Not many anglers thought you could get to Lake Ontario and back four days in a row. It was a 220-mile daily round trip for Palaniuk.
During the Hooked Up session before Sunday's weigh-in, Tommy Sanders asked Keith Combs, who finished 23rd, whether he would have changed his decision to stay in the river, if he had a chance for a do-over.
"It's a huge gamble," Combs said. "I don't know that many guys would have changed (their decisions) and tried to go there all four days."
Palaniuk noted that his best decision was the one he made on Wednesday's final practice day. For the Monday and Tuesday practice days, he had camped in a park near Lake Ontario. He'd found big smallmouth without having to make the run from Waddington. Wednesday, he finalized his plan by making that run on what turned out to be the roughest water of the week.
"There were 8-foot waves at the mouth (of the river)," Palaniuk said. "I'm glad I did that. It gave me the confidence to know I could get there and back."
But it's Pirch, a 37-year-old Payson, Ariz., resident, who looks young enough to pass for 25, sitting atop the Elite Series rookie standings going into St. Clair. With his fourth place finish last week, which was his second straight Top 12 cut, Pirch has a 14-point lead over Cherry in what is essentially a two-man Rookie of the Year race. (Christie is third, 58 points behind.)
In the unofficial contest for most interesting note in the 2013 Bassmaster media guide, Pirch has that title wrapped up, with the following:
"I bought my first truck, a Toyota pickup, with money I made collecting and selling elk antler sheds in high school. Ironically, it was a giant bull elk that led to the truck's demise a few years later when it ran across the highway in front of me."