Inside Elite Boats

Inside Elite Boats: Brandon Palaniuk

Rathdum, Idaho, a suburb of Cour d’Alene, is the hometown of Brandon Palaniuk. He rolled out his boat from the shop to give Bassmaster fans an inside look at the rig.  <p> <em>All captions: Craig Lamb</em>
Photo: Kyle Vandever - Rathdum, Idaho, a suburb of Cour d’Alene, is the hometown of Brandon Palaniuk. He rolled out his boat from the shop to give Bassmaster fans an inside look at the rig. All captions: Craig Lamb
Palaniuk competes on the Bassmaster Elite Series with the all-new Skeeter FXR20. The FXR20 is 20 feet, 4 inches overall, has a beam spanning 97 inches, and is powered by a Yamaha V MAX SHO 250 outboard. The boat rides on a Skeeter Built FXR Touring Trailer. The rig is loaded from stem to stern with tournament-inspired features. Join Palaniuk for a tour of his favorite features of the boat, motor and trailer.
Photo: Kyle Vandever - Palaniuk competes on the Bassmaster Elite Series with the all-new Skeeter FXR20. The FXR20 is 20 feet, 4 inches overall, has a beam spanning 97 inches, and is powered by a Yamaha V MAX SHO 250 outboard. The boat rides on a Skeeter Built FXR Touring Trailer. The rig is loaded from stem to stern with tournament-inspired features. Join Palaniuk for a tour of his favorite features of the boat, motor and trailer.
The Skeeter Built FXR Touring Trailer features this bow step. “You can go from the ground level to inside your boat on the front deck. It’s really nice for launching and loading the boat when you're by yourself, and it's safer too.”
Photo: Kyle Vandever - The Skeeter Built FXR Touring Trailer features this bow step. “You can go from the ground level to inside your boat on the front deck. It’s really nice for launching and loading the boat when you're by yourself, and it's safer too.”
This is the Minn Kota Ultrex 112 trolling motor and Humminbird Mega 360 transducer. “With the new Mega 360 Imaging, I get even better detail separation, and it sweeps up to 125 feet around my boat. A lot of times with shallow water fish you can’t see the entire big picture of why they are there, but this helps you figure that out.”
Photo: Kyle Vandever - This is the Minn Kota Ultrex 112 trolling motor and Humminbird Mega 360 transducer. “With the new Mega 360 Imaging, I get even better detail separation, and it sweeps up to 125 feet around my boat. A lot of times with shallow water fish you can’t see the entire big picture of why they are there, but this helps you figure that out.”
“That is what I love the most about it. If you catch a fish off a laydown, that might not be the real pattern. What is though, is the nearby secondary point near a channel swing used by the fish to move up to the laydown. I can see it with Mega 360 Imaging.”
Photo: Kyle Vandever - “That is what I love the most about it. If you catch a fish off a laydown, that might not be the real pattern. What is though, is the nearby secondary point near a channel swing used by the fish to move up to the laydown. I can see it with Mega 360 Imaging.”
“I’m super happy about this new side step. I’m not a tall guy and the step makes it easier to grab rods off the front deck, get into the rod locker and even the center compartment, and do all that without having to get inside the boat.”
Photo: Kyle Vandever - “I’m super happy about this new side step. I’m not a tall guy and the step makes it easier to grab rods off the front deck, get into the rod locker and even the center compartment, and do all that without having to get inside the boat.”
“I like these 8-foot Minn Kota Talons because when I get deeper than 8 feet, I can just use the Spot Lock feature on the Ultrex to stay in place. With the 8-footers I don’t need a tilt bracket when I need to get under a low bridge, because those are mounted at the same height as my motor.”
Photo: Kyle Vandever - “I like these 8-foot Minn Kota Talons because when I get deeper than 8 feet, I can just use the Spot Lock feature on the Ultrex to stay in place. With the 8-footers I don’t need a tilt bracket when I need to get under a low bridge, because those are mounted at the same height as my motor.”
“Yamaha is the only motor brand I’ve ever used. The four-stroke economy is great, and so are the hole shots that are faster than two strokes. It’s just so dependable, and I never worry about anything with the SHO (Super High Output) dependability and operation.”
Photo: Kyle Vandever - “Yamaha is the only motor brand I’ve ever used. The four-stroke economy is great, and so are the hole shots that are faster than two strokes. It’s just so dependable, and I never worry about anything with the SHO (Super High Output) dependability and operation.”
“These Skeeter wheels have a bigger profile that fills the fender. They look great and trailer really well.”
Photo: Kyle Vandever - “These Skeeter wheels have a bigger profile that fills the fender. They look great and trailer really well.”
Palaniuk points out the rigging configuration of the four Cabela’s X-900 Pure-Lead AGM Batteries. “I rig three trolling motor batteries on the passenger side. I get better weight distribution when running the boat when fishing by myself.”
Photo: Kyle Vandever - Palaniuk points out the rigging configuration of the four Cabela’s X-900 Pure-Lead AGM Batteries. “I rig three trolling motor batteries on the passenger side. I get better weight distribution when running the boat when fishing by myself.”
“Skeeter changed the design of this compartment to make it easier to access. There’s a raised battery shelf. It’s roomier and makes installing and maintaining batteries and pumps much more accessible. The wiring is super clean and runs through PVC.”
Photo: Kyle Vandever - “Skeeter changed the design of this compartment to make it easier to access. There’s a raised battery shelf. It’s roomier and makes installing and maintaining batteries and pumps much more accessible. The wiring is super clean and runs through PVC.”
This is the battery switcher and master on/off device. “It allows you to cut power from all the batteries. That’s a good feature with so many accessories prone to being accidentally left on. You can also set the switch to jump start the cranking battery if needed.”
Photo: Kyle Vandever - This is the battery switcher and master on/off device. “It allows you to cut power from all the batteries. That’s a good feature with so many accessories prone to being accidentally left on. You can also set the switch to jump start the cranking battery if needed.”
The Cabela’s X900 Group 31s shown on the raised battery shelf for easier access. Note the trolling motor batteries are all linked.
Photo: Kyle Vandever - The Cabela’s X900 Group 31s shown on the raised battery shelf for easier access. Note the trolling motor batteries are all linked.
Behind the passenger seat is a port side storage. “I keep it open for a co-angler or marshal to use.” A spare life jacket and Angler Aid Box are the only other contents in the box.
Photo: Kyle Vandever - Behind the passenger seat is a port side storage. “I keep it open for a co-angler or marshal to use.” A spare life jacket and Angler Aid Box are the only other contents in the box.
“This is a box that I worked with the company to design. It’s called the Angler Aid Essentials Box.” Inside the compact box is everything that you need on the water, for emergencies, repairs and more.
Photo: Kyle Vandever - “This is a box that I worked with the company to design. It’s called the Angler Aid Essentials Box.” Inside the compact box is everything that you need on the water, for emergencies, repairs and more.
The 75-piece Boater Kit includes Angler Aid spray, first aid kit, tools, survival blanket, medical supplies, fuses, boat whistle, flashlight, braided line (for hook removal) and more. “There is a new version coming out that will be even more organized and efficient.”
Photo: Kyle Vandever - The 75-piece Boater Kit includes Angler Aid spray, first aid kit, tools, survival blanket, medical supplies, fuses, boat whistle, flashlight, braided line (for hook removal) and more. “There is a new version coming out that will be even more organized and efficient.”
“The livewell lids now open from front to back for easier access. What I really like, though is the full compartment with a removable divider. If I’m competing by myself, I can remove it so the fish have more room, and especially on lakes where I’ll catch big fish.” Something else he likes: the two sets of livewell pump systems. “I can use one or both, depending on the need for fish care.”
Photo: Kyle Vandever - “The livewell lids now open from front to back for easier access. What I really like, though is the full compartment with a removable divider. If I’m competing by myself, I can remove it so the fish have more room, and especially on lakes where I’ll catch big fish.” Something else he likes: the two sets of livewell pump systems. “I can use one or both, depending on the need for fish care.”
Behind the driver’s seat is a box reserved for what Palaniuk calls “odds and ends.”
Photo: Kyle Vandever - Behind the driver’s seat is a box reserved for what Palaniuk calls “odds and ends.”
The Bass Mafia Money Bag holds them. A Rapala scale, extra kill switch, rope and more are inside. Elsewhere in the box is a fire extinguisher, more tools and another Bass Mafia box.
Photo: Kyle Vandever - The Bass Mafia Money Bag holds them. A Rapala scale, extra kill switch, rope and more are inside. Elsewhere in the box is a fire extinguisher, more tools and another Bass Mafia box.
That Bass Mafia Ice Box 3600 holds LakeMaster Map cards for different regions of the country. Also inside are waypoint cards. “I like to keep it all super organized in one place, so I can just flip it open and grab what I need.”
Photo: Kyle Vandever - That Bass Mafia Ice Box 3600 holds LakeMaster Map cards for different regions of the country. Also inside are waypoint cards. “I like to keep it all super organized in one place, so I can just flip it open and grab what I need.”
“With Skeeter it’s the little things they do that add up.” The redesigned seats have grab handles for the driver and passenger. “I use them more outside the boat than inside. They making boarding easier, while adding safety for when the boat is underway.”
Photo: Kyle Vandever - “With Skeeter it’s the little things they do that add up.” The redesigned seats have grab handles for the driver and passenger. “I use them more outside the boat than inside. They making boarding easier, while adding safety for when the boat is underway.”
“Some boats have the cooler up front near the front deck. This one is easier to access, especially when you spend hours at the time idling and studying electronics on the console.”
Photo: Kyle Vandever - “Some boats have the cooler up front near the front deck. This one is easier to access, especially when you spend hours at the time idling and studying electronics on the console.”
This cooler does double duty. Without ice there is more room for storing water bottles and snacks.
Photo: Kyle Vandever - This cooler does double duty. Without ice there is more room for storing water bottles and snacks.
“I spend a lot of time here, more time than ever idling and looking at my graphs.” That includes when scouting in shallow water. “I like to look for something different that people might overlook.”
Photo: Kyle Vandever - “I spend a lot of time here, more time than ever idling and looking at my graphs.” That includes when scouting in shallow water. “I like to look for something different that people might overlook.”
Palaniuk prefers using two 12-inch units instead of a single 15-inch graph. He separates mapping and 2D from DI (Down Imaging) and SI (Side Imaging) on the other graph. The units are mounted on PROcise Outdoors Dual Dek-It Mounts that withstand shock and provide a clean, easy installation.
Photo: Kyle Vandever - Palaniuk prefers using two 12-inch units instead of a single 15-inch graph. He separates mapping and 2D from DI (Down Imaging) and SI (Side Imaging) on the other graph. The units are mounted on PROcise Outdoors Dual Dek-It Mounts that withstand shock and provide a clean, easy installation.
This is the T-H Marine Original Hot Foot Throttle. “It makes driving and handling safer and more efficient, and I really like the high-density rubber for surer footing in wet conditions.”
Photo: Kyle Vandever - This is the T-H Marine Original Hot Foot Throttle. “It makes driving and handling safer and more efficient, and I really like the high-density rubber for surer footing in wet conditions.”
This is the central control panel with soft touch switches for controlling everything on board the boat.
Photo: Kyle Vandever - This is the central control panel with soft touch switches for controlling everything on board the boat.
“Right here what I like most is this Flow-Rite Remote Drain plug.” He said. There are no more worries about lying on a wet boat ramp to put in or remove the plug, forgetting where you put it, or the worst case, discovering you forgot to put it in while on the water. Palaniuk’s finger is on the Minn Kota Talon remote control. The removable fob pops out to be added on a lanyard.
Photo: Kyle Vandever - “Right here what I like most is this Flow-Rite Remote Drain plug.” He said. There are no more worries about lying on a wet boat ramp to put in or remove the plug, forgetting where you put it, or the worst case, discovering you forgot to put it in while on the water. Palaniuk’s finger is on the Minn Kota Talon remote control. The removable fob pops out to be added on a lanyard.
“This spring-loaded, retractable dock cleat is another one of the little things I like. Before, you had nowhere to secure a dock line other than the steering wheel or the throttle handle.”
Photo: Kyle Vandever - “This spring-loaded, retractable dock cleat is another one of the little things I like. Before, you had nowhere to secure a dock line other than the steering wheel or the throttle handle.”
“I’ve found myself using this for more than I thought. I’m picking up floating trash I see on the lake and putting it in the removable trash can.” It’s conveniently located in the cockpit, between the driver and passenger seats.
Photo: Kyle Vandever - “I’ve found myself using this for more than I thought. I’m picking up floating trash I see on the lake and putting it in the removable trash can.” It’s conveniently located in the cockpit, between the driver and passenger seats.
Palaniuk calls this his “day box.” Extra Simms gloves for cold and hot weather, Luepold sunglasses, a spare Minn Kota Ultrex remote and other different odds and ends go here — along with a roll of toilet paper.
Photo: Kyle Vandever - Palaniuk calls this his “day box.” Extra Simms gloves for cold and hot weather, Luepold sunglasses, a spare Minn Kota Ultrex remote and other different odds and ends go here — along with a roll of toilet paper.
The new FXR features a redesigned front deck. “With so many specialized techniques, rods and reels and lures, we are putting more rods on the front deck.” Palaniuk said the wider space doesn’t make the front deck feel so crowded.
Photo: Kyle Vandever - The new FXR features a redesigned front deck. “With so many specialized techniques, rods and reels and lures, we are putting more rods on the front deck.” Palaniuk said the wider space doesn’t make the front deck feel so crowded.
This is the well-organized center storage compartment. The load is much lighter than normal as this is the gear Palaniuk is using for fun fishing around his hometown. “I broke down and got a label maker to keep it even more organized.” <p> And what’s up with the UPS shipping pack in the lower left? Look in most any Elite Series pro's boat for the same thing. “We get a lot of prototype products sent to us, and the contents go directly into the boat for testing.” Inside this secret package are products from Seaguar.
Photo: Kyle Vandever - This is the well-organized center storage compartment. The load is much lighter than normal as this is the gear Palaniuk is using for fun fishing around his hometown. “I broke down and got a label maker to keep it even more organized.” And what’s up with the UPS shipping pack in the lower left? Look in most any Elite Series pro's boat for the same thing. “We get a lot of prototype products sent to us, and the contents go directly into the boat for testing.” Inside this secret package are products from Seaguar.
Palaniuk likes the organization design of the center storage. “It’s modular so everything is organized instead of just piled in the compartment.”
Photo: Kyle Vandever - Palaniuk likes the organization design of the center storage. “It’s modular so everything is organized instead of just piled in the compartment.”
Palanuik likes the small Bass Mafia The Briefcase for soft plastics. “The size of the individual bags makes a perfect fit.”
Photo: Kyle Vandever - Palanuik likes the small Bass Mafia The Briefcase for soft plastics. “The size of the individual bags makes a perfect fit.”
“I label my bags to be technique specific. I can just grab a bag from my truck, throw it in the boat, and know I have everything needed for that technique.” X Zone Lures soft plastics specific to drop shots and Ned rigs fill these bags.
Photo: Kyle Vandever - “I label my bags to be technique specific. I can just grab a bag from my truck, throw it in the boat, and know I have everything needed for that technique.” X Zone Lures soft plastics specific to drop shots and Ned rigs fill these bags.
“I don’t like to spend time re-tying so I keep more than one rod rigged up with the same lure in the rod storage. This rod storage has plenty of space for those needs.”
Photo: Kyle Vandever - “I don’t like to spend time re-tying so I keep more than one rod rigged up with the same lure in the rod storage. This rod storage has plenty of space for those needs.”
Palaniuk likes the roominess of the rod storage for keeping the many specialty outfits rigged and at the ready.
Photo: Kyle Vandever - Palaniuk likes the roominess of the rod storage for keeping the many specialty outfits rigged and at the ready.
Palaniuk favors The Rod Glove Pro Series made of neoprene.
Photo: Kyle Vandever - Palaniuk favors The Rod Glove Pro Series made of neoprene.
“Neoprene is more hook resistant than mesh-style rod gloves, and it has more cushion for protecting expensive rods.”
Photo: Kyle Vandever - “Neoprene is more hook resistant than mesh-style rod gloves, and it has more cushion for protecting expensive rods.”
This is Palaniuk’s go-to shallow water cranking setup. It’s a 7-foot Alpha Rods Rebound casting rod with a Daiwa Steez A TWS reel. Seaguar InvizX 15-pound fluorocarbon is spooled on the reel. Completing the outfit is a Rapala BX Brat squarebill crankbait.
Photo: Kyle Vandever - This is Palaniuk’s go-to shallow water cranking setup. It’s a 7-foot Alpha Rods Rebound casting rod with a Daiwa Steez A TWS reel. Seaguar InvizX 15-pound fluorocarbon is spooled on the reel. Completing the outfit is a Rapala BX Brat squarebill crankbait.
“The Alpha Angler Rebound is the lightest and most sensitive glass rod I’ve ever put in my hand.”
Photo: Kyle Vandever - “The Alpha Angler Rebound is the lightest and most sensitive glass rod I’ve ever put in my hand.”
On the front deck are the rigs used by Palaniuk for fun fishing trips on his home lakes. “You can tell it’s springtime by the crawfish baits.” Those include a Rapala DT6 crankbait and an out-of-circulation Storm Twitch Stick.
Photo: Kyle Vandever - On the front deck are the rigs used by Palaniuk for fun fishing trips on his home lakes. “You can tell it’s springtime by the crawfish baits.” Those include a Rapala DT6 crankbait and an out-of-circulation Storm Twitch Stick.
Outerwear and other apparel are stored in a dedicated storage ahead of the port console. That includes these Simms Riverbank Chukka Boots.
Photo: Kyle Vandever - Outerwear and other apparel are stored in a dedicated storage ahead of the port console. That includes these Simms Riverbank Chukka Boots.
Also in the box is a Simms ProDry Fishing Bib and ProDry Fishing Jacket. “I always keep a rainsuit in the boat, no matter the forecast. The weather can change, and it pays to be prepared.”
Photo: Kyle Vandever - Also in the box is a Simms ProDry Fishing Bib and ProDry Fishing Jacket. “I always keep a rainsuit in the boat, no matter the forecast. The weather can change, and it pays to be prepared.”
This is the dedicated Day Box. “It is storage for all the lures that I tried on a given day that didn’t make the cut.” The forlorn baits go here for later organization back into the technique specific boxes where they belong. A Bass Mafia Money Bag containing leaders is also stored here.
Photo: Kyle Vandever - This is the dedicated Day Box. “It is storage for all the lures that I tried on a given day that didn’t make the cut.” The forlorn baits go here for later organization back into the technique specific boxes where they belong. A Bass Mafia Money Bag containing leaders is also stored here.
Palaniuk rigs the accessories for his boat, and here’s the proof. These two Humminbird Waterproof Ethernet Switch Ports are part of the One Boat Network that can link multiple devices. “I need two ethernets because of everything I have on the boat.” Those are four Solix units, dual Ultrex shallow water anchors and the Minn Kota trolling motor features that include Spot Lock. “This hub allows all of the devices to talk to and respond to each other.”
Photo: Kyle Vandever - Palaniuk rigs the accessories for his boat, and here’s the proof. These two Humminbird Waterproof Ethernet Switch Ports are part of the One Boat Network that can link multiple devices. “I need two ethernets because of everything I have on the boat.” Those are four Solix units, dual Ultrex shallow water anchors and the Minn Kota trolling motor features that include Spot Lock. “This hub allows all of the devices to talk to and respond to each other.”
Palaniuk points out his two favorite features of the Ultrex. “There’s the Spot Lock that I can activate with the tap of my foot, and the Constant speed feature, which I really like. During practice, I will set it on a slow, constant speed to prevent me from getting stuck in an area. It keeps me moving so I cover more water and make the most efficient use of my time.”
Photo: Kyle Vandever - Palaniuk points out his two favorite features of the Ultrex. “There’s the Spot Lock that I can activate with the tap of my foot, and the Constant speed feature, which I really like. During practice, I will set it on a slow, constant speed to prevent me from getting stuck in an area. It keeps me moving so I cover more water and make the most efficient use of my time.”
“I mounted the Talon foot switch as far up front as possible. Doing that keeps the deck clear and opens up just a bit more foot room.”
Photo: Kyle Vandever - “I mounted the Talon foot switch as far up front as possible. Doing that keeps the deck clear and opens up just a bit more foot room.”
This is the T-H Marine Troll Tamer Trolling Motor Stabilzer Lock. “It’s the best way that I have found for locking my Ultrex in place to keep it secure on big water runs.”
Photo: Kyle Vandever - This is the T-H Marine Troll Tamer Trolling Motor Stabilzer Lock. “It’s the best way that I have found for locking my Ultrex in place to keep it secure on big water runs.”
More of the little things that add up. “This Skeeter rod strap is made of a rubber coated strap that is retractable. I like the metal hardware, because I don’t worry about plastic breaking or getting bent.”
Photo: Kyle Vandever - More of the little things that add up. “This Skeeter rod strap is made of a rubber coated strap that is retractable. I like the metal hardware, because I don’t worry about plastic breaking or getting bent.”
Palaniuk is a big fan of the Rigid Rock Lights. “They look good but also illuminate the entire front deck across both beams.”
Photo: Kyle Vandever - Palaniuk is a big fan of the Rigid Rock Lights. “They look good but also illuminate the entire front deck across both beams.”
Palaniuk uses the adhesive mounts for easy installation. “All I have to do is drill a tiny hole for the wiring to go through. Easy and simple.”
Photo: Kyle Vandever - Palaniuk uses the adhesive mounts for easy installation. “All I have to do is drill a tiny hole for the wiring to go through. Easy and simple.”
Back up front, here’s a view of the mounting solution for the two Solix units. One is attached to the Skeeter mounting bracket; the other is fastened to a PROCise Outdoors Deck-It Dash Mount.
Photo: Kyle Vandever - Back up front, here’s a view of the mounting solution for the two Solix units. One is attached to the Skeeter mounting bracket; the other is fastened to a PROCise Outdoors Deck-It Dash Mount.
“With me being a shorter guy, I like to keep my graphs as low as possible, so I can see over those while driving the boat.”
Photo: Kyle Vandever - “With me being a shorter guy, I like to keep my graphs as low as possible, so I can see over those while driving the boat.”
Palaniuk adds Rigid lights on the trailer frame for more than good looks. “It makes it easier to see the entire boat while driving at night. It also helps out with advertising.” Passing vehicles can see the logos on the boat.
Photo: Kyle Vandever - Palaniuk adds Rigid lights on the trailer frame for more than good looks. “It makes it easier to see the entire boat while driving at night. It also helps out with advertising.” Passing vehicles can see the logos on the boat.
Palaniuk drinks a gallon of water a day while on the water. He chugs it from a Yeti Rambler One-Gallon Jug. “I just fill it up at night to keep from wasting water bottles and having to keep up with those in the trash can.”
Photo: Kyle Vandever - Palaniuk drinks a gallon of water a day while on the water. He chugs it from a Yeti Rambler One-Gallon Jug. “I just fill it up at night to keep from wasting water bottles and having to keep up with those in the trash can.”
This is the Yamaha DD26 Fishing Mean Mount. Made in the U.S., from 6061 aircraft grade aluminum. Palaniuk said the mounts are the strongest built, and you can even color match them to the outboard.
Photo: Kyle Vandever - This is the Yamaha DD26 Fishing Mean Mount. Made in the U.S., from 6061 aircraft grade aluminum. Palaniuk said the mounts are the strongest built, and you can even color match them to the outboard.
“On the windshield you can barely see the ‘Fear My Heart’ sticker that I kind of stole from Carl Jocumsen.” He is one of Palaniuk’s best friends. He got the sticker on a visit to Jocumsen’s man cave. “He’s just a great guy and inspiration, and I wanted to carry that with me.”
Photo: Kyle Vandever - “On the windshield you can barely see the ‘Fear My Heart’ sticker that I kind of stole from Carl Jocumsen.” He is one of Palaniuk’s best friends. He got the sticker on a visit to Jocumsen’s man cave. “He’s just a great guy and inspiration, and I wanted to carry that with me.”
With the tour complete, Palaniuk has one thing on his mind. “I think I’ll go fishing.”
Photo: Kyle Vandever - With the tour complete, Palaniuk has one thing on his mind. “I think I’ll go fishing.”