BULL SHOALS, Ark. — Brandon Palaniuk was the last angler to launch his boat for the Bassmaster Elite Series TroKar Quest on Bull Shoals Lake today, and he was the last to weigh-in, but his Day One finish was first with a catch of 21 pounds, 9 ounces. That included the Carhartt Big Bass of the day, a 5-pound, 11-ounce largemouth.
Palaniuk will take the lead at launch tomorrow, but he started Day One with some trepidation.
“Being the last boat out, I was a little bit nervous about where I was going to start,” Palaniuk said. “I ran to the first place, and I didn’t really have anything going. I started jumping around. The next spot I went to, I caught one about 3 pounds. I was still thinking and deciding if I was doing the right thing and then at the next spot, I pulled up and caught that 5-11 and then a 5 1/2-pounder. Then I knew I was doing the right deal, and just ground it out all day.”
Using a technique he found in practice, Palaniuk boated the five bass that put him in the lead, including mostly fat prespawners.
“I’m running around, covering a lot of water, fishing a lot of different stuff. Just kind of junk fishing so far, which is kind of a scary deal but I’m hoping it will hold up,” Palaniuk said.
Palaniuk hopes that momentum will carry through the tournament.
“It’s huge, it’s everything,” Palaniuk said. “In this sport it’s so mental. Once you catch that first big one, it lets you know you’re kind of doing the right thing. Then you catch another big one, and it kind of compounds. It gives you that much more confidence to keep doing the same thing throughout the day.”
Palaniuk said the second round Friday may require a different approach. Conditions were sunny and calm today, and he saw improved water clarity from practice days. But with rain coming in and temperatures dropping overnight, he plans to make adjustments as he goes.
“When I caught that big one today, I wasn’t real calm, I was jacked up,” Palaniuk said. “But it’s important to stay calm so you can make those adjustments. You can’t be really bull headed and stubborn and try to make something work when it’s not.”
Matt Herren of Trussville, Ala., took the second spot on Day 1 with 20-13. Cliff Pace of Petal, Miss., is in third with 19-10.
“I had a heck of a day,” Herren said. “I probably caught about 25 keepers. I’ve been on a pretty good bite all week, but everything started coming together this morning. I settled down in one area and found another area that seemed to hold up just as well. I wish it would stay hot and sunny like it was today. We might have rain tomorrow, and it might be all right or it might not.”
Pace, who reeled in about 30 fish throughout the day, said he exceeded his expectations in an event that’s all about “getting good quality bites.” He got a couple of bonus bites that helped him inch closer to the 20-pound mark and has plenty of water he tried out in practice that he didn’t have time to get to today.
“If you catch two 5-pounders here, that gets you well quick,” Pace said. “It’s a pattern deal. One thing about fishing a pattern you’ve got to keep hustling and keep going and hope you come across those bigger fish. There’s guys who did what I did today and weren’t catching quality bites. But I got fortunate and got some of them.”
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.
The public is invited to the official TroKar Quest weigh-ins, which take place 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.
Coverage at Bassmaster.com will continue each day. Fans have free, full access to live streaming video, real-time leaderboards, results, reports and photo galleries. On Saturday and Sunday, the War Room feature will provide updates from the water along with analysis and commentary.
2012 Bassmaster Elite Series Official Sponsors: Toyota, Bass Pro Shops, Berkley, Evan Williams Bourbon, Humminbird, Mercury, MinnKota, Nitro Boats, Skeeter Boats, Triton Boats, Yamaha
2012 Bassmaster Elite Series Supporting Sponsor: BOOYAH, Carhartt, Lowrance, Luck “E” Strike, Power-Pole, Ramada
2012 Bassmaster Elite Series Proud Partner: Mustang Survival