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Brandon Palaniuk Catches Keeper Bass on the Flats

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.

bass baits

I caught most of my bass during the Bassmaster Elite Series tournament at Santee Cooper on a wide variety of baits, primarily in 4-6 foot deep water. I was punching hyacinths and salvinia mats with a large mix of soft-plastic lures. But my primary lure was an X-Zone Muscle Back Finesse Craw in the black-blue-laminate color. To get that bait through the mats on the lake, I fished a 1-1/4-ounce sinker. My hook was a No. 3/0 VMC Heavy Duty Flipping Hook. My rod was a 7’9” Extra Heavy Alpha Angler Mag Hitter, and my reel was a Daiwa Zillion HD 7.3:1 gear ratio. 

The bass were in their late-summer/fall transition, moving from deep water to shallow water or the other way from shallow water to deep water, depending on the water and the weather conditions. I found that numbers of bream and shad were holding around and under the grass mats. Because bigger largemouths are ambush feeders, they moved under those mats for a safe haven and to locate ambush points to attack bait fish.  

Another pattern that also produced bass I weighed in during this tournament were ones I caught on flats using a white bladed jig and a jerkbait. A white jig shows up better when the water’s dirty or stained, and on the flats where I caught the bass, the water was stained from the wind action. Santee Cooper had a somewhat tannic color to it, and the wave action made that water muddier. I located some scattered grass and stumps on some of these flats. The jerkbait and the bladed jig seemed to produce the best for me there when fishing these areas.

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