With the Southern Swing complete, Pat Renwick scored a coup of sorts by getting the three recent Bassmaster Elite Series winners together for his webcast show, Stray Casts.
While there were congratulations, lure discussions and jocularities aplenty, Renwick’s best brainstorm was to have the winners ask questions of the other winners. It provided a look into what the pros want to know of other pros.
Brandon Palaniuk, who won his fifth blue trophy at Santee Cooper Lakes on Oct. 11, was first up. He asked Lee Livesay, who put on a frog fishing clinic to win at Chickamauga Lake on Oct. 19, about something that bothered him.
“I want to know how many fish jumped over Lee’s frog and never touched it?” Palaniuk said. “It looked like every single one that even attempted to eat it, swallowed it, and every single one I had jumped about 4 feet over my frog. How many ever missed it?”
Livesay, who was fishing mats in extremely shallow water, said he had plenty of wayward explosions, but most were not seen on Bassmaster LIVE.
“I thought they were showing all the misses, but they weren’t,” said Livesay, who had between 20 to 40 attempted bites each day but still said it was a struggle to catch six or seven keepers each day. “I only lost one on all four days.”
Frank Talley, who began the back-to-back-to-back events with a win on Lake Guntersville on Oct. 3, noted the difficulties on The Chick, which like the other venues was in the fall transition. Out of 220 chances, there were only 59 limits caught, much worse than Guntersville (135) or Santee Cooper (143). Livesay and third-place Jake Whitaker were the only anglers to catch limits all four days on Chickamauga.
“I’d like to know how the hell he caught a limit every day? It was brutal out there,” Talley said.
“It was,” Livesay responded. “I got lucky. Somebody always gets on that deal, and it was finally my turn. That’s all it was.”
Talley followed by saying it was impressive how consistent Livesay was, with bags of 13-0, 13-3, 16-13 and 15-2 to win with 58-2.
“I got lucky,” Livesay reiterated. “I caught a limit each day and got to go practice. I didn’t stick any more fish.”
After reaching or surpassing his daily target weight, Livesay said it was huge that he actually got to search for more fish the first three days. He went back to Palaniuk’s lament, detailing how the bass were off target on their reactionary attacks made more difficult by thick mats.
“Two came back and got it,” Livesay said. “One missed it seven times one cast. Threw back in there and he ate it when it landed. He was the hottest fish in the world.”
Livesay then got to ask Palaniuk something that bothered him about Santee Cooper — “Did you catch any fish in Potato Creek? Because I could not.”
Palaniuk said he actually began his Championship Sunday in the mouth of that creek and caught three fish, including the day’s biggest bass. Livesay’s reaction drew laughs.
“This is what I heard, and I don’t believe it,” he said.
Palaniuk offered his thinking on starting in Potato, and how his go-for-broke plan initially didn’t work out but that he was fortunate to run into the biggest bag of the day.
“The conditions Day 4, maybe I could run back there and throw an uppercut in the first 15 minutes and catch a big one on top(water),” said Palaniuk, who discovered muddy water and decided instead to try a bladed jig he calls “Chatter Wagon.” He caught two nice fish, then while moving toward another bass that surfaced, he ran over and marked a brush pile where he would catch his 7-pound, 12-ounce kicker.
“He Ferris Bueller’s his way through everything,” Renwick joked.
Talley picked up on the premise that good fortune plays a role, as he had stopped short of his area on Guntersville on a hunch to fish a spot that “looked good.”
“Sometimes that’s the best way to do things,” he said. “Just let it unfold as the day progresses … When it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be.”
Apologizing for bringing up Palaniuk’s Day 1 culling infraction that cost him a 2-pound penalty and saying it seems he wins each time he does that, Talley laid credence to each winner’s assertion that wins seem to come simply because it’s “your time.”
“You can’t stop it. Even if you miss a fish, the next fish is twice is big, and you land it,” Talley said. “That’s the way it happens now. I’ve always heard that, but I’ve never got to experience it until three weeks ago.”
Palaniuk backed that up in his answer to Talley’s question of how he keyed in on his spots in Lake Marion. Having never been to Santee Cooper, Palaniuk said he extensively researched past tournaments and narrowed down where he would fish to several areas that had the best potential to catch limits.
“I went into that tournament literally hoping to just get five bites,” Palaniuk said. “I didn’t go in thinking I had a shot to win.”
Livesay wanted to know about Talley’s score with a specific bait. Talley, sitting 12th in the Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings after making seven of eight cuts this season, has experienced a complete turnaround from last year. He reported that came after following another angler’s advise to fish his strengths.
“This isn’t even about Guntersville,” Livesay said. “I just want to know how much money you’ve won on a green pumpkin Thunder Cricket this year?”
More laughs, and Talley had the numbers lickety split.
“My year-to-date is $165,500, and I’ve won $155,500 on it because I caught them on a swim jig at Eufuala,” he said. “Other than that, it’s been a Thunder Cricket all year.
“When it’s going, you try it every tournament and if you can get a few bites, let me see how much more I can milk out of this deal. Like Santee Cooper, I was proud to get my little 14th place and move on. I just caught them all on a Thunder Cricket up in the swamps on the cypress trees.”
Talley noted the three events were predicted to be junk fishing extravaganzas, with anglers having 20 rods on their deck and having to catch fish with a variety of tactics.
“But if you look at the tournaments we won, it was two baits for me, two or three for Brandon and one or two for Lee,” Talley said. “Other than that, it’s a hodgepodge on the deck, but you’re keying on two that you have confidence in.”
Palaniuk, who had no idea he could win at Santee until the final day began to unfold, was curious as to when exactly Talley believed he had a shot to win at Guntersville.
“That to me is always intriguing,” Palaniuk said. “Was it when you caught big ones when your boat broke down?”
Running mate Brad Whatley, who brought his boat for Talley to borrow, had told Talley after Day 2 that he had a shot as he was on the right fish, but Talley dismissed that, saying he was just hoping for a Top 10. Starting Day 4 in sixth place just 2-15 off the lead, Talley got an inkling only then.
“It was on the fourth morning. Before I caught that first 5-pounder, I was like, ‘I actually have an outside shot,’” he said. “In my mind, I needed 20-plus pounds … If I catch a couple 5-pounders, I could make a run at it. If I can land on them, I can do this.”
The show offered great insight into how Talley, Palaniuk and Livesay won in the toughest stretch of the year, and what each wants to know about how the other guys did it. Kudos, Renwick, Stray Casts and crew.