Heat Up Early Spring with Brandon Palaniuk

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story by Dan O’Sullivan – photos by Dan O’Sullivan and Jason Duran

It’s safe to say that Hayden, Id. pro Brandon Palaniuk has made a quick start on the Bassmaster scene. In winning the 2010 Bass Nation National Championships, then a top five at the 2011 Bassmaster Classic and following it up by re-qualifying for the Classic as a Rookie, and an Elite Series win at Bull Shoals in his sophomore year last season.

HeatUpEarlySpringPlaniukClassicLaunchIronically, Palaniuk believes in getting a fast start on the fishing season as well. Considering that his home state of Idaho features lake water that was snow 15 minutes ago, getting off to a fast start is an especially valuable thing.

“From my experience, fish move more in the springtime with water levels than they do water temperature,” he said. “We’ve all been taught that the water temperature is what triggers bass movement, and to a point that is right, but early spring water flows seem to trigger movements before water temperature does.”

He offers some tips for anglers getting out in the early spring looking to get in a little action.

Water Types
Palaniuk said that he breaks down bodies of water into two different types, stable and falling water and rising water levels. This distinction will help him base his decision on how to approach the fishing for the day. He said he has two examples from which to draw on.

“My home lakes, Coeur d’Alene and Hayden get a lot of runoff in the spring that makes the level rise,” he said. “The runoff is all snow melt an it is cool water, but I still catch fish in the shallows.”

On the other hand, his win at bull Shoals was the other scenario, stable or falling water. “Fish in a stable environment, or even worse, a falling water level take longer to get into their spawning modes,” he said. “These fish tend to stay deeper, in between areas before committing to their spawning areas.”

Where They Hold
Palaniuk said that fish in a rising water situation often move all the way back into the newly flooded brush and shoreline grasses. His belief is that the bass get a sense of increased oxygen levels in the new influx of water and they follow that and the baitfish that are doing the same thing. “I believe that this is more important than the water temperature,” he said. “I often see fish in low to mid 40’s degree water all the way back in the creeks in the flooded brush, then find them further out in the creek for the actual spawn after the water levels have stabilized.”

On stable or falling water lakes, Palaniuk said that he starts looking in between spawning and wintering HeatUpEarlySpringPlaniukClassicPracticeareas to transition areas that fish tend to settle into before the spawn. “These areas are structural features such as points, humps and channel bends leading into the creek mouths,” he said.

Usually, the larger fish will remain there until they feel like everything has stabilized enough to make their moves into shallower spawning areas.”

How to Capitalize
Remembering that the water is still cold, Palaniuk chooses lures that can appeal to the fish in those situations. In the rising water situation, he looks to use baits that will be efficient in shallow water. “I like a big double Colorado bladed Terminator T2 spinnerbait in chartreuse and white,” he said. “That’s for when the fish are in a chasing mode, but if they are really tight to cover, then I Flip and pitch a Terminator Pro Series jig with the old school pork trailer on it.” These are items he can fish close to cover, yet still move quickly until he locates pods of bass.

He tosses the spinnerbait on a 7′ medium-heavy Abu Garcia Veritas Rod with a 6.4:1 retrieve Revo PRemier reel and 15-pound-test Berkley Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon. He uses the same reel, increases the line size to 20-pound-test or 65-pound-test Spiderwire Ultracast braid and uses a 7’6″ medium-heavy Veritas for the jig.

On the deeper fish, he prefers to target them with a Rapala DT 10, 14 or 16 crankbait depending on the depth. If he fires the school up and they eat the crankbait repeatedly, he will stay with that. If, hoever, he locates a school of quality fish on the crankbait, and they slow down, he turns to a football jig to extract extra bites from the school.

He uses a 7’6″ medium-heavy Veritas cranking rod and a Revo Winch reel with a 5.4:1 retrieve and 10 to 12-pound test Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon for the crankbaits, and the same setup as the Flip and Pitch jig for the football jig but uses 15-pound-test Fluorocarbon for the football jig.

Tips for Success
Palaniuk had two final pieces of information for anglers wanting to capitalize on early spring fish. The first is stay tight to cover and structure.

HeatUpEarlySpringPlaniukClassicBass“Because it’s cold, bass are going to want to be close to something that holds heat,” he said. “Throw spinnerbaits and jigs close to brush a rocks in the shallows, and bang the rocks with the crankbaits and football jigs. Those actions will help trigger strikes from cold water bass.”

He also reiterated that it is best to keep moving. “I know we have to move our lures slowly in cold water, but try not to sit still on one place for too long,” he said. “Keep moving, find fish that will strike and you could really produce a lot of action in a hurry.”