How Brandon Palaniuk Claimed The Bassmaster Elite Series Victory on Lake Champlain
Aug 12th, 2020 by Keith Worrall
Modified Aug 12th, 2020 at 9:28 AM
Brandon Palaniuk’s return to the Bassmaster Elite Series in 2020 was made that much sweeter when his final day weight of 21 pounds and six ounces was announced on the shores of Lake Champlain. Winning a tournament at the highest level of bass fishing requires preparation, patience and perseverance. And some say a little bit of luck.
But as Palaniuk likes to say, “I’d rather make my own luck.”
“Instinct and decision-making in tournaments is a huge part of the game. But those decisions become so much easier when your technology and equipment point you in the right direction,” he said shortly after hoisting the treasured blue trophy. “I know the Minn Kota® and Humminbird® One-Boat Network™ gave me an edge and a level of confidence to fish my game plan from day one through the last magical day on Champlain.”
According to the Rathdum, Idaho-based angler, he was able to use his limited practice time effectively to break down a big body of water with his Humminbird units and LakeMaster® mapping.
“Throughout practice, one of the biggest keys was the LakeMaster charts. That mapping was so precise, it allowed me to put a pattern together and figure out how the bigger smallmouth were moving and transitioning throughout that upper part of Lake Champlain,” said Palaniuk.
And while LakeMaster technology gave him a huge head start, he was quick to credit Humminbird MEGA Imaging® as a big part of the equation.
“Using these technologies together throughout practice, I was able to cover a lot of water and mark a lot of areas so that I didn’t have to just rely on a couple spots throughout the four days,” explained Palaniuk. “I could look at the map, drive to the spot, idle over it and use the MEGA Side Imaging® and Down Imaging® to mark a lot of the fish and structure, whether it be isolated boulders or higher topped out gravel spots where a lot of the smallmouth were living.”
After a strong practice and with a better knowledge of the makeup of Lake Champlain, Palaniuk felt confident heading into the tournament. Once the competition began, his Minn Kota Ultrex™ with Spot-Lock™ and Humminbird Dual Spectrum CHIRP sonar stepped up to the plate.
“Once I was actually fishing, Spot-Lock, MEGA 360 Imaging™, as well as the 2D sonar really came into play. With those things all working together I was able to run to previously marked places during practice and make a pitch out to where I saw fish on my MEGA 360, all while keeping my eyes glued to the 2D sonar so that if I saw a smallmouth show up under the boat I could reel up quickly and drop down on them,” said Palaniuk.
“Then that last day when the wind really blew, I used Spot-Lock quite a bit to hold my boat in position while fighting those fish. Smallmouth are notorious for following the fish that you have hooked up, so without the Spot-Lock feature on my Ultrex, I would have drifted from those places, pulling the other smallmouth off and I couldn’t have gone back and caught those others as quickly.”
Palaniuk placed 3rd on Lake Champlain in 2017 catching all smallmouth so going into this tournament he wanted to stick with the same strategy; however, changing conditions forced him to switch up his technique.
“I planned on spending a lot of my time on the upper end of the lake on grassy, flat areas but due to lower water conditions than in 2017 I ended up finding healthier fish over in the inland sea area where I had never previously spent time,” said Palaniuk. “With LakeMaster mapping, I was able to break that area down quickly and precisely. I imagine there are probably a lot of locals that have spent years trying to map out the contours of Champlain, so the technology was crucial to my efficiency on the water.”
With that type of unparalleled efficiency on the water, the outlook for Palaniuk to claim more victories throughout the Bassmaster Elite series looks promising and with the One-Boat Network on his side, the smart money isn’t betting against him.