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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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Classic Time at Conroe

Posted by admin on March 23, 2017


Here we are now on the eve of the 2017 Bassmaster Classic at Lake Conroe.  We wrapped up our final day to look around yesterday and after having a fairly challenging practice, it was nice to have another day to poke around.  After making it down for a couple days in January to ride around the conditions changed between then and official practice.  The water seemed to get a little dirtier, but overall not too bad.  This time of year things are apt to change with the fish following the stages of the spawn.  I felt like I did what I needed to do in practice to find the winning fish and until yesterday I didn’t get a lot of confidence in it.  During our final run through yesterday it was still a grind, but I think a light bulb may have started to at least flicker.

If you look at Lake Conroe’s history, it isn’t the kind of lake you can expect to catch twenty to thirty fish a day.  What it lacks in overall numbers however, it more than makes up for in size potential.  It really has some big ones in it and it’s going to show out for the Classic.

Starting the year off with a couple Elite Series events before the Classic has definitely been a change of pace.  Like anything, it has its pros and cons.  One positive is that you get to make sure your boat, graphs and all of your tackle is set up properly and tuned in.  Taking away that worry is a big one.  Another pro is the fact that you are also able to tune yourself in more mechanically and keep your decision making as sharp as possible instead of coming right out of the offseason into the Classic.  One of the only things that I would put in the con category would be the change up can be somewhat of a shock to a normal year’s routine.  Overall, I’m not one that believes you have to have a routine.  However, in this case it definitely shifts your offseason focus from putting all your eggs into the Classic basket and instead it’s to the Elites.

Starting off the Elite season definitely helps with the confidence going into Conroe.  Okeechobee was frustrating, but the only thing you can do is shake that one off and use the Cherokee event for confidence.  There is so much going on at the Classic and it can be hard to focus at the job at hand at times.  Now that I’ve been here and done this for a while now, it allows me to use my time wisely and keep my peace of mind which in turn allows me to focus on what I need to do.  It’s easy to get caught up in just going through the motions.  Even if you are practicing hard it can cause you to miss some minor detail that could make all the difference.  It’s a constant learning process for me and I’m sure plenty of other anglers on keeping that laser focus throughout practice, throughout the event and throughout the season.  One of the biggest things that helps me is having fun.  You have to put in the work, but allowing yourself to enjoy the experience as well can really benefit you.

On a side note, Tiffanie and my RV adventures had an interesting mishap earlier in the week.  It seems our camera guy that is along for the season left our bathroom sink running and flooded the bathroom in the RV.  We had to drain it and are still assessing the overall water damage and running the fans to keep things from rotting.  The positives are no one got hurt and it wasn’t tonight or during the actual Classic.  So, for now we just took a deep breath and will deal with whatever we have to after this week.

It’s time for another Bassmaster Classic tomorrow and everything is ready to go.  With the time in between practice and the actual tournament it gives you the opportunity to organize and tune everything in for the biggest show in bass fishing.  I feel confident that I have done what I need to do to prepare for this year’s Classic.  The only thing left is to go out there and fish the moment each day.  We’ll see you in Houston!

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New Additions for 2017

Posted by admin on March 7, 2017


We’re kicking off a new season with a couple new additions and partnerships for 2017.  We just made it down to Tennessee and will begin practice for the first Elite Series event on Cherokee Lake tomorrow.  Tiffany and I left Idaho with a new truck and fifth wheel trailer that we will be living in for the upcoming season.  I’ve never even owned a camper before so it’ll be a fun new adventure for both of us.  We had talked about it for a long time and finally both got tired of packing and unpacking our things all of the time.  I must say that so far, this is a great way to travel.  It’s pretty cool to just pull into a truck stop on the road, run the propane heater and climb into a king sized bed at the end of day.

After leaving Idaho, our first stop was in Texas to pick up the newly wrapped Tundra and Skeeter.  I’m very pleased with how it turned out this year and look forward to putting some miles on both this season.  Once we arrived, the fun of packing both the truck and the boat began.  Being efficient on and off the water is extremely important in this sport so I really focus on organizing both accordingly.

Some other new things I’m excited about for 2017 are a couple of new partnerships with Alpha Angler RodsSeaguar Line, and Zoom Bait Company.  I made the switch to Alpha Angler based on their unique approach to the rod market.  It’s truly different than anything I’ve seen.  Their main focus is on the quality and performance of the product.  They are also dedicated to providing great customer service.  It’s totally an e-commerce business that is direct to consumer with no middle man.  What this does is allow us to sell the product for less and give the savings back to the angler.  The other really cool thing about what we are doing is that we can constantly work to put new models into the market as well as improve existing ones.  We don’t have to wait to release them.

I’m also very excited to be working with companies like Seaguar and Zoom.  The quality of the products is exceptional and I always want to align myself with innovative companies.  Like most of the fishing world, I’ve been using Zoom softbaits for much of my lifetime.  I have a ton of confidence in their products and you truly can’t put a price on that.

Everything is ready to go and I’m ready to kick things off this week at Cherokee Lake.  We’ve been talking about the upcoming season for so long now that I can’t wait to actually get on the water.  We could have some cold weather this week and I’m truly hoping for it.  I’m so used to the snow and cold that I feel like it’s an advantage whenever we have to fish in it. 

After Cherokee we’ll be heading to Okeechobee which should crank out some big weights.  It’s usually our highest winning weight of the season when we go down there, but also the lowest to make a check.  Florida fishing is usually a great example of the “haves” and the “have nots”.  It’s all about getting one or two big bites a day to jump yourself up that leaderboard.  Of all the Florida fisheries we go it’s definitely my favorite.  Then it’s time for the big show, the Bassmaster Classic, at Lake Conroe.  I managed to spend two days down there before cut off.  About three quarters of my time was spent riding around and the other quarter was actually fishing.  I like how that one is going to set up too and can’t wait for the Classic.

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Hayden, Id – January 10, 2017 – Brandon Palaniuk, the 29-year-old Bassmaster Elite Series professional angler from Hayden, Id has joined the ZOOM Bait Company Pro Staff.

Palaniuk, a two-time Bassmaster Elite Series Champion and winner of the 2010 BASS Nation National Championship is one of the most popular young anglers in the business; has chosen to join the fishing industries’ most recognizable and widely distributed brand of soft plastic baits as a promotional team member. >> read more

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