BULL SHOALS, Ark. — After taking the top spot on Day One of the Bassmaster Elite Series TroKar Quest, Brandon Palaniuk was determined not to relinquish his lead.
Despite hooking his left pinky finger to the bone and taking a trip to the emergency room to have the barb cut out, Palaniuk again brought the biggest bag to the scales with 24 pounds, 4 ounces.
The accident happened early in the day, but by that time, Palaniuk had what he estimated to be a 20-pound, five-fish limit. It was when he caught his big fish of the day, a 5-pound, 15-ounce largemouth, that he was injured.
“I honestly did not think I had 24-4,” Palaniuk said. “When I got that hook jammed in my finger, I was hoping to have at least 20 pounds to keep me up in the Top 5.”
The huge catch – heaviest of the tournament – gave him 45-13 and a commanding lead of exactly 8 pounds.
Palaniuk made a slight adjustment in baits, but he fished the same pattern he did so successfully on Day One – a method he discovered when he caught a 3-1/2 pounder during practice.
“I know the area I’m fishing has a lot of fish,” he said. “There are a few areas I haven’t hit the last two days, so if I need those, I’ll fish those. I’d like to be leading this thing by 30 pounds Sunday if I could.”
Palaniuk got some encouragement from Ish Monroe, wire-to-wire winner of the previous Elite Series tournament on Lake Okeechobee, Fla., last month.
“Ish told me this morning, ‘Don’t give ’em any ground. Put the hammer down,’” Palaniuk said. Interestingly, Monroe is one of the anglers who lost ground against the young Idaho pro. He’s more than 14 pounds behind the leader in 18th place.
Bull Shoals is surprising many anglers with the big bags being brought to weigh-in, and requiring 27-2 to make the Top 50 cut. It exceeded the requirement of 25 pounds, 10 ounces to make the cut at Okeechobee, where monster bass abounded.
With a two-day total of 37-13, Matt Herren is sitting in second place. Herren, of Trussville, Ala., said he’s fishing a crankbait and a Santone M Series jig. The fish are biting well, but he’s constantly adjusting to “dial in to try to catch a big one.”
“I got a limit in 22 minutes today, and I probably caught 30 to 50 fish (during the day) like everybody else. I wasted too much time culling them out. I probably lost an hour and a half total trying to upgrade by ounces.”
Herren recognizes that he has a lot of ground to catch up to surpass the leader.
“I’m going to need Palaniuk to sleep in until about lunch tomorrow to give me a chance to catch back up today, but it’s fishing, and it ain’t over,” Herren said. “Whatever he’s doing could be dynamite, and he could rack up 20 pounds a day, but he could go out there and stumble and catch 10. I’ll take my chances being steady Eddie with 17.”
Bobby Lane of Lakeland, Fla., tested some new fishing spots today, but didn’t really change his pattern. He finished Day Two with 19-12 for a total of 37-7 and third place. He caught a 6-pounder early, and said he “caught the fire out of fish today” with 50 to 70 bites.
“It seems like the bigger ones are biting earlier in the day,” Lane said. “It’s an amazing fishery.”
According to Britt Myers, fourth with 35-3, “Everywhere you went, you caught fish. But I noticed some of the key bites were coming a little bit deeper. When they’re biting so good, you can gamble a little bit and look for those key areas.”
Myers of Lake Wylie, S.C., said he caught and culled 100 fish today.
On Day One, fifth-place angler Scott Rook of Little Rock, Ark., lost several big ones. Today he changed to a larger hook and didn’t lose any fish, bringing in 20 pounds, 12 ounces for a two-day total of 34 pounds, 14 ounces.
“I thought I could catch 20 pounds plus a day,” Rook said. “I did it in practice. I’m running the same pattern every day, but I feel like I shot myself in the foot with those big ones I lost.”
First prize in the TroKar Quest is $100,000 and a qualification for the 2013 Bassmaster Classic. Pros are also fishing to rack up points that count toward postseason entry, Classic qualification and the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year award.
During the weigh-in, several contingency bonuses were presented to anglers for their performance at the Power-Pole Slam on Lake Okeechobee, Fla.:
The public is invited to the official TroKar Quest weigh-ins, which take place throughout the tournament at approximately 3 p.m. CT at Bull Shoals White River State Park at Pavilion #2 & Picnic Area on the east side of Bull Shoals Dam,153 Dam Overlook Lane, Bull Shoals, AR 72619.