Thirty-three-year-old Mossy Oak Fishing Team member Brandon Palaniuk of Hayden, Idaho, has been a bass pro for 9 years and the Angler of the Year and has earned $1.3 million fishing. To learn more about Brandon Palaniuk, visit his Facebook page.
One of the real secrets to winning a tournament is knowing how many ounces the fish in your livewell weigh. Now you don’t have to know the exact pounds and ounces, but what I do is take the smallest fish out of the livewell and hook it up to a balancing beam. Then I take the fish I just caught and put it on the other side. Whichever fish moves up goes back into the lake, and whichever fish goes down goes into my livewell. Throughout the entire tournament, I caught about 60 smallmouths. We only could weigh in five fish a day, so knowing that I’d kept the heaviest five I’d caught which was very important in how I’d place in the tournament. My biggest smallmouth weighed 4 pounds and 8 ounces.
After the tournament, some people asked why didn’t I catch any largemouths. After my practice days, I decided to dedicate myself to catching five big smallmouths each day and thought that choice might give me a chance to win. I didn’t want to split my time up between finding largemouths and smallmouths during practice. Of course, there were several 6-pound plus largemouths caught during the tournament. On the second day, one angler brought in a 6-pound, 2-ounce largemouth, which was the biggest fish of the tournament. I knew that if any competitor could find and catch a big largemouth like that one each day of the tournament, I might not have a chance to win. However, I also knew that getting a 6-pound-largemouth bite every day would be extremely difficult. I knew if I could catch five smallmouths that weighed 19-20 pounds total each day, my average weight at the end of the tournament might give me a chance to win.
I fished about an 8-mile stretch of water each day of the tournament, moving back and forth between different rock piles and boulders to make sure that I caught good-sized smallmouths. I built-up my confidence on the spots where certain underwater rocks consistently would reload with big smallmouths each day. I had 50 places to fish, and I was sure to catch a 4-pound smallmouth in 20 of them. I didn’t always catch good smallmouths from those 20 spots, but I caught them often enough to fish them every day.