In following Brandon Palaniuk on the final day at Sam Rayburn, I got a new perspective on how close to the bell an Elite Series angler will play this game. Palaniuk caught what would ultimately be the winning fish, a 5-11, at 2:36 p.m., facing a 3 p.m. check-in time. Then he made another cast, caught another bass that didn't help him.
I thought for sure he was done then. It was only about two miles to the check-in dock, but the wind had raised some big-ass whitecaps between where he was and where he needed to be at 3:00. There's a 1-pound penalty for every minute of tardiness. And it was 2:50. So Palaniuk made another cast.
Of course, Palaniuk didn't know he was in first place, when he finally, finally took off for check-in. We followed at considerably less speed. When we arrived, there was Palaniuk making yet another cast or two in the final minute of his day. I asked Palaniuk yesterday about playing it so close to the penalty line.
"I feel like every cast you make gives you an opportunity," he said. "You never know, even if it's a place around the ramp that I've never fished. You never know when you'll catch one that will help. I've always been a guy that pushes it until the very end."
Then he added this: "I've won way more tournaments on my last cast than I have on my first cast." Palaniuk explained that going back to his local tournament days, he's probably won seven or eight tournaments on his final cast of the day.
Whether it's Palaniuk, who's fishing on Day 4 again this week, or someone else, this tournament could come down to the last cast, at the last minute.