In his two previous Elite Series tournaments on the Sabine River, Brandon Palaniuk finished 90th in 2013 and 101st in 2015. After Day 1 this week, there was Palaniuk, near his usual Sabine River spot in the standings, 80th place.
The fact that he made today's Top 12 final put a big smile on Palaniuk's face Saturday. "This was the tournament I was looking forward to the least on the schedule," he said. "Just fishing (Saturday) was a bonus. Making a Top 12 was even better."
If the 2017 Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year has a chance to repeat at the end of this season, Palaniuk's rally at the Sabine will have been a key. He made the Top 50 cut after two days, by 4 ounces, in 47th place. Then he made the Top 12 cut in a tiebreaker for 12th place with Bobby Lane, after both finished with 28-1.
At the halfway point in the season, Palaniuk has worked his way up the AOY standings from 72nd after the first event at Lake Martin to no worse than 26th place, and maybe a few places higher, after a Top 12 at the Sabine.
"On Day 1, I burned 9 1/2 gallons of fuel," Palaniuk said Saturday. "Yesterday I burned about 6 1/2 gallons, and today I probably burned about 10. My whole deal was maximizing time. I've made some long runs here before and it bit me. I knew it would be tough, so I just wanted to keep my baits in the water."
Palaniuk is in 7th place at 10 a.m. today with 4 bass weighing 4-12, according to BASSTrakk.