh-in is at 9 p.m. Those who fish at least 10 weeks will also be eligible for the championship. For more information, visit www.suskiebass.org.
PA Bass Casters Open Tournaments
July 1 – Lake Carey (launch at safe light)
July 15 – Harveys Lake (with Bass Bandits)
Aug. 12 – Harveys Lake
Sept. 3 – Lake Carey
For more information, call 570-760-4106.
Reach Tom Venesky at 570-991-6395 or on Twitter @TomVenesky