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Brandon Palaniuk Catches His Biggest Bass in the Santee Cooper Tournament

provided by John E. Phillips

Mossy Oak Fishing Pro 32-year-old Brandon Palaniuk of Rathdrum, Idaho, just won $100,000 at South Carolina’s Santee Cooper Lake that covers land in five counties, with a total of 72 pounds, 2 ounces. He was fishing the Bassmaster Elite Series tournament held there October 8-11, 2020, and also won $2,000 more from catching the biggest bass on two different tournament days. Fishing in the late summer and early fall can be a frustrating time of year for many bass fishermen to have success.

Brandon Palaniuk

I caught my biggest bass of 7 pounds, 12 ounces, by using my Humminbird Mega 360 feature on my depth finder. I was fishing a flat and spotted a brush pile off to the side of my boat. I could see that bass were concentrating in the brush pile. I held my boat 50 feet away from the brush pile and cast a drop shot rig to it. This bass, the only one I caught on a drop shot rig during the entire tournament, nearly gave me a heart attack. I never had another bite at that brush pile. 

I’d been fishing heavy tackle all week, and I decided to go to a drop shot rig on the final day when I found a brush pile in 7 feet of water. I could see some bass holding there with my electronics. However, there was a problem I had to overcome. The bottom in this section of the lake was covered with a slimy grass. Any lure I cast to fish on the bottom would get hung up in that slime and spook the bass. I needed a way to keep my lure up off the bottom to try to catch those bass in the brush. I knew that the bass on Santee Cooper were highly pressured, so I chose to use a finesse technique to try to catch them. 

Brandon Palaniuk bassI had my green/pumpkin/blue X-Zone Deception Worm about 12 inches up my line from the drop shot weight, allowing the worm to be just above the slimy grass on the bottom. I was fishing this drop shot rig on an Alpha Angler DSR 6’10” medium rod with a Daiwa Exist 3000 reel. I cast that drop shot rig close to the brush. 

When the big bass took that drop shot worm, it went back into the brush and started shaking its head. I realized that bass was wrapped around one of the limbs making up the brush pile. I was going nuts, since I knew I had a big bass on my line, and I realized there was a very good chance that bass would break off in that brush pile. Once I finally got the bass up to the surface, I saw that the bass had broken off part of the limb from the brush pile and had wrapped the line around it.  

So, at this time of the year, plan to fish everything in your tackle box for bass. Fish the cover and the structure in front of you, since the bass are moving so much in the fall. Also remember that not all the bass will be on the same type of cover and in the same water depth at the same time. These characteristics make bass difficult to pattern during this transition time when they’re coming from the deep water to the shallow water and moving back. Too, in the fall, you must be willing to adapt and adjust to various water and wind conditions. 

One of the main keys to my winning the Santee Cooper tournament were my Humminbird electronics. The LakeMaster mapping made a big difference in my ability to navigate between shallow and deep water.

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