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COLUMBIA, S.C. – Berkley® pro Brandon Palaniuk collected $100,000 for his B.A.S.S. Elite victory on the St. Lawrence River this past weekend, but it was the key to a Bassmaster Classic berth that Palaniuk valued the most.
The 25-year old from Rathdrum, Idaho, led wire-to-wire while winning his second Elite tournament of his short career, the first win being last year on Bull Shoals Lake. His return to the Classic will mark the third time in three years, having qualified the first time through the B.A.S.S. Federation ranks.
"It's been one of my goals since I started (the Elite Series) to never miss a Classic,” said Palaniuk. “The Classic is our Super Bowl, so you don't want to miss it. To be able to go out and have a shot at hoisting the Classic trophy is what every kid, every guy out here fishing, dreams of."
To win Palaniuk shot right through the river on onto Lake Ontario with its huge smallmouth as the goal. With the long runs every day he knew he would have three hours of fishing at best each day. “I made the decision Sunday night before practice started to run to the lake,” remarked Palaniuk. “It was a risk as I had to quit fishing every day by noon to make it back to weigh-in. That did not leave a lot of fishing time.”
Palaniuk’s secrets of success: long extended points in the lake close to spawning flats with deep drop offs and the Berkley PowerBait® Twitchtail Minnow. “The smaller profile minnow shape was just what the smallmouth were looking for,” added Palaniuk. “Using light line was important so I spooled 8-pound Berkley FireLine® with a 6-pound Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon leader. I simply rode the waves holding the rod still and letting the Twitchtail create its own motion.
“On the final day I had a limit at my first spot of over 21 pounds, allowing me to search the rest of the morning for the big kicker fish.” Palaniuk ended the four-day tournament with over 88 pounds, nearly seven pounds more than the runner up.
Palaniuk explained the green pumpkin or clear silver shiner Twitchtail was rigged on a #2 hook with a 3/8-ounce Tungsten weight. The fish were caught in water depth of 20- to 34-feet deep.
Palaniuk’s rod/reel combo was an Abu Garcia® Revo® Premier size 20 spinning reel and a 6’ 10” medium-light action Fenwick® Elite Tech™ spinning rod.