It's a long time between bites for Palaniuk right now. He sets the hook, works the bass halfway to the boat and his rod goes limp. Palaniuk groans. Apparently,it was a big fish. He is sticking with this place diligently. You get the feeling that this is a big fish spot rather than a numbers place. Palaniuk is looking for one more big bite to seal the deal.
Steve Bowman and I just caught up with Josh Bertrand. That's him fishing in the middle of the big, blue St. Lawrence. I'm still amazed at the size of this body of water. Even though I knew it was big. In person it's bigger. Bertrand is fishing in the same area as JVD, Pipkens and Hawk. There's plenty of room for all four guys. And we think Ott DeFoe is not far away. Bertrand just landed his 5th keeper. We're estimating that gives him around 18 pounds so far.
With a bassing average of 4.89 and an average bass of 3.42 pounds, the St. Lawrence River ranks right up there among Elite Series venues over the years. This year, in particular, the St. Lawrence stands out. Only Falcon Lake produced a bigger average fish (4.11 pounds) and a bigger average catch (19.03 pounds), and Falcon is one of the world's great largemouth fisheries.
Jonathon VanDam has culled twice in the last 30 minutes, and they were big time culls. He just took a few minutes to weigh his fish, so he would know which ones to cull next. The total on his scales: 18-12. "That's probably a little light," he said "My scales have been around two ounces off per fish this week. I've got somewhere around 18 or 19 pounds. "Now I need to catch a couple of 5-pounders to give Brandon a run for his money."
Spot number two did not pay off for Palaniuk. He doesn't stay long, and moves to another spot a few miles away. He fishes there for maybe 5 minutes and hooks another good fish. This bass takes forever to come to the boat. Finally, Palaniuk lands a 4-pound bass. That will rid him of his smallest bass, a 3-pounder. You can tell that Palaniuk is getting antsy. He probably has enough bass in the box to wrap this thing up. However, it's more than 100 miles back to Waddington. You can never take anything for granted in a bass tournament.
Aaron Martens' prediction from before the launch this morning appears to be coming true. He figured he would have a hard time finding many more big smallmouth to climb above seventh place, where he sat with 59 pounds at the end of Saturday's weigh-in. "My spots have been hit hard, by me and others," he said. "Two of my best spots had two boats on them at times." He knew he could catch an easy limit of just-keepers, but the 4- and 5-pounders he needs to make it the top have been depleted.
It's a good question. The fishing here has been nothing short of spectacular. Whereas some other venues this year have disappointed or the field has really struggled, the St. Lawrence has exceeded all expectations. After three days, a total of 1,213 bass had been brought to the scales over the course of 248 angler days. That gives this tournament an overall bassing average of 4.89 (the average angler brought 4.89 bass to the scales each day out of a possible 5).
Palaniuk moves. It looks like he went to the place where he started yesterday morning. He stops to check on his bass and it looks like he is fizzing one. Now he's back fishing again. As fast as Palaniuk was catching them first thing this morning, I'm surprised about this lull in the action. I suspect he is too.
Aaron Martens just culled 2-pounder in the livewell. He already caught more than two limits of keepers. He has just backed most 2-pounders into the river without balancing. "No time, no time! I need more pounds, not ounces. No time to cull for ounces."