Bass pro-Brandon Palaniuk’s banner year


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By Sam Rutherford


Brandon Palaniuk made his first year back to the Bassmaster® Elite Series count in a big way, with a twofer of highly coveted Bassmaster® Elite Series wins during the 2020 season of the sport’s premier bass fishing league.

The Skeeter Boats pro scored the first win in August on Lake Champlain in New York, and then he followed back up with a second victory in October at the Santee Cooper lakes in South Carolina. He earned $100,000 for each win and was the only pro to win two events in the season, which is a remarkable feat. It was the fifth Elite Series win for the 2017 Bassmaster® Angler of the Year from Rathdrum, Idaho.

Bass pro-Brandon Palaniuk's banner year, made his first year back to the Bassmaster® Elite Series count in a big way, with a twofer

Palaniuk won at Lake Champlain in a dramatic fashion. On Championship Sunday, he sacked up a 5-bass limit weighing 21 pounds, 6 ounces, bringing his winning weight to 80 pounds, 1 ounce.

“While all of my equipment plays a role in my day-to-day success, I really have to stress how important my Skeeter Boat and Yamaha Outboard were to this particular event,” Palaniuk said.

On the last day, a rogue isolated thunderstorm came from nowhere, creating a turbulent boat ride through an area known as the Inland Sea. The crisscrossing waves from gusty winds were challenging, and Palaniuk was running short on time to get back in time for the weigh-in with his winning catch.

“As the time came to a head in, what had been 2 or 3 miles per hour winds suddenly turned to 15 or 20 miles per hour gusts, and they were coming straight down the pipe,” Palaniuk recalled. “When I came around the corner, I wasn’t expecting to see those big, 5-foot-plus waves, and with 18 minutes to go 10 miles, I really had to push it.”

Palahniuk made it back with two minutes to spare. Had he not made it back precisely at his designated check-in time, by two minutes, Palaniuk would have finished third instead of first.

Bass pro-Brandon Palaniuk's banner year, made his first year back to the Bassmaster® Elite Series count in a big way, with a twofer

At Lakes Marion and Moultrie, commonly known as the Santee Cooper lakes, winning would come down to decisions and executions—two things that Palaniuk is very good at doing.

“That one was so unexpected,” Palaniuk said. “Every single one I won before, I had a good practice, and I knew that I would have a shot at the Top 10 and a shot at the win, so this one came out of nowhere.”

Palaniuk overcame a Day 1 penalty of 2 pounds, 4 ounces for inadvertently making a cast with six fish — one more than his legal limit — in his livewell. He self-reported the infraction.

Once again, he called an audible and moved to a completely different area as the final hours went by on Championship Sunday. Shortly after arriving there, Palaniuk caught a lucky break that he exploited when he saw a big fish blow up just out of casting range. Idling toward the commotion, he spotted a brush pile he had not found earlier in the week.

“I tied up a drop shot and caught a giant on 10-pound test,” Palaniuk said. “I caught my other limit fish on the drop shot, but I ended up culling them out later.”

The largemouth weighing 7 pounds, 2 ounces, made the difference in the win.

“Winning the blue trophies never gets old,” he said. “What a great year during these challenging times.”

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