Pros have Brandon's back

LA CROSSE, Wis. -- Bill Lowen got the phone call about 10:30 last night. He would be fishing Saturday after all, even though he walked away from the Day Two weigh-in thinking he'd finished 51st. Brandon Palaniuk's late-night disqualification bumped up Lowen into the Top 50 mix. But Lowen wasn't particularly happy about it.

"Honestly, I thought it sucked," Lowen said. "I'm happy I'm going fishing. That's great. But it sucks under circumstances like that."

Lowen's thoughts were echoed among several other Day Three finalists in the Diet Mountain Dew Mississippi River Rumble presented by Power-Pole.

The strange Minnesota no-cull law trapped Palaniuk. When you've got five bass in the boat in Minnesota, you have to quit fishing there. You can't cull. But you can go back across the state line that snakes down the Mississippi River, boat into Wisconsin, cull one and come back to fish in Minnesota.

That sounds simple enough. Everyone in the field knows the rule. It's following that rule that can prove difficult. Just exactly where is that state line in the always shifting Mississippi River?

"I guess they're never going to get that law changed," Lowen said. "This is a river system. It's got bends and turns. One minute you're in Wisconsin, one minute you're in Minnesota. You have absolutely no idea.

"I feel so bad for Brandon. It's just a bad deal."

Veteran pro Paul Elias echoed those thoughts, saying, "In my personal opinion, we shouldn't fish these places. Brandon is a perfect example. He wasn't cheating in any way whatsoever, and he gets DQ'ed because of a stupid law.

"I can't think of anywhere we've ever been where we had to worry about something like this."

No one who knows Palaniuk thinks he knowingly skirted with the rule. But it was determined last night that he'd culled at least one bass while technically within Minnesota waters.

"If he was watching his GPS and it was telling him he was in Wisconsin, then I don't think he should have been disqualified. If he crossed the line on his GPS, then he broke the rule.

"If he feels like he stayed in Wisconsin, according to his GPS, then they probably should have left him alone."

Grant Goldbeck said he purposely didn't fish in Minnesota waters, "because I didn't want to be in that situation.

"I think Brandon is a good kid with a great head on his shoulders. Without knowing exactly what happened, I guess he might have gotten caught up in the moment."

Defending Bassmaster Classic champion Cliff Pace had a broader view of the situation, saying, "It's unfortunate for Brandon and for the sport.

"Brandon has a lot of fans. A lot of people were really happy to see him do what he's done here after having somewhat of a tough season, ever since he finished second in the Classic.

"I can relate to that. The year after I finished second in the Classic, I had a tough season. For some reason, when you want something as bad as we all do and you get that close to getting it, and you don't, it seems to take a little bit of the wind out of your sails.

"Brandon really got back on track here. Unfortunately, he made a very small, but very costly mental error. This place is not really cut-and-dried. There are a lot of islands and back channels. Just because you're on one side of a buoy doesn't mean you're in the state you think you're in. It's unfortunate that it's this way.

"I'm all for the man who can catch the most fish winning. Brandon was doing that. It's unfair to me that he gets completely taken out of an event for an error that small. I think that's a little bit too stiff a penalty for that type of crime. But I don't get to make the ruling. I'm not the judge.

"But I do feel bad for Brandon. It's an opportunity he will always regret missing."

It should be noted that Iowa has the same no-cull rule as Minnesota. The Elite Series pros would rather not compete where these unfortunate situations can come into play.

"I think there needs to be some consideration given to where we go fishing," Lowen said. "In the heat of the moment, things can happen so fast that you don't even think about them. And we've got so many things we have to worry about already. It makes it tricky."

Unlike Lowen's late night phone call, most of the Top 50 qualifiers were just hearing about Palaniuk's disqualification at launch time Saturday. Aaron Martens was one of those. It's Martens who stands to benefit most, as he's now in first place after two days, instead of trailing Palaniuk by six pounds.

"I was afraid [the rule] might get somebody," Martens said. "I've been doing this a long time, and I'm not really ever surprised when something happens."

Still, Martens admitted, he couldn't think of another fishery in the country where something quite like this could happen.

Added Pace, "Nowhere else in the world, except the north land."

Finally, Goldbeck offered one more perspective on this situation. If Palaniuk didn't know he had culled in Minnesota, but when shown the previously unknown line, then admitted he had – if that's the way it went down – more props to Palaniuk.

"Absolutely," Goldbeck said. "That's integrity, and I appreciate that."

Also By This Author