The Oswego County Pro-Am Trout and Salmon Team Tournament kicked off its 17th annual event with predictions for some of the best weather forecast in recent memory and fifty-seven teams registered to help celebrate Oswego’s 5th year as part of the four-county lake wide tournament series.
When it comes to capturing titles in most any competitive sport, consistency is the name of the game. For the Lake Ontario Pro-Am Salmon Team Tournament Series consistency must be combined with a sound strategy for big fish … and a little bit of luck. In the third leg of the tournament series as the teams pursued the Lake Ontario Challenge Cup for top team overall, only one team in the combined fields of amateurs and professionals managed to bring limit catches to the scales during both days of the competition and their success in Oswego would later bring them big rewards.
Tucked into the southeast corner of Lake Ontario and with prevailing winds from the west and northwest tournament fishing from Oswego can sometimes be more difficult for smaller boats. This year however, Mother Nature took weather off the table leveling the field for all competitors and changing routine strategies for most. Teams now had to decide if they wanted to target the smaller brown trout or take a chance on going after the bigger king salmon, which can be a bit more difficult to find … and catch. Coming up with a combination of the two seemed to be the ticket for success – although not by much.
Day-one of the Oswego competition began with a slight breeze but nothing that would keep even the smallest of boats in the field from getting to favorite spots. While limit catches were not the rule of the day, several teams fared well and came in early with full boxes. Among them was the local team combination of Trout One/Fish Chopper led by Brian Kopala and Kevin Keller. Based out of the Little Salmon River Trout One is regularly a contender in the Oswego event and this years’ pairing with Keller’s Fish Chopper team seemed to be the ticket to success. Their limit catch on Saturday was enough to land them in first place after one day of fishing but there was little comfort in that claim as Olcott based Captain Vince Pierleioni also “boxed-out” that day and was less than 1.2 pounds behind the leader. Not far behind Pierleioni’s Thrillseeker II team sat Dave Antenori’s Screamer team, one of the few amateurs in the professional division. Less than 2 points behind Screamer was Matt LeClair’s Oh Baby team another amateur fishing with the pros. Finhooker led by Mike Klikus was well positioned at fifth but the east/west combination of Flat Out & Lone Wolf (Dan Evans and Darrin LaChance) was hot on their heels less than a point behind in sixth. Jerry Felluca’s Runnin’ Rebel, Jim Samia’s Ace Charters and the Maverick team led by Chris LoPresti rounded out the top ten in the professional field.
In the amateur division Al Adomitis guided his Hook-N-Up team to the top spot on Saturday easily outdistancing the rest of the field with a box weight that was the third heaviest of the day for both divisions combined. With a few titles under his belt but still a distant second was Del Casterline and his Liquid Plumber team followed very closely by Brian Mickatavage’s Subject To Change team. Lynn Thomson and the Hot Wires team boxed-out to land in fourth but was less than two points in front of the Engineers led by John Menjik who also managed a limit catch for the day. Phil Marsh continued his streak of successful days in the lake wide series and led his Prize Fighter team to their first of two limit catches for the weekend, the only team in the entire field of both amateurs and professional to do so. Perennial contender Dr. Lou Calabrese guided his Horsin’ Around team to the seventh place spot Saturday followed closely by Tom Wojslaw and the Fish Hawk less than 1.3 points back. Another combination team Dodger/Outcast led by Jim Skolny and Dick Tither was right behind in ninth and Jeff Zimmer’s Coldwater Affair closed out the top ten.
The open/recreational division had only two boats this year and Saturday’s competition was won by local contender John Rozonewski’s Team Turtle as Ken Krott’s Fish Magnet team struggled with mechanical failures on their boat.
Day two of the competition brought extraordinarily good weather for the event but it didn’t make the fishing any easier as less than twenty percent of the entire field managed limit catches on Sunday. The competition was about to get tough and the races extremely tight.
In the professional division LoPresti’s Maverick team limited out with the heaviest box of the weekend landing them in first for Sunday scoring. Screamer also got their limit to put them in second for the day. Local Captain and previous Oswego winner, Tom Pultorak did not get his limit but the ten he did find weighed enough to put his T-K team in third for Sunday. LaChance and Evans found the one extra fish they needed to box-out and secure the fourth spot and Tom Burke’s Cold Steel team brought in ten really nice fish to wrap-up fifth. Trout One/Fish Chopper was one fish and nearly thirty pounds lighter than the day before dropping them to sixth for the day. Rick Hajecki’s Yankee Troller team was the last of the pros to get his limit Sunday pushing him into seventh followed by Bob Cinelli’s White Mule team, Thrillseeker II and Mark DeSantis’ High Voltage team completing the top ten for the day.
As we’ve mentioned before, consistency is the key to success in the Pro-Am series and the combination of the two-day scores brought interesting and probably the closest scores in tournament memory. Trout One/Fish Chopper landed 23 fish over the weekend including the single largest of the event at just under 25 pounds, giving them a final score of 460.25 points and enough to claim the Oswego professional division title. Also with 23 fish but with 0.31 pounds less than the Kopala/ Keller team Antenori’s Screamer team grabbed the second spot with a final score of 459.94. Maverick got only 22 fish into the boat but his monster box on Sunday actually gave him more total weight (0.9 pounds more) than the two teams in front of him landing him in third with 451.15 points. A heartbreaker for LoPresti as just one more fish on Saturday would have easily locked up the top spot. Flat Out/Lone Wolf brought 23 fish to the scales but their combined weight was only enough to reel-in fourth place just 1.6 points ahead of Thrillseeker II who rounded out the top five. Completing the top ten respectively were T-K, Cold Steel, Runnin’ Rebel, Oh-Baby and the White Mule team in their first ever east-end competition.
The story was much the same for the second day of competition in the amateur division. Dodger/Outcast brought in the heaviest box of the amateur field. Despite the fact that they were one fish short of their limit it was enough to secure the number one spot for Sunday. The Fish Hawk team did limit-out as did Horsin’ Around, Prizefighter and Tony Chatt’s Five More Minutes team landing second through fifth respectfully. Joe Strauss’ Jewels team found a box full to finish sixth on Sunday after a disappointing day on Saturday. One fish and a few pounds back was the Empty Hook team led by Jeff Warner with Larry Williams Team Sparks, Liquid Plumber and Coldwater Affair respectively capping the top ten on day-two.
Tallying the scores for the two day event revealed a finish even closer than that in the professional division as only 1.39 points separated the top three teams. While the margin was close the amateur title went to another team who calls the Little Salmon River their home base as the Horsin’ Around compiled a total of 346.13 points for their first ever title. Only 0.97 points back with a total of 345.16 was Fish Hawk in second and less than ½ point behind them with a two-day of 344.74 was Prize Fighter. Still keeping it close, Dodger/Outcast claimed fourth with 342.57 points and Liquid Plumber slipped in at number five. After a strong day on Saturday, the Engineers stumbled a bit on Sunday and finished the event in sixth followed by a tightly packed field that included Five More Minutes, Empty Hook, Subject To Change and Hot Wires respectively.
Ken Krott’s Fish Magnet came back strong for the second day of competition in the open/recreational division but Rozonewski’s Team Turtle edged them out and captured the top spot once again.
Even considering how close the scores were across both main fields in the 2011 Oswego event, perhaps the most surprising finish of the weekend was in the race for the biggest steelhead sponsored by Dunkin Donuts. Two different teams on two different days in separate divisions somehow brought in identical fish each one weighing 13.07 pounds. The prize was split between the amateur team Horsin’ Around and Flat Out/Lone Wolf in the professional division.
Other sponsored awards included the biggest fish overall sponsored by Siggs Rigs which went to Trout One/Fish Chopper for their 25.46 pound salmon. The Twin Village Recycling award for the biggest fish in the opposite division was captured by Team Sparks for their salmon weighing 23.98 pounds. Teams in the professional and amateur divisions that didn’t fare well on day one also had the chance to take home the comeback award for their division if they demonstrated the greatest point’s differential between day one and day two. Sponsored by Fat Nancy’s Tackle Shop and Shark Downrigger weights, the prizes went to Jewels on the amateur side and newcomer Blue Moon led by Scott Fletcher in the professional field.
Oswego is the first leg of the eastern Challenge Cup competition and the third event in the lake wide Cup competition. Leading the amateur group for the eastern cup race following the Oswego event were; Fish Hawk, Prize Fighter, Dodger/Outcast, Liquid Plumber and Subject To Change. In the race for the amateur lake wide title after three of four events it was; Fish Hawk, Dodger/Outcast, Prize Fighter, Five More Minutes and Liquid Plumber.
On the professional side in the eastern cup competition it was; Trout One/Fish Chopper, Screamer, Maverick, Flat Out/Lone Wolf and Thrillseeker II. Flat Out/Lone Wolf and Screamer were out pacing the field for the coveted lake wide cup title followed by Cold Steel, Bill Ruth’s Billy V team and White Mule.
Anything can happen on any given day of these events and the competition for Challenge Cup titles was now as fierce as ever. Awarded annually to the teams that demonstrate superior skill and consistent performance across multiple events the possibility existed that a team competing for their first time in all four events could win the cherished Cup title or that an amateur competing against professionals might go home with a title he had dreamt about for years. The 2011 Wayne County event promised nothing less than two days of intense competition for big fish to satisfy even bigger egos.