BULL SHOALS, Ark. — It was a good news/bad news Friday for Brandon Palaniuk, who emerged as the leader Thursday in the Bassmaster Elite Series TroKar Quest at Bull Shoals Lake.
The good news? Palaniuk has close to 20 pounds of bass in his boat livewells, to go with his 21-9 from Thursday.
The bad news? The Rathdrum, Idaho, angler left the lake at 11:20 a.m. Friday for a trip to Mountain Home's Baxter Regional Medical Center emergency room in order to get a hook removed from his left pinky finger.
"If this was the last day, I'd still be fishing," said Palaniuk, after motoring up to the Bull Shoals Lake Boat Dock. "But I've got two more days, so I'd rather get this taken care of."
At the conclusion of today's 3:15 p.m. weigh-in, the 99-man field will be cut to 50 for Saturday. Only the top 12 will advance to Sunday's final. If Palaniuk does have 20 pounds – and if he doesn't, it's close – he'll be in great position to be fishing on Sunday.
There was also some good news within the bad news for the 24-year-old Palaniuk. His injury didn't come without a reward — he landed a 5- to 6-pound largemouth when one barb of a crankbait treble hook went into his finger. Getting hooked and losing the big bass would have been a real bummer.
"I'd never been hooked past the barb in my life," Palaniuk said. "Yesterday I got hooked past the barb and got it out. Then there's this one today."
Palaniuk said he got the hook in his finger while catching the fish around 9 a.m. He tried to push the hook barb through the skin for about a half hour, but couldn't do it. He then fished for another hour before deciding he wanted to get it taken care of.
When he came to the dock, only a small section of the hook tip was left under his skin between the first and second knuckles on his pinky. He didn't appear to be in any pain, and he didn't mind showing off the female largemouth that anchored his five-bass limit.
Palaniuk was simply being practical about it: He had a good bag for the day, and he needed to get medical attention so he'll be good to go on Saturday.
Palaniuk's Marshal Steve Cruse was left with Palaniuk's boat in a covered stall at the Bull Shoals Lake Boat Dock while Palaniuk took a ride to the emergency room. At least Cruse will be out of the rain that drizzled most of Friday morning.
Dr. Allen Jackson removed the hook in less than 10 minutes and, after talking some fishing, sent him on his way. A smiling Palaniuk with a bandaged pinky is expected to be the first angler across the weigh-in stage at Bull Shoals Lake State Park Pavillion #2 at 3:15 CT this afternoon.