Category Archives: Bass Fishing

Bass Fishing Information

What Are Some Rattlebait Tactics for Winter Bass

Rattlebait Tactics for Winter Bass
By Frank Sargeant
from The Fishing Wire

Stirring bass out of their lethargy when water temperature is in the low 40’s, as it is now across much of open-water territory in the south and west, can be a challenge, no doubt about it. But making use of the fast-sinking lures known as lipless crankbaits or sometimes as “rattle-baits” because all have some sort of metallic beads inside to produce noise is one proven tactic that consistently produces.

Rattlebaits Picture from The Fishing Wire


The lures sink as fast as jigs or weighted plastic worms, but can be fished considerably faster, and the noise they generate seems to wake up the fish in a way that others do not in cold water.

Among the many versions is the Cordell Spot, perhaps the original, and the Bill Lewis Rat-L-Trap, now the most widely-known and used. Other good ones include the Strike King Redeye Shad, Rapala Rippin Rap, Yo-Zuri Vibe, X-Calibur Xr 50 and many more.

The lures suitable for bass fishing weigh anywhere from 1/4 to 1 ounce, with the heavier ones usually preferred for winter fishing because they stay deeper when activated.

The lipless lures go through the scattered grass left by winter’s cold easily in most cases despite their treble hooks. In fact, the favored fishing tactic at this time of year is to find scattered grass in 8 to 12 feet of water and fish the lures with a sort of lift-and-drop retrieve that is somewhat similar to fishing a jig.

The lure is allowed to sink to bottom, then pulled upward with the rod 2 to 3 feet, which causes it to vibrate and activate the rattles inside. It’s then allowed to flutter back toward bottom. The strike often comes on this drop, much like in vertical jigging. (It requires a finger on the line and a sensitive rod to sense the bite many times, since it’s only a light tap.)

Experts in the tactic say it simulates a cold stunned shad trying to maintain equilibrium. When the bite comes, the hooks are set and it’s game on.

To be sure, the lures frequently pick up dead grass, but this can often be felt as the action of the lure stops, and can sometimes be cleared by “ripping” the lure upward very hard for a pull or two before going back to the lift and drop retrieve.

Best locations are often on the edge of submerged creek channels, where the dead grass stands on the shoulder of a deeper drop. Old road beds with ditches a few feet deeper than the roadway can also hold fish, as do shell bars off the larger channels. Use of a big-screen sonar and GPS mapping system makes it easy to scout out likely areas. Creek channels coming out of shallow flats that are spawning areas in late March and April can be particularly productive. As in all bass fishing, it’s a matter of doing a lot of scouting before the serious casting begins.

Most anglers fish the lures on 12- to 15-pound test fluorocarbon, which gives a better feel for the lure than more stretchy monofilament. Some of the lures give better action if an added snap swivel is added above the split ring; otherwise, a turtle-style loop knot is best for allowing maximum movement. Most anglers use a medium action rod, relatively slow, so that the hooks are more likely to stay put–glass composite rods, rather than pure graphite, are favored by serious rattlebait fans.

Favorite colors include silver, white and pearl, which imitate shad, as well as a brownish orange that some anglers believe looks somewhat like crawfish. Whatever the bass might think it is, the lipless crankbaits clearly look like food–they’re one of the best offers you can make until things start to warm a bit towards spring.

Griffin Bass Clubs Annual Results

The fishing year for all three Griffin bass clubs ended with our December tournaments. All year we compete not only each day but get points for each tournament, based on where we place, and the top fishermen each year in the point standings get plaques and bragging rights for the next year. And the top six in two of the clubs qualify for the state federation Top Six tournaments.

In the Flint River Bass Club, I won with 1310 points, weighing in 48 bass weighing 85.9 pounds over the year. Niles Murray was second with 960 points, 35 bass and 65.73 pounds. Don Gober placed third with 780 points, 26 bass and 27.21 pounds. Alex Gober was fourth with 740 points, 21 bass and 27.21 pounds. Chuck Croft was fourth with 620 points, 22 bass and 32.63 pounds. Sixth was John Smith with 450 points, 10 bass and 13.41 pounds. Niles won big fish for the year with a 6.62 pounder caught at Oconee in March.

In the Potato Creek Bassmasters Raymond English won with 1065 points, 67 bass and 113.18 pounds. I was second with 1000 points, 55 bass and 99.05 pounds. Kwong Yu placed third with 770 points, 47 bass and 92.75 pounds. Lee Hancock was fourth with 945 points, 45 bass and 91.24 pounds. Niles Murray placed fifth with 650 points, 41 bass and 73.67 pounds. Sixth place was Donnie Willis with 635 points, 45 bass and 69.62 pounds. Tom Tanner caught an 8.09 pounder in March at Wedowee for big fish.

I won the Spalding County Sportsman Club standings with 313 points, 61 bass and 102.08 pounds. Zane Fleck was second with 279 points, 49 bass and 70.95 pounds. Raymond English placed third with 274 points and 49 bass weighing 94.4 pounds. Fourth was Russell Prevatt with 247 points, 36 bass and 58.87 pounds. Fifth was Billy Roberts with 179 points, 32 bass and 44.48 pounds. Sixth place was Kwong Yu with 177 points, 37 bass and 68.97 pounds. Kwong also had big fish of the year with a 6.4 pounder caught at West Point in February.

In both Flint River and Potato Creek, first place gets 100 points for first, 90 for second down to 10 for tenth place. Bonus points are also awarded for meeting and tournament attendance. In the Sportsman Club first gets 25 points, second 24 down to 1 for 25th place, with bonus points for meeting and tournament attendance as well as big fish and limits in each tournament.

All three clubs start over with our January tournaments. Flint River meets the first Tuesday of each month with a Sunday tournament the following weekend. We also have three two-day tournaments. Potato Creek meets the Monday after the first Tuesday and fished the following Saturday, with three two-day tournaments. Spalding County meets the third Tuesday and fishes the following Sunday with two two-day tournaments.

This is a good time to join and club and compete, not only in each tournament but for the point standings for the year. Both Flint River and Spalding County send their top six to Federation tournaments, but the Potato Creek club has its own special tournament, the Classic, for money taken in over the year.

If you look over the results above and think “I could do better than that,” come on our and join us. Join one club or all three as Niles and I do. Several others are in two of the three clubs.

Dues and tournament fees are not expensive. Annual dues in Flint River are $60 and you also have to join BASS. Potato Creek has $50 dues and is not in a federation. In the Sportsman club the dues are $75 but that includes an annual membership in the FLW.

Entry fees are $20 for each tournament in Flint River. We also have optional daily big fish pots of $5 and two other pots, a cumulative big fish pot of $5 that is taken up at each tournament. The first person to catch one over six pounds wins it all. If no one breaks six pounds, or if it is not broken again after a six pounder is caught, the person with the biggest fish after it is broken wins it. There is also a $5 points pot. The person winning the point standings for the year gets half of it and the other half is drawn for from everyone that has been in it all year.

In Potato Creek entry fee is $30 with a $5 big fish pot and a $5 cumulative pot. Sportsman Club has a $25 entry fee with a $5 cumulative pot.

January Tournament at Sinclair

On Sunday, January 21 at Sinclair 13 members of the Spalding County Sportsman Club fished our January tournament. We landed 18 keeper 12 inch bass weighing about 38 pounds in 7.5 hour of casting. There was one limit and four people did not have a fish.

I won with five weighing 12.14 pounds, Wayne Teal placed second with two weighing 7.83 pounds and his 5.91 pound largemouth was big fish, Jay Gerson fished with Wayne and had three at 4.05 for third and Russell Prevatt’s 3.29 pounder placed fourth.

January showed how important a trolling motor is to me. I won two of the three I fished with limits in both and had big fish in one of them but placed eighth in the other one. The two I won my trolling motor worked, in the other one it did not. I had to fish where the wind blew me or sit in one place and cast with the power poles holding the boat in place.

I fished some of the same places at Sinclair but could ease along slowly, making casts, with my trolling motor. The week before I blew past the brush piles with only one bite where I caught all five of the fish I weighed in Sunday. I had three more keepers
I culled, the first from behind a dock I had tried to fish the week before but without a trolling motor could not cast to that specific spot. Two of the other keepers I did not weigh in came while easing around a cove where I could not fish the weekend before because the wind blew me around too much.

We started at 8:00 AM fishing a shallow bank I like. I had heard fish the weekend before were caught shallow on crankbaits but did not get a bite until 9:20 AM when the first small keeper hit my crankbait behind the dock. At 10:00 we had not had another bite, so I decided to try some deep brush.

We pulled up to a brush pile that was in water that dropped from 10 to 30 feet very fast. I had tried to fish it the weekend before, but with the wind all I could do was pull into shallow water behind it, put my power poles down and try to make cast to it. I never got a bite that day but Sunday, while moving a jig and pig very slowly through the brush, I caught two of my biggest fish.

We tried some other places and I caught one keeper on a crankbait and one on a shaky head worm but ended up culling both. When we went back to the deep brush and I caught my biggest of the day, just over three pounds. By then I realized the bright sun and lack of breeze drove the fish to deep water, so we fished it the rest of the day.

I caught two more good keeps on the jig that culled my smaller fish, both out of deep brush where I tried to fish without a trolling motor the week before but could not because of the wind. I had to fish extremely slowly, and the fish did not hit hard, I would just feel my line get “mushy.” That’s when another advancement, quality, light-weight, very sensitive rods, help a lot.

What a difference having a working trolling motor made!

What Are Guadalupe Bass?

Guadalupe Bass – A Conservation Success Story
By Tim Birdsong, Chief of Habitat Conservation, Inland Fisheries – Texas Parks & Wildlife
from The Fishing Wire

The official state fish, Guadalupe Bass, has been restored to the South Llano River. Guadalupe Bass are endemic to the South Llano River and other clear, spring-fed rivers of the Texas Hill Country. They are threatened by loss of habitat and hybridization with non-native, introduced Smallmouth Bass that are native to the Great Lakes of North America and portions of the Ohio, Tennessee, upper Mississippi, and Saint Lawrence rivers. Smallmouth Bass have been introduced throughout North America, Africa, and Eurasia to enhance sport fishing opportunities.

This conservation success story for Guadalupe Bass begins with an ill-fated, experimental introduction of Smallmouth Bass to the South Llano River in 1958-1960. The introduction proved unsuccessful in establishing a self-sustaining Smallmouth Bass fishery, but resulted in an unforeseen and unintended consequence of creating a hybrid population of Guadalupe Bass and Smallmouth Bass. This hybridization went unnoticed in the South Llano River until similar situations resulted from stocking of Smallmouth Bass in other Hill Country rivers.

In 1974-1980, Smallmouth Bass were stocked by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) in the Blanco, Guadalupe, Medina and San Gabriel rivers, and in Cibolo and Onion creeks. Once hybridization was detected and threats to Guadalupe Bass were recognized, TPWD ceased efforts to establish Smallmouth Bass fisheries in Hill Country Rivers and instead began to devise a strategy to prevent the local extirpation and possible extinction of Guadalupe Bass. Initial conservation efforts included establishment of a refuge population of genetically-pure Guadalupe Bass in the Sabinal River in 1988. In 1992, TPWD initiated a Guadalupe Bass hatchery program that has since produced and stocked 2,355,807 Guadalupe Bass in Hill Country Rivers. TPWD also partnered with local landowners, non-governmental organizations, fishing clubs, river authorities, and other partners to restore and preserve habitat conditions for Guadalupe Bass in rivers throughout the Hill Country.

In 2010, TPWD focused its attention on the South Llano River and the hybrid population that resulted from the historic Smallmouth Bass introduction. In partnership with numerous local cooperators, a plan was hatched to restore Guadalupe Bass to the South Llano River. Between spring 2011 and spring 2017, more than 700,000 genetically-pure Guadalupe Bass were stocked in the South Llano River. Today, less than 2 percent of the Guadalupe Bass population now consists of hybrids.

In addition to the South Llano River stocking program, project cooperators organized river conservation workshops attended by approximately 750 landowners and local community partners in the watershed. Over 78,000 acres of ranchlands implemented stewardship practices to help preserve fish habitats. Restoration projects in the watershed restored 7,754 acres of spring, stream and riparian habitats, directly benefiting water quality and habitat conditions for Guadalupe Bass. These and other conservation efforts in the South Llano River watershed have successfully restored Guadalupe Bass populations and helped promote local stewardship practices that will ensure the river is able to sustain Guadalupe Bass populations into the future. Learn more about efforts to conserve Guadalupe Bass in the South Llano River or watch this video produced by TPWD a few years ago featuring former TPWD Angler Education Instructors Guy Harrison and Mike Andrews.

Bad Tournament At Sinclair With Troll Motor Problems

Only one I caught

Last Saturday the Potato Creek Bassmasters held our January tournament at Sinclair. In seven hours of casting in the cold and wind, 12 fishermen landed 32 bass weighing 68 pounds. There were four bass weighing more than five pounds each!

Doug Acree won with five weighing 12.80 pounds, Raymond English placed second with five at 9.14 pounds, Richard Dixon was third with five weighing 8.58 pounds and Mike Cox came in fourth with three weighing 7.72 pounds. Tom Tanner drove up from Florida to catch one bass, but it was the right one, weighing 6.13 pounds for big fish.

I guess I used up all my luck the week before at Jackson. I had taken my boat to “Lanier Jim” in Gainesville to run dedicated wires to my front depthfinders to try to get rid of interference from the trolling motor. When I got home that night I noticed my circuit breakers were flipped so I re-set them. Everything seemed to work ok.

My first stop Saturday I put my trolling motor down and nothing happened, it had no power. The wind blew me against a dock and I checked everything I could think of, first re-setting the circuit breakers, since that is a common problem. Nothing helped.

During the day I tried to fish, letting the wind blow me down banks when it was in the right direction and putting down the power poles to hold the boat in one place when it was shallow enough. It was very frustrating.

At 9:00 as I blew toward a tree in the water I cast a jig and pig to it. Just before the boat hit the tree I felt a bite and landed a three-pound largemouth. That was the only good thing that happened all day!

Not long before weigh-in I set my power poles near a dock and cast around it. I felt a thump in a brush pile and brought in half a worm when I set the hook. After putting on a new one I cast under the dock. At the angle I was sitting I could not really see my line.

Slowly pulling my worm, I felt resistance but thought I was over a board on the dock, and I was, but it pulled back. A bass had sucked in my worm and I was trying to pull it over the board. By the time I realized it was a fish and set the hook it was too late, and I missed it.

That was a terrible start to my year in that club. I hope my luck is better at Sinclair today in the Sportsmans Club tournament at Sinclair. At least the weather is supposed to be much better.

Boat Order for Start of Lake Hartwell Classic March 16-18

B.A.S.S. Announces Boat Order for Start of Lake Hartwell Classic March 16-18
from The Fishing Wire

Earlier this week, B.A.S.S. officials held a random drawing at its headquarters to determine the boat order for the 2018 Bassmaster Classic at Lake Hartwell.

The first two spots in the 52-boat field were predetermined with 2017 Elite Series Angler of the Year Brandon Palaniuk occupying the number one position followed by 2017 Classic champion Jordan Lee.

Here’s how the boat order will look at Hartwell for the Classic, set for March 16-18, according to a report published on Bassmaster.com.

After day 1, the boats will leave the dock in reverse order listed here.

Flight 1
1. Brandon Palaniuk
2. Jordan Lee
3. Jason Williamson
4. Kevin VanDam
5. Luke Gritter
6. Mark Davis
7. Brent Ehrler
8. Cliff Pace
9. Bradley Roy
10. Josh Bertrand
11. Jacob Wheeler
12. Matt Lee
13. Caleb Sumrall
14. Bobby Lane
15. Keith Combs
16. Skeet Reese
17. Ott DeFoe
18. David Walker
19. Brandon Lester
20. Mark Daniels
21. Stanley Sypeck
22. Jacob Foutz
23. Mike Iaconelli
24. Edwin Evers
25. Rick Morris
26. Russ Lane

Flight 2
27. Marty Giddens
28. James Elam
29. Steve Kennedy
30. Mike McClelland
31. Hank Cherry
32. Brandon Coulter
33. Jesse Wiggins
34. Seth Feider
35. John Cox
36. Clifford Pirch
37. Carl Svebek
38. Todd Faircloth
39. Randy Howell
40. Jason Christie
41. Micah Frazier
42. Jacob Powroznik
43. John Crews
44. Ryan Butler
45. Dustin Connell
46. Gerald Swindle
47. Jamie Hartman
48. Alton Jones
49. Casey Ashley
50. Aaron Martens
51. Greg Hackney
52. Luke Clausen

Lake Martin Tournament

Lake Martin produced a lot of fish, as always. Although it was very hot and the lake was full, the first time I have seen it full in October since I started going over there in 1975, we still had a lot of fun.

In the two-day tournament 25 members of the Potato Creek Bassmasters, Flint River Bass Club and Spalding County Sportsman Club landed 194 keeper bass longer than 12 inches that weighed a total of 268 pounds. There were 31 five fish limits and everyone caught at least one keeper.

Raymond English won with ten weighing 21.58 pounds, I placed second with ten at 18.46 pounds, Lee Hancock caught ten at 17.64 for third and Kwong Yu was fourth with ten at 17.33 pounds. Gary Hattaway had big fish with a 3.16 pounder.

I went over on Wednesday and set up camp in my van in my usual spot at Wind Creek State Park, got my boat in the water and relaxed. That night I had to run a fan blowing on me all night but still did not sleep well due to the heat. I should have taken my air conditioner.

Before daylight Thursday morning I was on the water and landed three nice spots on a spinnerbait just as it got light. Then I caught a few more trying different things, but it got tough with the bright sun. I was afraid that was an indication of things to come, and it was. The lake was totally different with the full water.

Friday morning, I slept in and then tried a pattern a guide had told me was working. I landed six fish throwing a rattletrap but they were all small so I did not think it would be worth fishing in the tournament. That afternoon I took up money and we drew boat numbers for take-off.

I went out first Saturday morning and ran to the point where I had caught three on Thursday, but did not get a bite. On another point nearby I watched as a six pound plus bass followed my spinnerbait to the boat then turned away. I guess he could identify my bait as fake in the very clear water.

By then I was already frustrated. My pattern was not working so I went to things that had worked in the past, fishing brush piles and docks, and landed my first small keeper at 9:00. Fishing hard for the next eight hours I managed to land ten keepers on a jig and pig and a shaky head worm, but my best five weighed only 7.5 pounds. Raymond shocked us all with five weighing 13.15 pounds that day.

Sunday I was last going out and ran to another point where I had caught fish in the past. Within minutes I had landed three good spots, two on a spinnerbait and one on a jig and pig. I have no idea why it was so different. As the sun came up I kept throwing a jig and pig and landed five more bass, the biggest a 2.69 pound largemouth.

My best five weighed 10.99 pounds and I won for the day, and my largemouth was second biggest fish, missing big fish by only .05 of a pound. It had gotten very tough after 10:00 and all my best fish hit before 8:30 that morning.

I was so worn out after not sleeping good for several nights that I decided to stay another night and woke to rain Monday morning. I went out and bass were easy to catch, just like in the past. I swear those bass know when it is the weekend and quit biting!

I’m already looking forward to the trip next October!

Georgia Bass Nation Top Six At Lake Lanier

Unfortunately, my biggest catch at Lanier in the Georgia Bass Nation Top Six last week was a cold that just won’t seem to go away. In five days on the water the weather went from windy and cool to pouring rain to very cold with strong winds. And fishing was tough.

I met fellow club and team member Dan Phillips at the ramp Wednesday morning after camping out the night before in my van. We stood around for more than an hour waiting to register the team, then went fishing. The wind blew and it was cool all day.

Dan showed me a good hump in the mouth of Wahoo
Creek he liked to fish but we got no bites there. By 3:00 PM we had fished many places we both liked, working down the lake to Browns Bridge. As we fished around a shallow secondary point I noticed some rocks out in 12 to 14 feet of water. They showed up on my Humminbird 360 Scan depthfinder.

A cast to them with a jig and pig produced a three pound spotted bass, our first keeper of the day. I went looking for similar places and a nearby point with rocks at a similar depth produced another keeper. By then it was time to head back to the ramp. I hoped I had found a little pattern that would work in the tournament.

Thursday morning was cooler and foggy. I launched alone and started fishing up the river, finding it very muddy not far about Clarks Bridge. One small creek was full of shad flipping on the surface but all
I caught there was a 13-inch spot, too small to keep, that hit a spinnerbait.

Fishing around another small creek up the river I cast a jig and pig to some brush out in front of a dock and caught a 15-inch keeper spotted bass. A little further another one that size hit the jig in a tree top, then I caught a two-pound largemouth beside a shallow dock on a shaky head worm. By then it was time to head in to get ready to go to the meeting to draw partners.

I drew boat #11 out of 77 meaning I would go out near the first on Friday morning but near the end on Saturday. Order of take-off is reversed on the second day. My first day partner was a first time Top Six fisherman from Clayton County and my second day partner was from north Georgia. I had met him and been on a state team with him in the past.

That night my chest started feeling congested but the next morning I was ok. I met my partner early since we were going out early and there were also 40 boats in the College division fishing and I was afraid it would take a long time to launch.

I should not have worried. We were in the boat ready to go by 6:45, expecting to take off around 7:25. Due to a fog delay we finally blasted off at 9:38! We ran 15 minutes to the two points where I had caught fish on Wednesday but got no bites. That was the pattern.

At noon I finally caught a keeper, and my partner lost a nice bass that hit a topwater plug. At two o’clock we decided to go back up river to Wahoo Creek since he had caught some fish there, and I got my second keeper on the hump Dan had showed me. We stayed in that creek the rest of the day and my partner broke his line on one big fish and landed a three-pound spot, but I never hooked another one.

Saturday morning I woke to rain drumming on the van roof. We took off on time and my partner and I decided to make the short trip to Wahoo Creek and stay there all day since he liked to fish it. The first stop on the hump Dan had showed me produced a three-pound spot for me on a spinnerbait.

My partner caught a keeper spot on a nearby point, and I landed three more keepers on a jig and pig on rocky banks by noon, but neither of us hooked a fish the last three hours we had to fish. I came in 32 out of 77 boaters with six weighing 11.47 pounds, not as good as had hoped. It took ten bass weighing 21.44 pounds to win.

The only bad thing I saw with the pro-am format that I had been worried about was some of the boaters bragging that their no-boaters did not catch a keeper all day. That was stupid. Boaters did not compete with no boaters and I wanted my no boaters to do good each day.

Sunday morning I met “Lanier Jim” at a ramp. He spent about an hour on the water fine tuning my deptfinders, making them show much better results. The wind was howling and it was very cold. I was glad he did it quickly. By the time I got home that afternoon my chest was very congested and I had a runny nose, that is still bothering me on Friday!

Lake Wedowee Fishing

I fished with Jay Gazaway, a club fisherman from Georgia. I met him when we drew each other two years in a row at the Federation Nation Top Six. Although he lives about 45 minutes from Lake Wedowee, he has a house on the lake.

We caught about 15 spotted bass and a couple of largemouth the day we fished but the biggest one weighed less than two pounds. They were fun to catch; those spots pull hard. And they are good to eat. There is no size limit on them at Wedowee but you have to release all largemouth between 13 and 16 inches long.

Getting to Wedowee takes a lot longer than it should based on the distance. Highway 18 and 109 to Lagrange are not bad, but once you cross into Alabama there are several miles of lower quality road.
Highway 431 north is good but when you turn off it to go to the lake, unless you want to put in way up the river, the roads to the ramps have sharp bends and turns. And there are not a lot of good ramps on the lake.

It is still worth the drive to fish Wedowee.

Technology Helps Palaniuk

Technology Helps Palaniuk Earn B.A.S.S. Angler of the Year Title

The young champion says he depends heavily on his Humminbird electronics and LakeMaster charts to find and catch bass all over the nation.

By Greg Arens
from The Fishing Wire

When a kid dreams of hitting the home run that wins the World Series, then grows up and actually does it, where is “up” from there?

The same question applies to Brandon Palaniuk in the world of professional bass fishing. As an 8-year old boy catching trout in his home state of Idaho, young Brandon had a very specific quest: To rise to highest ranks in B.A.S.S. and become the best-of-the-best.

At the 2017 AOY Championship on Lake Mille Lacs, Palaniuk achieved his boyhood dream. His 62+ pounds of Minnesota smallmouth secured him as the points leader to make Brandon the Toyota Bassmaster Elite Series Angler of the Year.

So where is “up” from here? For Palaniuk, the answer is as simple as an answer can be. “My approach is still the same, in fact it’s strengthened, and that’s to fish the Elites a tournament at a time, a day at a time, a cast at a time, with the belief that I can win it.”

Concentrating his winning attitude down to each individual cast is what keeps Brandon Palaniuk focused on the moment. “You can’t win by blind casting. When I’m out there, it’s about locating bass that I KNOW are there, positioning my boat for a perfect presentation, and making a precise cast to trigger strikes from the fish I’ve targeted.”

Palaniuk taps technology to its fullest extent to execute this strategy. “It all starts by investigating my LakeMaster chart for the water we’re fishing, and identifying key structures,” he explains. “From there, my Humminbird HELIX 12 shows me if there are bass on the spots, how big they are, how they’re relating to the structure, everything. I won’t make a cast until I see the fish I want to catch.”

Brandon attributes MEGA Imaging for making it possible to target ideal structure, specific schools or even individual fish. His performance at Mille Lacs is a clear example of this. With MEGA Side Imaging and Humminbird 360 Imaging he was able to locate big boulders and see the quality and exact locations of fish using the boulders for cover. “I knew that on every cast I was putting the bait right in a smallmouth’s face.”

Palaniuk’s 2017 victory at Sam Rayburn is a another case study. “My HELIX 12s found brush piles that other guys drove right past with their sonar units. During practice I stacked up tons of waypoints on brush that held good fish, and during the tournament I was able to go back, see where the bass were on the piles, and smash them.”

After using technology to find fish, Palaniuk credits another technological innovation for helping him catch them. “Boat control is critical for picking a school apart after I find them, and the trolling motor I ran in 2017 was a huge part of my AOY success for the year.”

Brandon’s trolling motor is the Minn Kota Ultrex, and the control he references is the feature that virtually every bass angler is talking about: Spot-Lock. “Whether it was on Mille Lacs boulders or Sam Rayburn brush piles, hitting Spot-Lock to keep me automatically glued in one position was the key to making cast after cast to active bass.”

Spot-Lock allows Palaniuk to fight fish, land them and cull without having to operate the trolling motor to stay in position. “I almost felt sorry for the guys not running an Ultrex. I’d see them hook up and then get blown 100 yards off while they dealt with the fish. Then they’d have to fire up the big motor to get back to the waypoint. That’s a lot of time spent NOT fishing. Like I said, I almost felt sorry for them.”

Another way Ultrex helped Brandon control his boat toward an AOY victory was through power steering. “The ease of driving this Minn Kota is such a big contributor to efficient and productive fishing. First of all, that leg and muscle fatigue after a long day on the foot control is gone because you’re not fighting the motor anymore. You set it on a line and the prop torque doesn’t affect it and twist you off course. Even when navigating through heavy grass – it just chops right through and doesn’t fight the pedal. You combine that with the big power and fast turning response and nothing gives you more control in the thick stuff like an Ultrex.”

With AOY checked off his bucket list, Brandon is the first to admit that defending the title is his goal. To do so, he believes he’ll need to win at Lake Martin, Ala. in February. His game plan? Study the LakeMaster chart, find fish with his SOLIX 12s, stay on them with the Minn Kota Ultrex, and catch them one cast at a time.