The Go-To For Brandon Palaniuk

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9/26/2011 – As each fishing day begins, anglers who have done their homework have a sense of hope. They’ve practiced and given a lot of thought to their game plan. Their rods are rigged and as the tournament director calls their boat number; they venture out in an attempt to duplicate the effectiveness of their practice.
With any luck, the practice plan will work out, and with a little skill and mental toughness slight adjustments will be made and the result will be a heavy bag brought back to the scales.

BPalaniukClassicMediaDayThe above is the perfect scenario. What usually occurs for many of us is that we never truly found anything in practice that we feel is a solid plan. Or, even if we did find a great program, someone else found it and got there first, or the plan falls apart because of weather or some other variable.

The everyday angler is not the only one that experiences those kinds of circumstances. Sometimes the best anglers in the world find themselves scratching their heads. One of those anglers who admits to having a backup plan at the ready every time he hits the water is Rathdrum, Idaho pro Brandon Palaniuk.

In his rookie year on the Bassmaster Elite Series Palaniuk showed that he more than capable of consistently bringing bass to the scales. The world had already seen that he could bring big sacks; when he won the 2010 Bassmaster Federation Nation National Championship on the Red River, then again when he impressively battled for a top five finish at the 2011 Bassmaster Classic.

Palaniuk said he keeps a “go to rig” at the ready for when his primary and backup plans go away. “There are times during a tournament that you can’t seem to buy a bite on the patterns that you thought you’d established in practice,” said Palaniuk. “For those times, I always have a rod setup with a rig that I know I can get a bite on, and if I need to; I pick it up.”

BPalaniukClassicDayOnePairThe “Oh No!” Rig
Like many anglers with Western roots, Palaniuk believes in downsizing his offerings when things get tough. With that in mind, Palaniuk can often be found in those instances with a spinning rod and reel in his hands. The reason he picks up spinning gear is because when things get tough, he turns to an abbreviated drop shot rig.

Palaniuk believes that from the spawn through the fall, there is a significant population of bass that remain shallow, and when they won’t bite traditional offerings, he makes it easy on them. “Bass will eat small minnows just about any time,” he said. “I try to mimic that by throwing a rig that makes them think they are eating a small baitfish.”

His offering is a shortened drop shot rig with a particular lure that he believes mimics an easy snack. He uses a 6’10” Fenwick Elite Tech Drop Shot rod and an Abu Garcia Revo Premier spinning reel. He used to spool his reel full of 8-pound-test Berkley Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon; however, when he experienced Berkley’s new Nanofil, he switched to that new line with a six foot leader of the fluorocarbon. “Nanofil really casts well and adds great feel to the rig,” he said. “I tie a double uni-knot to splice the lines, and tie my hook and sinker to the fluorocarbon leader.”

BPalaniukClassicIdleHe said he uses a standard split shot / drop shot style hook and he starts with a 3/16-ounce Eco Pro Tungsten dropshot weights on an eight to ten-inch leader and goes up a size every 10 feet of depth. Finally, he attaches a 4”Berkley Heavyweight Fat Sink Worm to the hook.

Shallow is Best
Palaniuk said that he has caught fish on his go to rig in deep water, but that he prefers to use it in water 15-feet or shallower during the seasons from spawn to the fall. “From my experience, bass tend to stay shallow and they respond to small baits when things are tough,” he said. “So, I tend to keep this in fairly shallow water.”

How to fish it
Palaniuk said that he casts the rig around the shallows and drags back towards the boat anywhere he feels there are fish in the area. He tends to allow the mood of the fish dictate his retrieve speed; the slower the bite, the slower the retrieve.

Because he is dealing with a situation where bass seem to be in a foul mood, the retrieve is slow all of the time; however, sometimes he has to really slow down. When that is the case, he rigs the Fat Sinkworm wacky style, but he typically nose hooks the worm to mimic the lazy swimming action of a minnow.

BPalaniukClassicFans“I pull the rig along the bottom slowly back towards the boat,” he said. “But, if I feel like there are fish in the area, I will shake it for as long as a minute. I usually get bites within the first two casts and I like to keep moving forward so that I can present the lure to as many bass as I can.”

He bases the color choice by the clarity of the water, but he said he only uses one of two colors. In clear water he chooses watermelon with red flake, and in dirtier water, he opts for green pumpkin. “Watermelon red has a great translucent quality that works in clear to lightly stained water,” said Palaniuk. “Green pumpkin is a great color anywhere, and I really like it in stained to dirty water.”

Real World Results
He revealed that he used the rig several times in national competition the past couple of years. During his rookie year on the Bassmaster Elite Series he said the rig was used in both of the tour’s first two stops in 2011, and that he used it in his 33rd place finish at the Lake Norman Southern Open.

He used it in conjunction with a swimbait while winning the FLW Tour event at Lake Norman in 2010 as a Co-Angler, and he used it along with a Super Spook while fishing the 2010 Bass Fishing League All American on DeGray Lake in Arkansas; an event he finished in seventh place.

BPalaniukClassicUpstage“I don’t necessarily want to have to use this rig, but it is tied on all the time and in the rod locker,” he said. “It has been the difference between cashing checks and not cashing checks for me. I also don’t want people to think I don’t catch big fish on it either, I’ve caught fish over eight pounds on it from my home lake; Lake Coeur d’Alene in Idaho.

“It’s a great rig to have at the ready, it gives me a ton of confidence, and I know I can always fall back on it if I need to.”