Palaniuk learned his lesson

Brandon Palaniuk is on pace to maintain his lead in the Toyota Angler of the Year race.  BASSTrakk currently shows him with 16-14 today and in second place overall. As has been mentioned repeatedly, Palaniuk would complete a remarkable feat if he rallies from his 105th-place finish at Lake Okeechobee to win the AOY title.

The previous worst finish for an AOY winner was Aaron Martens’ 85th-place at the Sabine River in 2015. You might recall that Keith Combs’ 90th-place finish at Bull Shoals/Norfork kept him from making a serious charge at Gerald Swindle last year.

“Honestly, I think it was a blessing in disguise,” said Palaniuk, when asked yesterday about Okeechobee. “I had probably the best practice I’ve ever had down there. I really thought I could catch ‘em. But I never put it together during the tournament. And it was so obvious – the adjustments I needed to make. I was just hard-headed and never made them.”

Palaniuk’s adjustments have been spot-on since. His second-worst finish this season is 18th at Ross Barnett. In the other five Elite Series events, Palaniuk has finished 12th at Cherokee Lake, 5th at Toledo Bend, 1st at Sam Rayburn, 12th at Lake Dardanelle and 3rd at the St. Lawrence River. 

Jones on the move

Alton Jones of Lorena, Texas, is making a quick move up BASSTrakk.
Jones made another move and quickly caught a 3 pound 12 ounce
largemouth and later a 1 pound bass. Though he is currently showing
zero in BASSTrakk, Jones has four keepers for about 9 pounds. That
would move him from 63rd in BASSTrakk to 26th.

As of yesterday Jones was 21st in Toyota Angler of the Year points.
This is his 243rd Bassmaster tournament and he's been in the money 159
times. Jones has earned $2.6 million in Bassmaster prize money. And he
has the distinction of fishing against his son Alton Jones Jr. this
year.  It is Jr.'s rookie season.

In Wheeler's wheelhouse

It’s only a hunch but a good one.

Jacob Wheeler has the lead according to BASSTrakk. Wheeler prides himself, and rightfully so, on the uncanny ability to dial into offshore smallmouth holding on isolated objects. Rocks come to mind. So do angles.

Angles as in lining up a bait presentation to specifically cross a particular rock. You might not think it’s a big deal, but think about how smallmouth gravitate toward the shady side of a single rock in extremely clear water and sunny conditions. Sometimes moving the lure on the sunny side is a bust. Get it on the shady side, or even the side nearest a deep water drop and you bet bit.

Wheeler has proven that several times this season. Namely, at the first event on Cherokee Lake, where he won fishing offshore and lining up his casts to cross the strike zone on a given piece of cover.

I recall interviewing him there and elsewhere. When you can describe with detail, like he can, how a smallmouth (or largemouth) is relating to a particular object, and duplicate it into a pattern, that is very impressive.

Photographer Garrick Dixon just arrived on his spot. So we have a gallery to look forward to later today. Until then here is a video shot by Garrick.

Palaniuk culling

Paliniuk adds a cull fish.  He said it had a crappie jig and broken line in its mouth.  He said he just needs to cull one more for a big sack.

Jones adds 2-pounder

Alton Jones finally departed the area where he spent the first two and a half hours of the day and only caught one two-pound bass. He moved about a half mile and quickly caught a two-pound largemouth. That gave him about 4 pounds for the day. If that weight was added to BASSTrakk he'd move up to in approximately 50th place. With only two keepers he has plenty of room to move up.

Before the move Jones got testy when Mike Iaconelli started fishing about 300 yards away. Jones asked him to leave and Iaconelli declined. That interaction may have been a sign of Jones growing frustration with his slow morning.

Update on Alton Jones

We're now following Alton Jones who is fishing up north on this giant lake. Jones started the day in second place and has fallen all the way to 59th place in BASSTrakk, which show him with zero today. He actually has one 2-pounder in the livewell. Which would move him up to 55.

Jones told us he moved to this area about noon yesterday and did well here. "I'm going to be pretty patient here today," he said. Since we've been watching him, Jones has also caught two pike here.

Decision time for Kriet

As noted in an earlier blog today, Todd Faircloth made a great decision to go north instead of south on Lake Champlain yesterday. Jeff Kriet is facing one of those make-or-break decisions now. He's got a 13-pound, 11-ounce limit, but he's caught only seven fish this morning, and none lately. It has him wondering if it's time to move.

At 8:45 this morning, after he'd filled a limit, he was optimistic, saying, "I caught all my good ones after 10 o'clock yesterday."

But at 10 o'clock today, you heard Kriet questioning how long he was going to stay near the railroad bridge cut-through where he caught an estimated 50 fish and 15 or more over three pounds yesterday.

This is one of those decisions that tournament anglers talk about all the time: Should I stay or should I go.

Champlain vs. St. Lawrence

There were 20 bags over 20 pounds on Day 1 last week in the Elite Series event on the St. Lawrence River. There were three yesterday on Day 1 at Lake Champlain. But don’t be deceived by that fact. A closer comparison of these two northern New York waters indicates they fished remarkably the same on the first day.

St. Lawrence Champlain
Total bass weighed-in 537 539
Total weight 1,855-1 1,732-12
Average weight per bass 3.45 lbs. 3.21 lbs.
Big bass 6-1 6-1
Limits caught 105 107
Bags of 20 lbs. or more 20 3
Bags of 18 lbs. or more 50 50
Bags of 14 lbs. or more 91 88
Bags of 12 lbs. or more 99 105

The quality of the largemouth fishery in Lake Champlain helps it keep pace with the world-class smallmouth bass fishery that is the St. Lawrence River. Kevin VanDam’s Day 1 big bass at the St. Lawrence was a 6-1 smallmouth; Todd Faircloth’s big bass yesterday here was a 6-1 largemouth.

Lane using the shadows

Lane is culling up using the shadows of boats, chains and concerts blocks that hold post spawn smallmouth. No giants yet, but every once counts.

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