ROGERSVILLE, Tenn. — If you park at a boat ramp in broad daylight with several other vehicles around and lock your truck down tight, you should be safe from burglars, right?
That’s what Brandon Palaniuk thought, too.
“I went fishing out on this little lake north of Cherokee Lake with Trait Crist and Chris Zaldain,” said the Bassmaster Elite Series pro. “We left the boat ramp at 8:30 in the morning. At 12:30, Chris went back to his truck to get something. He called me and said, ‘You might want to come back to the ramp. Your tailgate’s open. I think someone broke into your truck.’”
Sure enough, someone had. And the thieves took about $7,000 worth of fishing gear.
“They’re not even fishermen,” said Palaniuk of the criminals. “I could tell based on what they took. They stole my Bass Mafia tackleboxes, which are red and black so you can’t see what’s in them. They left all the clear boxes, where they could see that there were soft plastics in there. They didn’t take my power tools or my Humminbird, but they did take my spare transducers and wiring, along with a small suitcase that had all my Simms cold-weather gear.
“Trait’s truck was right next to mine, and it wasn’t even locked,” said Palaniuk about the June 1 robbery. “None of her stuff was touched.
“I had just restocked all of my Rapala and Storm products, about $3,600 worth,” said Palaniuk. “Every time I’m in my truck, I realize something else is missing. They just took so much.”
In all, the thieves took approximately 1,000 hard baits, leaving only two of the Bass Mafia boxes that were harder to reach.
Palaniuk said the police acknowledged they’d had problems in this area before and suspected it was drug-related activity.
Thankfully, the only actual damage they did to the vehicle was break a piece of his truck cap, and A.R.E. Truck Caps is bringing a replacement piece for him to Chickamauga during BASSfest. Also, Rapala and Storm have helped him replace everything he would need so he would be set up for this week’s tournament.
But some things you just can’t replace, and that’s what hurts Palaniuk the most.
“I had lots of baits that aren’t made anymore and others that have sentimental value, like the crankbait I was using on the Mississippi River before I got DQ’ed,” said Palaniuk. “That’s the biggest bummer. I can’t get those back.”
Palaniuk felt like he was secure, with his truck locked and in a public area during the day.
“I don’t know what I could have done,” he said.
“I guess I need to hook up some crazy alarm system where, if someone touches my truck, all my Rigid lights start flashing,” he said with a laugh.
“All I can say is, just be cautious of where you park. You just never know.”