BULL SHOALS, Ark. — Brandon Card is 26. Brandon Palaniuk is 25. Other than the obvious — their close ages and first names — these two young guns of the Bassmaster Elite Series have at least one more thing in common: Their next stop on the Elite Series schedule, Bull Shoals Lake, reminds them of home waters.
That’s a good thing. Such connections provide a built-in confidence as they approach the April 18-21 Ramada Quest, the third of eight stops of the regular Elite season.
For Card, who is from Caryville, Tenn., the home connection is Norris Lake in northeastern Tennessee.
“I have a lot of confidence on Bull Shoals,” he said. “It looks like my home lake; it fishes the same way for me.”
For Palaniuk, Bull Shoals brings to mind of a number of lakes at home in Idaho and in Washington state.
“There are certain lakes where you feel comfortable, where you just understand how the lake works. I’ve only fished Bull Shoals once, so it’s hard to say I understand how it works, but I feel there are a lot of similarities between that lake and lakes I grew up fishing at home,” said Palaniuk, whose home base is Rathdrum, Idaho.
Neither Brandon had ever seen Bull Shoals before the Elite Series first went there a year ago, but both found success. Palaniuk won; Card finished 18th.
It was Palaniuk’s first Elite victory, and he pulled it off by a margin of close to 12 pounds. Now he’s poised to capitalize on a unique opportunity to double-up on Quest trophies, to pull off a rare repeat of an Elite win on the same body of water in consecutive years.
Card also has a Ramada Quest goal no one else can claim: To build on his early but slim lead of two points in the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year race. If Card can hold on, he’d be able to start dreaming of a back-to-back pairing of an AOY title with the Bassmaster Rookie of the Year title he won last year.
He knows such dreams would be premature after only two events of the eight that will determine the 2013 AOY.
“I’m approaching each tournament one by one,” Card said. “It’s still way too early to put pressure on yourself about Angler of the Year. But, sure, I want to stay up there.”