Brandon Palaniuk should still be basking in the glow of his win at Bull Shoals earlier this year. It put him in the Bassmaster Classic and made him $100K richer. Without that one stellar performance, Palaniuk would be having an absolutely miserable year. He's currently 68th in the AOY rankings and his 34th-place finish at Toledo Bend was his second-best of his season.
If Palaniuk doesn't rebound in the final three tournaments, he'll be the lowest ranked Elite Series qualifier ever to go to the Bassmaster Classic. "Win-and-you're-in" is all that's salvaging his season.
Last year, Shaw Grigsby won the season opener on the Harris Chain and punched his Classic ticket before ending the season in 48th place in the AOY standings. All the other tournament winners in 2011 double-qualified by finishing in the Top 28 in the AOY race.
This year, Palaniuk and Ish Monroe (48th in AOY, but the winner on Okeechobee) are singing the praises of win-and-you're-in.