MARK PRUTKO KICKS OFF 2019 WITH FIRST CAREER VICTORY AT HOPATCONG
Lake Hopatcong | April 7, 2019 | Mt Arlington, NJ | Low 60’s | Partly Cloudy, Winds Light & Variable
After a long winter, the Hawghunters of Allentown anxiously opened its 2019 Club Tournament Series at Lake Hopatcong on Sunday, April 7. For the past few years, the season opener has proved to be a tough bite for the club, and unfortunately for the 21 competitors, the 2019 edition was no different.
Nonetheless, Mark Prutko was able to provide some excitement by grinding out two fish for 4.77lbs. to earn his first career victory. Prutko made his first trip to the lake earlier in the week and benefited from identifying key areas of water where he found fish. However, his practice didn’t pay immediate dividends. Prutko went without a bite until 11:00am when he boated his first fish. Like the rest of the field, he struggled the rest of the day until he hooked into the day’s lunker, a 3.11lb. smallmouth, with less than 20 minutes of fishing left.
While Prutko delivered the fireworks, prospective junior member Phil Stevens offered up the story of the day. Stevens, 16, was a late addition to the field. Paired with guest boater and Hopatcong veteran, Frank Messa, Stevens weighed in one largemouth and finished in 4th place and in the money in his first career derby.
Co-angler Matt Karnas secured second place with one fish for 2.16lbs. Fellow rider, Jason Penrose, was the only other angler to weigh in two fish and finished in 3rd place with 1.90lbs. Stevens, 1.39lbs., and Mike McNicholas, 1.29lbs., rounded out the top five.
Despite the favorable conditions, 60 degree air temperature and partly cloudy skies, anglers were plagued by a cold front and rain that punished the area two days before the tournament. Water temperature topped out in the low 50’s, creating a sluggish bite.
HOA will look to rebound at Merrill Creek on Sunday, May 19. Historically, this tournament has accounted for some of the club’s best bags over the past few years. In 2018, both largemouth and smallmouth lunker of the year were caught at the New Jersey reservoir, including Cooper Rosen’s mammoth 7.75lb. bucketmouth. Let’s hope for another strong showing in 2019.