G&F Interview: Brandon Palaniuk Plans Redemption in 2014 Classic

G&F Interview: Brandon Palaniuk Plans Redemption in 2014 Classic
Brandon Palaniuk celebrates at the 2013 Bassmaster Classic in Grand Lake, Tulsa Okla. Photo credit: BASS/Gary Tramontina

Brandon Palaniuk of Rathdrum, Idaho, is perhaps the most watched bass pro in the world right now. He came from the ranks of the Federation Nation and took a huge tournament in 2013. Some are saying this 26-year-old has the physical and mental ability to be the top bass angler in the world. Palaniuk stumbled in June after he was leading the Mississippi River Rumble: He inadvertently culled a fish in Minnesota waters, which is illegal, and had his Day 2 bag disqualified. Tommy Biffle won the tournament that slipped through Palaniuk's fingers. The Brandon Palaniuk controversy follows him, but has not seemed to slow him down. Palaniuk has been a big fan favorite, and gained entry into the All-Star week tournaments by being voted in the people. His victory at the Showdown at St. Lawrence River in August secured an invitation to fish in his fourth Bassmaster Classic. In 2013, he finished second.

TOURNAMENT STRUGGLES

Game & Fish/Sportsman: At the Mississippi River Rumble in Wisconsin in June, you lost your first five fish. Then you were in the lead but your second-day bag was disqualified because you inadvertently culled fish in Minnesota waters. How did you pick yourself up after that low point in your career?


Palaniuk: It was really difficult at first. It was a long drive home, with lots of time to think about it, that's for sure. But overall, when I looked back on the tournament, I realized that I was on track to win. Having a 6-pound lead after Day 2, I could have won there for the right reasons. I made a big mental mistake, but I had the ability to win, and I still have that ability.


Game & Fish/Sportsman: Conversely, you gained entry to fish the All-Star by getting the most fan votes of any angler. When you got that news, it must have been a real good day.

Palaniuk: It was humbling. That was one of the coolest things that has ever happened to me in my career. It's comparable to a big tournament win. We have awards for angling ability, but there's no award presented by fans. The All-Star voting is the closest you can get. The fans are everything. We would not have the sport without them.

Game & Fish/Sportsman: Then you won the Showdown on the St. Lawrence and also secured a spot in the 2014 Bassmaster Classic. That must be one of the best feelings in competition bass fishing. How does that feel?

Palaniuk: I think I grew about 5 inches at that point. I finished second in the 2013 Classic and need to get back for redemption. What happened before with the DQ and only two chances to make it in, when you make that goal, so much stress lifted off my shoulders.


TECHNIQUES

Game & Fish/Sportsman: Could you describe your pre-tournament routine (scouting, pre-fishing, research)?

Palaniuk: I do as much Internet research as I can beforehand. Like if I am going to be fishing a highland lake, or mostly rocks and grass, I try to plan out what kind of baits I should use and what kind of structure I'll be fishing.


I use Google Earth and Google all sorts of topics. I also do research on Navionics chips to see what part of lakes are shallow for spawning, steep or deep.

Then I want to get a general idea of what kind of weight it takes to win. You need to know what size fish to look for, like will 2-pounders win it, or do I need to be looking for 4-pounders?

I'll look at maps and reports to figure out general areas of the lake that hold good populations of fish, and places that held fish in past, so I can concentrate on those areas. I only have three days, so I need to pick my battles.

Game & Fish/Sportsman: Do you ever leave an area with small keepers to risk searching for a bigger bite?

Palaniuk: Yes. That happens quite a bit. It's the hardest part about tournaments: when to stay and when to leave.

Game & Fish/Sportsman: Typically, how many core colors of soft plastics do you rely on, or do you opt for whatever is trending?

Palaniuk: I keep it extremely simple. I go with three colors: green pumpkin, black and blue, and junebug.

Game & Fish/Sportsman: When everything goes south, what is your fall-back fishing method?

Palaniuk: Drop shot. I'll do it in any depth, even really shallow, less than a foot of water. It's the most versatile technique there is.

Game & Fish/Sportsman: Swim jigs, soft plastic swimbaits and square-billed crankbaits have each suddenly become popular in the last year or two. What will the next trend be?

Palaniuk: We'll continue to see those techniques evolve. And we'll see more variation of those baits that will make them more effective. But one thing I noticed that hasn't caught on here but has in Japan, is shallow speed cranking. Most guys will burn a shallow spinner bait, but not a crankbait. It's a techniques that I've used a lot in the past, and used in to win the Federation championship. But until now, there hasn't been a crankbait that can handle it. The new Arashi can be burned, or fished slow. I think more people are going to pick up on that.

Game & Fish/Sportsman: Do you think the Alabama rig frenzy has petered out?

Palaniuk: I think you'll start to see it decline because of the major tournaments are banning it. The A-rig won't be the topic of conversation. But on a local level, they'll remain effective and sometimes prevalent. I had heard from guys who have fished it in Guntersville and Pickwick, and had caught 40-50 fish a day. But now they get eight or nine a day. Like any other technique, those fish were originally untapped and in the past they didn't get caught. Up until the A-rig, there was not an effective technique to catch suspended fish. But now the fish are adapting to the technique. I am interested to see what will come along to take its place.

Game & Fish/Sportsman: Thanks Brandon.

Palaniuk: No problem.

There's no doubt that Brandon Palaniuk is living the good life. Check out some of these photos from his adventures as one of the top anglers of all time:

Showdown

Brandon at 2013 Elite Series St. Lawrence River Showdown.

Photo credit: BASS/Seigo Saito

Evan Williams Bourbon Showdown

Brandon cleaned up at the Evan Williams Bourbon Showdown on the St. Lawrence River in August. Even after he self-reported a violation: having one too many bass in his live well. He was docked 2 pounds but still stayed more than 2 pound away from the second place finisher, Kevin Van Dam, to win the Elite Series tournament.

Image via Facebook

Go Big or Go Home

Palaniuk specializes in largemouth, but the Idahoan can catch smalls, as he proved on the St. Lawrence in August, as well as walleye.

Image via Facebook

Never a Dull Moment

Brandon Palaniuk learned early on that when you're a top angler, sometimes you get your hands dirty.

Image via Facebook

The Life

It's not always work. Sometimes the best part of being a top angler is enjoying the pleasures of your surroundings.

Image via Facebook

No Easy Task

Qualifying for the Bassmaster Classic is no easy task. Palaniuk, in his third year in the tournament, finished second in 2013.

Image via Facebook

Cold Weather

While Southern anglers sometimes struggle in cold weather, Palauniak was born and raised in the cooler climes of northern Idaho near Couer d'Alene, just east of Spokane, Washington.

Image via Facebook

What's you opinion on the Brandon Palaniuk controversy? Share your thoughts with us on Facebook or in the comments!

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