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Palaniuk wins Bassmasters event

| May 16, 2021 1:19 AM

From Bassmasters news services

RICHMOND, Va. — Brandon Palaniuk had three days to sack up the winning total of 53 pounds, 12 ounces, but two memorable hours delivered most of his weight at the Bassmaster Northern Open on the James River.

After placing 50th on Day 1 with 13-11, Palaniuk caught the event’s heaviest bag — 22-6 — in the final hour of Day 2 and took over the lead. On Saturday, he tallied 17-11, also in the final hour and surged across the finish line by nearly 3 1/2 pounds.

A five-time Bassmaster Elite Series winner, the pro from Rathdrum notched his first Opens victory and collected a top prize of $52,000.

“I’ve fished the James River five times now in the Northern Opens; this was my fourth final day,” said Palaniuk, who wrestled at Lakeland High and North Idaho College. “I’ve come close and I’ve been trying to get this monkey off my back for a while and, dang, it feels good.”

Palaniuk spent his tournament in the Chickahominy River, which flows into the James downriver from the take-off site at Osborne Park & Boat Landing. The first day, he fished natural habitat features, but Days 2 and 3 saw him capitalizing on a fast-paced opportunity at Walkers Dam, about 22 miles upstream.

“I got beat to this spot on Day 1, but I figured out the cast late in the day yesterday,” Palaniuk said. “You had to make the exact cast. If you were off 2 feet left or right, you wouldn’t get bit. It would happen in the first five cranks of the reel handle.

“The incoming tide was best because it held the bait and the fish higher in the water.”

The week’s tide schedule brought outgoing water in the morning, then a rising cycle around midday. Tides advance approximately 50 minutes each day, so the second and third rounds presented Palaniuk with a narrow window of opportunity.

“Yesterday, I had three fish with an hour to go and I caught 22 pounds in the last hour,” he said. “I knew it was because of the incoming tide, so I told my marshal today ‘Low tide is at 12:35 (in the Chickahominy). We’re going to have 25 minutes of incoming tide before we have to leave. We’re going to push it to the last minute.'”

Both days, Palaniuk found that targeting specific current seams was critical to enticing bites. He observed large gizzard shad in the area and recognized that the bass were leveraging current dynamics to capture their meals.

Palaniuk caught his best fish on 6- and 8-inch Megabass Magdraft swimbaits in the albino color. He also caught fish on a drop shot with a green pumpkin/blue fleck XZone Lures Deception Worm, which he fished over isolated cover off the bank.

“I just cycled through it because it just seemed like there would be little feed windows,” Palaniuk said. “It changed every 10 minutes and you’d have to figure out where they were positioned. Once you found that, you could catch a couple pretty quick.”

Nicholas Bodsford of Richmond, Va., placed second with 50-5. The local favorite turned in one of the event’s most consistent performances with daily weights of 16-10, 16-7 and 17-4.

Jeff Queen of Catawba, N.C., finished third with 50-4.