Fishing & Boating News

Last-Minute Big Fish Helps Palaniuk Hold On To Lead In AOY Race At Mille Lacs

by: JamieDay Matthews,

With one day of competition left in the 2017 Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year Championship, Brandon Palaniuk of Hayden, Idaho, holds on to 1st place in AOY points.
Photo by Seigo Saito/B.A.S.S.
(Sep 16, 2017 - )

 After two days of the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year Championship, Brandon Palaniuk is still clinging to his lead in the race for the AOY season title.
But it’s been anything but easy.
The noted smallmouth specialist from Hayden, Idaho, caught just 10 smallies from Mille Lacs Lake Friday — and if hadn’t been for a 6-pounder that bit extremely late, he might have actually fallen out of the AOY lead.
“I just struggled to get bit,” Palaniuk said. “I was just catching one here, one there — and I wasn’t really catching any big ones. But then at 3:14 (p.m.), I made one final drop and caught a 6-pounder.”
That fish helped Palaniuk weigh in 21 pounds 1 ounce, which was good for 20th place in the daily standings and enough to keep him in the AOY lead. With 902 total points, Palaniuk leads Jason Christie (890) and Jacob Wheeler (885) by margins that can still be made up if things go wild in the final round.
Palaniuk’s big fish came so late Friday that he barely made it back to the check-in on time.
“I caught the fish at 3:14, check-in was 3:20 and I was 3 miles away,” Palaniuk said. “On top of that, I still had to cull.
“I ended up making it back with 40 seconds to spare. But that fish was a 3-pound cull. Without it, who knows where I would be?”
Since Palaniuk came into this event with a 15-point lead in the AOY standings, the ideal situation would have been for him to pile up the weight while his closest competitors — Christie and Wheeler — struggled.
That hasn’t happened.
After catching 20-8 Thursday, Christie caught 22-9 Friday and jumped from 26th place to 17th. That helped him move to within 12 points of Palaniuk in the standings, meaning another fantastic day — coupled with a tough day for Palaniuk — could land Christie his first career AOY title.
Christie said Thursday that he hoped for a weather change that might mess up other people’s patterns — presumably Palaniuk’s and Wheeler’s — and he regretted it today. “I got what I wanted,” he said, “but it just made those fish bite for them.
“Today, at 8 o’clock, I was kind of wishing I hadn’t said that.”
The higher winds and larger waves made it hard for Christie to keep his trolling motor in the water and to see the fish on the Garmin Panoptix unit he relies on. He said most of his bass came out of one school he felt fortunate to find.
“Luckily, I came across one group and I caught 22 pounds in probably 10 to 15 minutes,” he said. “The rest of the day, I caught one here and one there, but I never caught a big one.”
While Palaniuk and Christie had it tough, Wheeler said “fun would be an understatement” to describe the day he had on Mille Lacs. The first-year pro from Tennessee caught 24-5 and moved into fourth place in the daily standings.
He still trails Christie by five points and Palaniuk by 17 in the AOY race.
“It was flat-out awesome,” Wheeler said. “It was probably one of the best days of smallmouth fishing I’ve ever had. I probably caught 30-plus smallmouth — and there were a lot of times when I would be disappointed to realize it was ‘just another 4-pounder’ when I set the hook.”
New York angler Jamie Hartman, whose stated goal was to win the Bassmaster Rookie of the Year award when the season began, took the lead in that race by weighing in 23-10 Friday and jumping from 48th to 36th place in the daily standings. That gives him a 776 to 770 lead over Alabamian Dustin Connell in the ROY race.
Texas angler Keith Combs is threatening to run away with the daily standings after landing 24-15 for the second straight day. His two-day mark of 49-14 is more than 2 pounds better than that of second-place angler James Elam (47-4).
Combs stands to win $25,000 if he retains the lead through the end of competition, but the rest of the $1 million purse will go to him and the rest of the field based on their final standings in AOY points.
The full field will fish again Sunday to determine the AOY Championship and the event winner. Takeoff will be at 6:50 a.m. CT from Eddy's Resort, and the final weigh-in will be held at 3:45 p.m. at Grand Casino Mille Lacs.
The field will take a break Saturday for Bassmaster University. Anglers will be conducting seminars and greeting fans near the weigh-in stand at Grand Casino Mille Lacs in conjunction with the Bassmaster Elite Series Outdoors Expo. Companies such as Toyota, Huk, Power-Pole and Berkley will be onsite featuring their latest products. Fans will be able to enjoy free boat and motor demo rides from Skeeter, Yamaha, Nitro, Triton and Mercury. There will also be arts and crafts and food vendors and activities for kids.
All venues are free and open to the public. The expo will begin at 11 a.m. CT. For more information and a full list of activities, visit
The championship is hosted by Grand Casino Mille Lacs.

2017 Bassmaster Elite Series Platinum Sponsor: Toyota

2017 Bassmaster Elite Series Premier Sponsors: Huk, Humminbird, Nitro Boats, Mercury, Minn Kota, Power-Pole, Shell Rotella, Skeeter Boats, Triton Boats, Yamaha, Berkley

2017 Bassmaster Elite Series Supporting Sponsors: T-H Marine, Shimano, Advance Auto Parts, Livingston Lures, Academy Sports + Outdoors, Carhartt, Dick Cepek Tires & Wheels, Lowrance, Phoenix Boats

About B.A.S.S.
B.A.S.S. is the worldwide authority on bass fishing and keeper of the culture of the sport, providing cutting edge content on bass fishing whenever, wherever and however bass fishing fans want to use it. Headquartered in Birmingham, Ala., the 500,000-member organization’s fully integrated media platforms include the industry’s leading magazines, Bassmaster website , television show (The Bassmasters), radio show (Bassmaster Radio), social media programs and events. For more than 45 years, B.A.S.S. has been dedicated to access, conservation and youth fishing.
The Bassmaster Tournament Trail includes the most prestigious events at each level of competition, including the Bassmaster Elite Series, Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Open Series, Academy Sports + Outdoors B.A.S.S. Nation presented by Magellan Outdoors, Carhartt Bassmaster College Series presented by Bass Pro Shops, Costa Bassmaster High School Series presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods, Toyota Bonus Bucks Bassmaster Team Championship and the ultimate celebration of competitive fishing, the GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods.

2017 Points Report
as of 15-Sept-2017
Angler                                          Points            Lbs-Oz
1 Brandon Palaniuk Hayden, ID                   902               345- 3
2 Jason Christie Park Hill, OK                  890               337- 2
3 Jacob Wheeler Harrison, TN                    885               352- 4
4 Jordan Lee Grant, AL                          825               335- 1
5 Edwin Evers Talala, OK                        819               318-15
6 Casey Ashley Donalds, SC                      815               327-15
7 Ott DeFoe Blaine, TN                          805               333- 5
8 Greg Hackney Gonzales, LA                     789               326- 1
9 Jamie Hartman Newport, NY                     776               324-12
10 Keith Combs Huntington, TX                   771               326-10
11 Dustin Connell Clanton, AL                   770               330- 0
12 Kevin VanDam Kalamazoo, MI                   763               322- 5
13 Brent Ehrler Redlands, CA                    758               320- 6
14 Seth Feider Isle, MN                         751               319- 9
15 Aaron Martens Leeds, AL                      741               306- 8
16 Gerald Swindle Guntersville, AL              739               316-11
17 Clifford Pirch Payson, AZ                    726               311- 3
18 Bobby Lane Jr. Lakeland, FL                  726               307- 7
19 Matt Lee Guntersville, AL                    723               317- 0
20 Mark Daniels Jr. Tuskegee, AL                722               315- 8
21 Todd Faircloth Jasper, TX                    721               315-12
22 Mark Davis Mount Ida, AR                     713               322- 9
23 Russ Lane Prattville, AL                     706               318-10
24 Brandon Coulter Knoxville, TN                697               314- 8
25 Luke Clausen Otis Orchards, WA               696               287-14
26 Cliff Pace Petal, MS                         695               314-12
27 James Elam Tulsa, OK                         685               313-10
28 Alton Jones Lorena, TX                       678               300- 4
29 Randy Howell Guntersville, AL                676               316- 9
30 John Crews Jr Salem, VA                      675               303- 1
31 Micah Frazier Newnan, GA                     671               310-15
32 Bradley Roy Lancaster, KY                    669               306- 5
33 Hank Cherry Jr Lincolnton, NC                669               304- 6
34 Skeet Reese Auburn, CA                       667               295- 2
35 David Walker Sevierville, TN                 666               295- 0
36 Josh Bertrand San Tan Valley, AZ             662               305- 1
37 Brandon Lester Fayetteville, TN              660               300- 9
38 Jesse Wiggins Cullman, AL                    652               308- 2
39 Steve Kennedy Auburn, AL                     652               303-10
40 Jonathon VanDam Kalamazoo, MI                641               303- 9
41 Kelley Jaye Dadeville, AL                    641               302- 8
42 Jason Williamson Wagener, SC                 639               302- 0
43 Dave Lefebre Erie, PA                        633               299- 0
44 Ish Monroe Hughson, CA                       633               288-15
45 Michael Iaconelli Pitts Grove, NJ            631               299- 8
46 Adrian Avena Vineland, NJ                    626               300-12
47 Jacob Powroznik North Prince George, VA      617               284- 4
48 Bill Lowen Brookville, IN                    615               292-12
49 Mike McClelland Bentonville, AR              612               298- 1
50 Brock Mosley Collinsville, MS                612               289- 6
2017 Rookie of the Year
as of 15-Sept-2017
Angler                                          Points            Lbs-Oz
1 Jamie Hartman Newport, NY                     776               324-12
2 Dustin Connell Clanton, AL                    770               330- 0
3 Mark Daniels Jr. Tuskegee, AL                 722               315- 8
4 Jesse Wiggins Cullman, AL                     652               308- 2
5 Alton Jones Jr. Lorena, TX                    454               238- 6
6 Gerald Spohrer Gonzales, LA                   378               224- 0
7 Jesse Tacoronte Orlando, FL                   373               234-13
8 Darrell Ocamica New Plymouth, ID              247               196- 4
9 Robbie Latuso Gonzales, LA                    225               164-10
10 Tyler Carriere Youngsville, LA               210               197- 0
11 Skylar Hamilton Dandridge, TN                208               186- 9