I've seen this leaderboard before. It was about a year ago on Lake Michigan out of Green Bay. Brandon Palaniuk was leading on the final day, and Jonathon VanDam was second. Palaniuk led by three ounces after three days, and JVD ran him down in the finals to claim his first Elite win.
A lot was different about that tournament. The biggest thing was the margin going into the finals. Palaniuk led by just three ounces. When it was over, VanDam had won by more than two pounds.
A lot was the same about that tournament, too. Most notably, it was a smallmouth event with lots of big catches. It took almost 80 pounds to win. Along with Palaniuk and JVD, Aaron Martens, Ott DeFoe and Bernie Schultz were in the top 12. They're all fishing again tomorrow here at the St. Lawrence.
As the finalists were about to take the stage and be announced to the big crowd on hand here in Waddington, I watched Palaniuk walk up to JVD, slap him on the shoulder and jokingly say, "Don't beat me this time!"
Today, the B.A.S.S. High School Elite Experience kicked into full gear here in Waddington, N.Y. This is a program where high school anglers get to spend time with Elite Series pros, B.A.S.S. staff and sponsors. It's a fantastic opportunity to learn how to catch more fish, and to learn about bass fishing at its highest level.
B.A.S.S. Nation director Jon Stewart, who runs the program, introduced an enthusiastic group of high schoolers to the pros this morning, including Pete Ponds, Brandon Card, Chip Porche', Matt Herren, Jamie Horton, Jeff Kriet, Todd Faircloth and Casey Ashley. These pros all committed a big chunk of time to these young anglers.
Seigo Saito and Mark Hicks have been on the water with Brandon Palaniuk all day. They just let us know that Palaniuk is on the way back with at least 18 pounds of bass, based on what he's been culling. The marshal has had Palaniuk's BASSTrakk unit all day, but has been sitting way off so his weight for Palaniuk is probably a bigger guess than our cameramen. We'll see in about two and a half hours. Regardless, Palaniuk is making the long run in, and the rest of the field still has time to catch up.
Greenblatt and marshal J3 Hansen having a blast catching smallies.
Browning racing his way to climb the leaderboard
Photo by Dwayne Sawyer
Pirates Weekend, a big annual party in Alexandria Bay, is a concern for Palaniuk. The weekend boat traffic on the St. Lawrence River always makes for a rough boat ride. Pirates Weekend will churn up the water more than normal.
Brandon figures he needs to start back around noon to ensure he gets back. That was 15 minutes ago.
Palaniuk makes one last move and fishes a shallow point with a jerkbait and a drop shot before packing it in. No bites there. I don't envy the cameraman riding with him.
A couple of updates. One, the BASSTrakk phone for Edwin Evers had not checked in since 7 a.m. Trying to resolve that issue and get an update on Evers, but cell service is spotty on the water. Also, Cliff Pirch has around 16 to 17 pounds, but his weight isn't registering on BASSTrakk at the time being. Unofficially he's sitting in 2nd place.
Just caught a quick word with Clifford Pirch as he prepared to make another move here in the sight of Robert Moses Dam, the eastern boundary of the tournament waters. Even though Pirch had 22 pounds by this time yesterday, he hasn't lost faith.
"The wind may have moved them around some," Pirch said, "but they're still here."
Pirch has been targeting structure in depths of about 25 feet.
Our boat driver, Dean Meckes, is a veteran of these waters. Well, not exactly these waters. We are farther east than Meckes has ever been on the St. Lawrence River. In fact. Meckes just got a surprise when he looked on his Lowrance GPS and saw waypoints that he'd stored from fishing Lake Champlain. We were only 75 miles, as the crow flies, from the north end of Champlain.