Latest news with Brandon Palaniuk

Soaking In the AOY

Posted by editor on October 26, 2017

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It’s been a whirlwind since finishing up the year at Mille Lacs and taking home the Angler of the Year trophy.  I’ve been on the phone and traveling nonstop until this past week.  It’s still a pretty surreal experience.  We had a big party over the weekend over at a buddy’s parent’s place.  They turned a big shop into a bar with flat screen and the works.  It’s a pretty cool place and it was a great time getting to share the experience and my gratitude with all of my family and friends; especially ones that I hadn’t seen since the Mille Lacs event.

After getting the job done at the Angler of the Year championship, I felt a huge relief.  Going into the event as the hunted and being able to get the job done was a great feeling. 

The first day of the event I knew I did enough to at least not shoot myself in the foot.  I wasn’t very happy going into weigh in, but afterwards, seeing that I was still ahead of Jason helped.  Day two started off a bit slow.  I was covering water because I didn’t feel like they were really stacked up anywhere very well.  After making some adjustments, I knew it would just be a matter of time before I ran into enough of them.

Once we got to the midway point on day two, I started catching them.  With about six minutes left I got the bite that I needed.  The six pounder not only culled me up about three more pounds, but more importantly brought a sense of calm.

Saturday was a day off the water with the expo.  It was a fun and I got to talk to a lot of folks.  It was kind of a recharge day and it was just what I needed going into Sunday.  On Sunday, I woke up with this feeling like I was going to win.  It was a sense of calm and confidence that took until then to feel.  However, my day on the water did not start out in winning fashion.  At 10:30am I only had one fish.  I decided to make a move to an area that I had hit multiple times throughout the event, but had yet to get a bite out of.

I pulled up to the isolated rock and with my 360 imaging, pitched right to it and caught one immediately.  I quickly hit my spot lock and proceeded to catch almost all of my weight from that individual spot.  I made some more stops afterward but had nothing more to show.  I had one more area I had high hopes for.  The first couple days it didn’t produce for me, but this time it was a game changer.  I finished up by catching back to back four pounders.

When I got back to weigh in, I didn’t have any idea of the points or how Jason had done.  Not until I heard Mercer say that I only needed nine pounds did it sink in.  A lot of emotions hit me at that point.  The past twenty ones years, since I was eight years old, I’ve been thinking about it and working for that moment.  It was pretty special to be able to share the experience with Tiffany and all of my family and friends that were able to make it out.

Since that event, I think I’ve been out fishing maybe four hours total.  I’ve been traveling a lot and doing a lot of interviews, trying to make the most of it all.  I got to go down to South Carolina to give a speech before the BASS Nation National Championship which was a great experience.  That’s where it kind of all started for me and seeing all those guys, I knew a lot of what was going through their heads. 

One of the coolest things I think was getting to go on a hunt with Mark Geist and shoot my first antelope.  If any of you are familiar with the movie Thirteen Hours, you may know who he is.  The guy is a war hero, but extremely humble and down to earth.  But, I can tell you, he would be one of the last guys you would want to mess with.  That was all set up through Weatherby and Leupold Optics.  It was an important trip, because it was truly the first time I was able to reflect and kind of reset after being so laser focused all season.    

We just wrapped up a great shoot here at home with Huk Fishing.  It’s always a pleasure working with those guys and the level of professionalism across the board is excellent.  We’re just getting ready now to head out for the SEMA show in Vegas.  It’s going to be a cool new experience this year as my truck will actually be on display inside of the Dick Cepek tires booth.  It’s always a good time and I’m looking forward to catching up with everyone there.  SEMA is a massive show and really the place to be if you are a gear head.   In the meantime, we’ll be trying to soak up and enjoy every moment of the post-Angler of the Year experience.


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Focused on Fishing this Week

Posted by admin on September 13, 2017

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We couldn’t ask for a better way to end the season than on one of the best smallmouth fisheries on the planet.  We’re in the driver’s seat in the Angler of the Year heading into Mille Lacs and this fishery definitely suits my strengths.  After practice, I can tell that it’s fishing a bit tougher than it was last year.  Despite that, I wouldn’t expect the weights to be far off from last year.  This place is full of giant smallmouth bass.

This one will be all about executing and making good decisions.  Twenty pounds here is not good enough.  In order to have a chance, you have to get up to that twenty pound plus range.  I’m kind of anxious to see what the weights are after day one.

St. Clair was a tricky one.  I was really close to screwing up the entire year there.  That first day, a lot of my big fish seemed to have disappeared on me and I scrambled to catch what I did.  On day two, I decided to go in a completely different direction.  I made the long run up to Huron and it ended up paying off.  I caught a five and four and a half pounder before running back down to St. Clair.

Once I returned to St. Clair, I put three more in the well in the four to four and a half pound range.  It was crazy because it was a spot I’ve had success in the past on, specifically in 2013, but had not gotten one bite off of in practice or the first day of the tournament.  Apparently, our timing was spot on.  My day two weight vaulted me back up where I needed to be heading into day three.

Day three brought more challenges.  I decided to run all the way back to Huron, but this time, it failed to produce anything.  At 11am, I didn’t have anything in the livewell.  I ran back to St. Clair once again and caught a four pounder on fifth cast.  I started thinking maybe there was a school there.  I had ended the day before by catching back to back fish off of it.  However, that didn’t end up being the case.

I left there after a bit and ran to the spot I had caught the few four pounders off of on day two.  Unfortunately for me, Ike was sitting on it so I kept running a few other places before I realized I had to settle in.  With one four pounder in the well at 1:30pm, I knew I couldn’t just go flailing around in the grass.  I ran to an area that I knew had more rock in it so I could fish a little more precisely.  I hopped from rock pile to rock pile with a drop shot and scraped together a seventeen and a half pound bag to save my year.

All of that has kept me where I need to be.  I haven’t looked at the points because my focus is to go out there and try and catch twenty two to twenty three pounds each day here at Mille Lacs.  The weather looks pretty good for us as that can always be a wild card.  I’m excited to kick off the last Elite Series event of the season.

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July 2017 Elite Series Recap

Posted by editor on August 2, 2017

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Reeling in a Win on Rayburn

Posted by editor on June 20, 2017

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Coming into the season, the event on Sam Rayburn was one I was looking forward to.  There are always places on the schedule that you enjoy fishing and Rayburn is definitely one of them.  As far as looking into the future and anticipating how this one would set up for me, I wouldn’t have picked it as one I would have the best chance to win.  Fortunately for me, fate had some different plans.

Going into the event I had mixed feelings about whether to fish shallow or deep.  Right after Toledo Bend, me, Tiffany, and the dog went to look around.  At that time, there were a lot of fish shallow around the grass, but I knew things would change a lot by the time the event came around.  Being that the event was in May, there would definitely still be some quality bass to be caught shallow because of the bluegill.  Some fish are residents and never really leave so grass can always be a factor.

When official practice came around, I was sort of torn on what to do.  I started out deep looking for the normal offshore stuff, like humps and around submerged points.  I found some big schools of fish, but almost everything I ran into were small (between 1 ½ and 2 ½ pounds).  I just couldn’t get any of the big ones.

After realizing that wasn’t working, I decided to start looking for some off the beaten path structure that might hold some bigger fish.  I started scanning some brush piles that were planted for crappie and started to see some bigger dots hanging around them as well.  I would mark one or two larger fish which I presumed were bass.  I just couldn’t get them to eat.  That was until I tied up a neko rig with a Zoom Magnum Trick Worm.  Soon thereafter, I was able to confirm they were bass – I caught them with this set up, up to nine pounds.

After figuring out the neko rig deal, I was gaining confidence in it.  The only problem was, I wasn’t sure how many I could actually catch doing it.  I didn’t really feel like I had a shot to win yet as I didn’t think I could get enough bites.  I was kind of hoping I could scratch together sixteen to eighteen pounds with what shallow stuff I also had.

I drew boat 106 day one and thought there would be no way I could get on my deep brush pile.  It’s not super obvious, as it was pretty isolated, but much to my surprise, there was not a boat in sight.  First hook up on the neko rig was over eight pounds.  That fish was the defining one of the event for me.  It gave me a ton of confidence and if that had not happened like it did, I’m not really sure how the week would have went.  I felt relaxed and just went fishing.

I rolled up to fish a bank I had found some on and quickly had a two and a half pounder chase my swimbait.  I thought maybe they wanted topwater and tossed that Storm Arashi Top Walker out and connected with a four pounder soon afterwards.  Only a few casts after that and another quality fish ate it.  Then had one more have a go on top and ended up losing a really big one there before it shut off. 

After that shut down, I decided to hit another offshore brush pile that had been decent in practice.  I pulled out a Zoom Ol’ Monster and plucked a five pounder off that pile.  After that, I did some more hoping around and caught a four pounder off a shallow place and starting expanding on more areas.  Day one I put together over twenty four pounds which had me sitting in second!  That’s when I truly realized I had a shot at it.  There were a few guys also fishing deep, but any of the stuff I wanted to fish never had any boats near it.

We rolled out day two with the same gameplan and starting spot.  There were a couple small ones to be had on that brush pile, but nothing spectacular.  Soon after, I began idling over a brush pile I never saw them at in practice, my graph lit up with a school of bass and I thought I would absolutely smash them.  I didn’t stop there immediately, but went up shallow and caught a limit first and had a five pounder miss my topwater. 

Shortly after filling my limit, I went back and lined up on that same brush pile.  On my first cast one swam away with the neko rig and ended up being nearly six pounds.  Then I proceeded to catch a couple more in the three to four pound class.  After milking that brush pile, I went back to my starting spot and culled with a few more quality fish and ended the day with just over twenty three pounds.

Going into day three I had closed the gap on Ehrler and knew that I had a great chance to win.  I did the same thing on day three except did not catch anything off my starting brush pile.  I soon went to my next brush pile where I did most of the damage on day two and it was plain awesome.  Before it even hit the bottom one, over five ate it.  I caught multiple fish from two to five pounds afterwards off the same spot and lost another five pounder after it came up to the surface to jump.  I proceeded to lose a giant that I would estimate to be nine pounds.  It had me shaken up a bit so I decided to reel it back in and went shallow to get back in rhythm.

I fished down that same stretch that had been so good to me, but with a jerkbait picked off a three and a half to get things started again.  Afterwards, I picked up a topwater and had a five to six pounder trail it the whole way to the boat.  I left and went back to my starting brush pile and caught a five and lost a five pounder.  I headed to the other brush pile I had caught them from and caught another five and also a six along with a couple smaller ones.  I decided to save it after that and weighed in another twenty four plus pound bag.

I had volunteered to help out with the High School All American on our off day between day three and four not knowing I’d be leading the event going into it.  They kind of expected me to back out, but I decided not to.  I took out a high school angler, Connor from South Carolina, and our task for the day was to put together the biggest two fish limit between the two of us with each of us weighing one.  I decided to start with the Storm Arashi I had already been throwing at Rayburn and started the day with one pushing six pounds.  It was a good start, but I figured it was going to take more weight.  I had him flipping and throwing topwater too as I thought that’d be the best way for him to catch one over five which is what I figured he would have to do.

I went to flipping a jig and caught a four and a half and a five flipping horizontal trees in sixteen feet of water.  Soon after, Connor began catching them and put a five and six plus pounder in the boat.  We ended up with a total of 12-3 and Connor won the High School All American.  It was really cool because not only did we win that event, but I was also presented with the Autism Angler of April Award for the month of April for helping raise money for Austism awareness.  Those were the two wins thus far, but we still had one more day at Rayburn.

Day four, the wind was projected to be light and variable.  I had an area where I caught a lot of big fish in practice, but hadn’t touched yet in the event because the wind had been so bad.  We kicked off the day and the wind was ripping out of the north (had been the south) which made a lot of my main stuff extremely rough.  I started on the same brush piles however and proceeded to catch a couple in the four pound range and one about three before losing another and then having the bite shut off completely.

I went shallow to fill out a limit, but could not get a bite.  The wind was crashing into the bank and I thought it should have actually been better like that.  I decided to run to another brush pile and caught a two and a half pounder.  I thought things may be fizzling out for a bit.  I went to some shallow grass and was able to muster a couple two and a half to three pounders and figured I had about fifteen pounds. 

I went to fish out of the wind hoping they would bite better and rolled up on my first brush pile.  I picked one off almost four pounds, then one over three and started gaining ground.  I left and went to another brush pile where I caught a three and a half, but knew I needed a really big bite to seal the deal.  I went back to some of the same brush and caught a four and a half around 1:30pm.  I figured I had between nineteen and twenty at this pound, but still did not have enough.

After idling around some stuff I had marked in practice and not seeing anything, I saw some brush way off to the side.  It was random and sitting in the middle of some standing timber.  As I looked closer I saw a bunch of bass around it facing the brush.  At 2:15pm I threw out and hopped my bait through the brush pile before I connected with one almost six pounds.  On BassTrakk I had been leading all day, but saw Ehrler had also caught a big one around the same time and supposedly taken the lead back.  I made a couple more casts, but wasn’t able to cull.

I was a nervous wreck heading in to weigh in, but knew that last fish would give me a chance.  They made me sit in the trailer and not talk to anyone to build the suspense.  All weights were official by that point and Brent weighed before me.  It was over and we gained a Classic berth, $100,000, and had an absolute blast smashing them on Rayburn for four days.  We even added another day to do a virtual reality video for Cabelas and smashed over thirty pounds including a ten pounder which was the icing on the cake!

That momentum carried over into Dardanelle with another top twelve.  It was a whole different world there: muddy, high water.  It was definitely a grind; I had a terrible practice overall.  From my experience there in 2014, I had too many preconceived notions.  I expected it to be a swim jig and flipping deal, but it really wasn’t. 

I spent time on different sections of the lake and expected them to be shallow.  My buddy, Chad Pipkens, was catching them off the bank the final day of practice so that helped clue me in on that.  I started day one shallow and managed three keepers before heading deep and getting some better quality to give myself thirteen pounds.  Everyone smashed them which wasn’t surprising, but I was still very much alive.

Day two, I found a couple new things offshore and was gaining more confidence in it.  One area of the lake had cleaner water and I focused on that section.  I found isolated objects in the four to eight foot range with my 360 imaging and moved up into twelfth place by adding fifteen pounds.  After practice I wasn’t even sure if I could cash, but was feeling very confident after what I figured out day two that I would have a chance to do more.

Day three, I made the same milk run and put together a little over fourteen pounds to get in my fourth top twelve of the season.  I knew that final day would be tough with the rising water and it would probably kill my deep stuff.  I never caught them shallow and my deep fish seemed to suspend and get inactive.  It didn’t go how I would have hoped, but overall I’m happy with the good points heading into the northern swing.

The best part about the rest of the season is now I can get rid of about half the tackle and rods in my boat and just go fishing.  This next part of the season there are some events I feel confident that I’ll have a chance to do very well.  It’s all about finding the right ones as almost everyone will catch them in these next few.  We’ll also break it up some by fishing a little MLF and the first couple Northern Opens.  Oneida is fun and can be challenging while the James is a place I’ve made the top ten in each time and really want to win.  Out of all the remaining events I think it’s the one I want to win the most.  For now, we’ll enjoy some down time and get ready to take on the final part of the Elite Series season.   



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Running into the Rez

Posted by editor on April 26, 2017

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This is going to be a tricky one this week a Ross Barnett.  Coming in I really wanted to focus my practice on fishing shallow, but knew if I didn’t feel like it was happening I’d have to get offshore some and  explore that mid-depth zone.  After practice, I’d say I’m feeling a bit confused as to which direction to go.  It’s a transition time here and this event is setting up to be a real grind.  With most of the fish going into that postspawn phase, it seems we’re in that familiar postspawn funk.  Although I anticipate a tough event there will definitely be good bags weighed in this week.  This one will be all about flying by the seat of your pants and fishing the moment.  We just finished up with Toledo Bend and after having to make a lot of decisions throughout the day, I think I’ll at least be well prepared for that aspect of the event.

Toledo Bend is a place I’ve always enjoyed in the past.  It’s a fun place to fish and it’s one of those lakes that I’ve always just felt comfortable at.  After having poor events at the Okeechobee and the Classic, I was ready for some fun.

After getting on the water I quickly realized it was fishing tougher than it normally had.  I spent my first day solely fishing shallow and it was a grind.  I moved out a bit more onto some staging areas and starting putting something together.  I threw a chatterbait around in those areas and ended up catching a couple big postspawn fish.  The last day of practice I built on more of what I had figured out day two.  I went into an area that set up well and focused all of my time there.  Before long, I had caught about twenty pounds pretty quickly and started getting pretty excited to kick off the event.

Day one I hit the water fired up as ever.  I hit my first spot of the day and didn’t manage a bite which got me a bit nervous.  Fortunately, our next stop yielded some more encouraging results.  Soon after arriving, I hooked up and lost one then put the first four pounder in the boat right afterwards.  That’s when I started thinking this was really going to work.  I ended up putting a little over nineteen pounds in the boat and started off the event in a great position.

The second day was a bit more of a grind.  I hooked up and caught one over five pounds early, but never really caught much otherwise.  I had enough to stay in the mix and make the cut to fish on day three.

I hadn’t been getting much of a morning bite on day one and day two, so day three I decided to make a move to try and maximize the early shad spawn.  Based on what I had seen, I figured I could catch about ten to twelve pounds fairly quickly, but didn’t expect to catch much size.  As expected, we were able to put together a quick limit but, fortunately for me, the size was much better than expected.  I ended up catching a four and a half and six pounder from those shad spawn fish and started off my day great.  I did make one mistake in the heat of the moment while getting those fish fired up.  While catching those schoolers, I was so fired up that I made another cast after putting the last fish in the well.  Thankfully, it didn’t end up costing me anything.

As it got later in the day I felt like I needed another big bite.  I had an area in my mind where I felt had a good potential to produce one, but was a long run down lake.  At 1:30pm I decided to make that run.  I arrived at the spot about 2pm and at 2:15pm I got that ever important bite.  I kept putting that chatterbait to work and hooked up and landed a key five pounder which helped get us to day four.

I started off my day again chasing the shad spawn.  Something definitely changed as it was amped up like crazy.  In my first six casts I caught a limit and just continued smashing them.  It was such a fun way to catch them all week.  It was all about decisions as things were changing by the day.  Thankfully, things worked out very well for me and we were able to get that momentum back in the other direction.  With a pattern emerging, my Lakemaster mapping really helped me save time running around and be able to find similar areas just by looking at the maps.

I stuck around at Toledo Bend afterwards to just have some fun.  It’s really important to make time to fun fish and just go out without that feeling of having to find a better spot or catching a bigger fish like in the tournament setting.  It really helps you relax, recharge, and get back to the essence of the sport. 

After leaving the Bend, we hit the road and spent a couple of days at Rayburn looking around getting ready for our next event there then stopped in Oklahoma and spent some time with our friends Kevin LeDoux and his wife. 

Now, I’m at Ross Barnett getting ready to grind out some fickle postspawn largemouth bass.  With a good event at Toledo Bend, I’m hoping that momentum continues in the forward direction here and throughout the next half at the season.  I’m recharged and ready for whatever “the Rez” has in store for us this week.

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