Lufkin, Texas – May 22, 2017 – Yamaha Pro Brandon Palaniuk finished Sunday’s Toyota® Bassmaster® Elite Texas Fest with a catch of 21 pounds, 12 ounces to capture the win on Sam Rayburn Reservoir with a four-day total of 93 pounds, 12 ounces. It was the third Elite victory for the 29-year-old Idaho pro known as “the prodigy.”
Palaniuk started Wednesday’s opening round with his biggest fish of the tournament — a largemouth that weighed 8-4. He caught the bass in deeper water than what was being fished by most of the field. That gave him the confidence to stay away from the shallower areas that were holding large numbers of bass, but not necessarily the size it would take to win.
“I was torn between deep and shallow,” he said. “There were so many fish shallow, and you could get so many bites, but I just wasn’t getting the big fish that I needed. I just kept telling myself the big fish were out deep, and if I could stick it out and get five to 10 bites a day, I could have a chance to win.”
Palaniuk spent a lot of time idling around looking for the usual summer postspawn hot spots, like the tips of points, humps and ledges. While moving from spot to spot on straight banks, he found several brushpiles with incredible numbers of crappie and one or two bigger dots that he believed were bass – and he was right.
“I knew that if I was hooking 8- or 9-pounders in brushpiles on a lighter line, there was a chance I was going to lose some,” he said. “Those fish are so strong, and that stuff is so thick. And it wasn’t like I was fishing the outsides of it. I was throwing directly into it and trying to get it to drop directly down into the center where the fish were.”
On the final day, he had all of the kinks worked out and was ready to catch the winning bag.
“On Sunday, I had the least amount of big bites I’ve had all week,” he said. “But I executed 100 percent — and that was the difference maker.”
Palaniuk’s win earned him the $100,000 first-place prize and automatic entry into the 2018 GEICO® Bassmaster Classic® presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods® on South Carolina’s Lake Hartwell.
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