How Brandon Palaniuk Won at the St. Lawrence River

Yamaha Pro Brandon Palaniuk knows that in professional bass tournament fishing, confidence and determination can often be as important as lure choice and technique when the final weights are tabulated.

Brandon Palaniuk won big at the Bassmaster Elite on the St. Lawrence River by making round-trip runs of over 200 miles daily to connect with Lake Ontario's big smallmouths. He's also pretty good at catching largemouths, as shown here.
Brandon Palaniuk won big at the Bassmaster Elite on the St. Lawrence River by making round-trip runs of over 200 miles daily to connect with Lake Ontario’s big smallmouths. He’s also pretty good at catching largemouths, as shown here.

He demonstrated just how important by winning the recent Bassmaster Elite tournament on New York’s St. Lawrence River.

“It’s hard to define how important personal determination can be in achieving a certain goal,” explained Palaniuk, “but I know that in this win it was absolutely crucial to me. I don’t want to say that being determined means you have to gamble and take chances, but rather, the stronger your determination, the stronger you focus on achieving that goal, and sometimes that actually makes achieving it a little easier.

“One of my goals is never to miss the Bassmaster Classic,® but heading into the St. Lawrence River event I knew the only way I had to make the Classic was to win one of the two remaining tournaments. Because I’d made some bad decisions and poor execution during this season, I was so far behind I could never qualify on points.

“In my mind, I had no options, except to win, so that became my immediate goal. I was determined to achieve it. Once I put myself into that mindset, preparing for the tournament was actually a little easier. I began to study the St. Lawrence and Lake Ontario very carefully, and perhaps a little differently than the other competitors.”

The Yamaha Pro had never been to Lake Ontario before, so he studied past tournament results on the Internet and poured over maps of the 193-mile long lake, where one location continually stood out to him, historically as well as geographically. That area was Chaumont Bay, some 40 miles out into Lake Ontario, or just over 105 miles from the tournament launch area in Waddington, New York. Numerous previous events had been won there.

“I felt I had nothing to lose by going that far,” continued Palaniuk. “A lot of the anglers did not think it would be possible to run that far, more than 200 miles round trip, for four consecutive days because of the weather, so all of them stayed in the St. Lawrence.”

On the first practice day, Palaniuk trailered to Chaumont Bay and caught between 23 and 25 pounds of bass in shallow water, fishing a topwater lure and a jerkbait. He was so excited he spent the night in his truck right there at the boat ramp and used his second practice day fishing deeper water, 20 to 35 feet deep. He wanted a backup plan, and again he boated nearly 25 pounds of fish.

“I can’t tell you how good I felt after those two days and after I successfully made the long run the next day from the tournament launch ramp to map my route,” he added. “Even though I’d had eight-foot waves on the lake that day, I had made it safely down and back, and I really didn’t think I’d be facing anything worse. I think my determination made facing those waves easier, because in my mind I did not have any other options.

“I also knew I had found the quality of bass I needed to win, and that they were willing to bite.”

The Yamaha Pro brought 23 pounds, 9 ounces to the scales the first day of competition and took the lead. He’d caught the fish in just 90 minutes, and that’s when he realized the full potential of the area he’d chosen. The second day, with calm conditions, he added 21-15 and increased his lead; again, his confidence soared. The final two days he brought in catches of 20-9 and 23-5, giving him a four-day total of 88 pounds, 12 ounces. His winning margin was more than seven pounds.

“I think, if I could pass on any lessons from this experience to other anglers, it would be that prior preparation can be critical, especially when you’re choosing your fishing areas. Studying maps and previous tournament results can be invaluable and give you a solid starting point as well as help your confidence.

“At the same time, you can’t really be afraid of failure. In my case, in making the 200-mile round trip each day, I knew I had the equipment that could make that run, and after I completed the run that last practice day, I was absolutely sure I could make it every day.”

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