Daily Limit: ‘Prodigy’ strikes again

Brandon Palaniuk was given an appropriate nickname by emcee Dave Mercer when he joined the Elites at age 22 – “The Prodigy.”

The definition, “a person, especially a young one, endowed with exceptional qualities or abilities,” still fits Palaniuk, who won’t turn 30 until Nov. 3. Last week, he again showed his prodigious skills in winning the Toyota Bassmaster Texas Fest benefiting the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

“I told myself, every two to three years, I’d love to win an Elite Series event,” he said. “It’s been four years.”

Sam Rayburn was his third Elite title, and there have been several other missed chances where he could almost have a blue trophy for each of his years on the series.

In 2010, Palaniuk was the first to accept the Elite invite that accompanied the B.A.S.S. Nation championship. Right out of the gate, he finished fourth in the 2011 Classic with the vow to fish all-out every time.

“I’m going to fish every single one of them to win,” he told this scribe then. “I’m not going to fish to make the cut. Some guys will fish to cash a check. I’ve only fished at home to win, and it might come and bite me in the butt in the Elites, but that’s what I want to do.

“I hate losing. I want to win. I don’t like second, I don’t third. I’m going to fish every one to win.”

In the middle of his seventh Elite season, Palaniuk is still fishing to win. Oh, he’s bombed in some events, including this season. He was 105th on Okeechobee and 49th in the Classic, but he’s cashed in the other four Elites with three Top 12s to stand sixth in Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year points.

Going for the win has worked throughout his career. He’s been second three times, cashed checks in 53 of 82 events (65 percent success), has totaled $891,164 in B.A.S.S. earnings and has qualified for the past seven Classics.

Palaniuk came on like gangbusters, finishing fourth in his first Classic in 2011.

On stage talking about his Rayburn victory, Palaniuk referred to events he couldn’t quite close out. His closest second was in 2015 at St. Clair when he led Todd Faircloth before the final day – he only weighed one-third of his previous days’ catches. He also led going into Championship Sunday on Green Bay in 2012 but was overtaken by Jonathon VanDam’s big bag of the event.

Three events after that, he came up just 3-4 short of topping Cliff Pace in the 2013 Classic on Grand Lake. Right after, Palaniuk struggled. His best finish in the first three Elites that year was 81st on Bull Shoals, where he had won the previous year. He made the cut at West Point but was deep in the AOY standings. The only way to keep his goal of qualifying to every Classic was the Elite Series win and in.

That was looking like a definite possibility when he left the Day 2 weigh-in from the Mississippi River event at La Crosse, Wis., with a 6-pound lead. But culling just yards over an odd state line intersecting islands cost him the day’s disqualification and knocked him from the lead to 77th.

Palaniuk owned up to that mistake, saying the next morning he’d just have to win the next event. He did just that on the St. Lawrence River, keeping his Classic streak alive.

Even though Palaniuk led heading into the final day at Rayburn, winning wasn’t certain until the final minutes. Second-place Brent Ehrler caught a 6-pound class fish in the waning moments to take the unofficial lead on BASSTrakk, which kept score as anglers weighed fish on their boat.

A last-minute flurry saw Palaniuk land several fish that wouldn’t help, but he knew he had a chance since they were biting.

“Every time this week that I’ve got them going, there’s a big one in there somewhere,” he said. “My next cast, I caught a 5-15 – at 2:36 with a 3 o’clock check-in – and had 21-12. Without that fish, there’d be a different dude standing up here right now.”

Tiffany McCall, Palanuik’s girlfriend, came on stage for the celebration. She assured the crowd that he indeed fishes to win.

She said, “Every night, he was ‘I want to win this. I want to win this.’”

And he isn’t shy about telling anyone.


Being a victim of grand theft auto worried Brent Ehrler after he caught a 9-1 on Day 1. The Toyota Big Bass on Rayburn was worth a $50,000 Tundra, and Ehrler worried for four nights.

“Every day I go, ‘This place has so many big fish in it,’ I was worried someone was going to steal this Tundra from me,” he said.

Although surely disappointed he didn’t win his first Elite, Ehrler ended up with pretty nice consolation, what with the truck and $34,000 second-place money, up $9,000 from a regular Elite.

The truck was Ehrler’s second. In Texas Fest’s predecessor, the Toyota Texas Bass Classic, Ehrler had a 10-12 big bass in winning the title on Lake Fork in 2015.

“It’s in my driveway at home,” he said. “It’s pretty unbelievable to have it happen again.”

Ehrler said this year’s 9-1 was quite a thrill to catch on his Lucky Craft jerkbait.

“I watched it bite. It was the most unreal strike I’ve ever had in my life,” he said. “It was only 10 feet away from the boat. It just sucked the whole jerkbait into his mouth. Pretty crazy to do that with a 9-pounder.”

Too deeply embedded to pop out, Shaw Grigsby had to perform minor surgery to push the hook through Jason Christie’s palm.


It done went viral. Shaw Grigsby’s surgery of a deeply embedded hook in Jason Christie’s palm was popular with anglers and the YouTube crowd in general. It has been viewed more than 3.5 million times and shared more than 30,000.

Although Christie’s cries of pain during the procedure were hard to listen to, but he said he was no worse for wear the next day. He finished seventh on Sam Rayburn and gained 30 points in the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year point standings.


The Boy Scouts motto “Be Prepared” came through big-time for Nick Dulleck, the San Jose angler who landed the world record spotted bass from New Bullards Bar Reservoir on Feb. 12, 2017.

The keeper of fishing records, the International Game Fish Association (IGFA) notified Dulleck that his 11-pound, 4-ounce fish would put the 33-year-old in its books as the all-tackle world record holder.

“I was overly prepared for a once-in-a-lifetime thing to happen,” Dulleck said after his catch. “Did I think it would happen? Not necessarily. Did I think it was a possibility? Definitely.”

Dulleck credits his thorough documentation of his catch, including videos of multiple weighings and gathering of witnesses.

The IGFA was great to work with, Dulleck said, as was Bassmaster. Here’s details of Dulleck’s catch as well as his interview on Bassmaster LIVE during the Classic. 

Nick Dulleck’s name graces the IGFA record book for the all tackle spotted bass world record.