KVD with a long dry spell

Kevin VanDam has gone about an hour without a keeper. He still has two smallmouth for about five pounds in his livewell. KVD has moved around several times, telling us at one point that the fish have scattered since he was here in practice.

I'm in the boat with two photographers today, Gettys Brannon and Ken Golub, who is also serving as our boat driver. So we should get a good picture or two.

Palaniuk gets a good one

Finally! Palaniuk managed to get a good one in the boat. He fought it seemingly forever on his light spinning gear, taking no chances. This one weighs about 3 pounds, although it isn't quite the size of the two he missed. 

He's catching small ones fairly regularly but they won't help. He's digging in his rod locker now, looking for a setup that draws bigger bites. 

The Comeback Kid

These fish are hurting my feelings," Brandon Palaniuk yelled across the water a minute ago. He has lost two big bass of the sort he needs to hang on to the AOY lead here, and he just missed another one.

Steve Bowman, the photographer I'm teamed with today, encouraged him with the comment, "It will turn around soon."

He has three keepers in the boat now and hopes all will be replaced.

Bowman pointed out that when Palaniuk does well, he often finds enough big bass to overcome his ill-timed miscues.

"At Bull Shoals he had to have a hook removed from his hand and still won," Bowman. "At Waddington he lost several big fish and won. And at Texas Fest this year he lost an 8- or 9-pounder at the boat and still won."

So don't count Palaniuk out just yet.

6-lber is a giant here

James Niggemeyer caught a 5-pounder at 7:49 today, according to BASSTrakk, and that's a difference-maker on Lake Champlain.

"It's just so hard to get over a 6-pounder here," said Timmy Horton. "The day I had 24-12 (on Day 2 in 2007), I didn't have a fish over 5-5. They were all cookie-cutters. I think Takahiro (Omori) had the big bass in that tournament, a 5-15."

Horton had two bags over 20 pounds in his 2007 Elite Series win on Champlain when he totaled 83-10 over four days. Skeet Reese finished second in that event with a four-day total of 70-13.

Photo by Bassmaster Marshal Greg Hammond

Palaniuk's career highlights

I don't get to cover many of these Elite Series events, but I have been fortunate to witness most of Palaniuk's finest hours.

I saw him win the 2012 elite bull Shoals Lake in Arkansas. I was also at the 2013 Elite at La Crosse that he would have won except for an accidental rules infraction. He redeemed himself the following week by winning the 2013 Elite on the St. Lawrence River at Waddington, N.Y. I missed that one. 

But I was there in May this year when he won the Toyota Bassmaster Texas Fest benefiting Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. 

Will this be another fine hour for Palaniuk?

Cozy on Champlain

Check out this unedited photo sent to me by photographer Garrick Dixon. The reason why he sent this is the community hole vibe going on there.

Garrick told me there are six boats on this spot, actually a well-known community hole. All of the boats are within a cast of each other.

Key to the area is wind-blown current and a natural flow between two very large islands.

There will likely be more of this scene on Day 2, after the forecasted winds shift to the north.

KVD with two keepers

Kevin VanDam just put his second keeper into the livewell. Together they weigh about five pounds. KVD is all by himself in an area that is sheltered and calm. After last week's win KVD sits third in the Toyota Angler of the Year race. He's just 17 points behind leader Brandon Palaniuk.

Palaniuk and AOY pangs

After watching Brandon Palaniuk lose a four-pounder at boat side, it brought back thoughts he shared with me yesterday.

The topic was Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year and the fact he leads a very tight point race.

“I don’t ever look at the points until the end of the season.”

Palaniuk learned a hard lesson several years ago after bombing in a tournament. He decided to calculate the points and pounds needed to recover from the bad finish to qualify for the world championship. It didn’t work. He fished for placing, not catching.

For the first time in his career he now leads the race.

That is why there is a LIVE camera in Palaniuk’s boat. The reality is unavoidable. So is losing that four-pounder. You’ve got to think that AOY is on his mind.

Palaniuk's fish keep coming unbuttoned

Our assignment this morning is to camp around Brandon Palaniuk for a while and see if he is catching any decent fish. He has been working his chosen flat for 30 minutes before our arrival, give or take.

At this point he has two keepers and lost a 4-pounder, as you may have read elsewhere in the blog. Just now another big bass came unbuttoned. 

Palaniuk, who will turn 30 in about three months, is of course the front runner in a very tight Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year race this year.

He is a force to be reckoned with on any smallmouth fishery, but so are some of the other anglers who are breathing down his neck in the AOY race.

Palaniuk has 621 points for the lead, followed by Casey Ashley with 613, Kevin VanDam with 604, Jason Christie with 594, and Jacob Wheeler with 582.

G Man's restart tactic

BASSTrakk shows Gerald Swindle in the lead with a limit weighing 12 pounds, 8 ounces.

This morning I asked him about his process for restarting after a day off. What will he do different?

The G Man said not much.

“I will just roll over into today everything I planned to do yesterday. I didn’t retie anything, think about doing anything different.”

Looks like it’s paying off. And then he ended the conversation with this quote.

“I’m just going to go out there and try to catch 18 pounds.”

Swindle hopes to carry over the momentum from last week at the St. Lawrence River, where he finished 10th.