Smallmouth bass on the upper Mississippi River beware. Brandon Palaniuk is coming for you.
Palaniuk's strategy of targeting smallmouth has paid off through the first two days of the Bassmaster Elite Series Mississippi River Rumble. His two day catch of 37-pounds and 7-ounces has given him a six pound cushion atop the leaderboard.
"I weighed four smallmouth yesterday and a largemouth. And today I had five smallmouth. My goal is to be able to catch three of those big smallmouth every day and then, I feel like if I can do that I'll have a chance to win."
One of those smallmouth in particular on Friday helped his strategy. A 5-9 catch went down as the big bass of the day.
"Big bass is always a bonus, especially for a place like here. On the Mississippi River a lot of the fish are the same size so weights are really tight, you see a lot of ties. A big fish like that separates you by miles."
"I've got a pretty good lead right now but you can never have a big enough lead against these guys. We're fishing against the 100 best guys in the world."
The 99 anglers entered in this week's competition had to wait through a 1-hour, 40-minute delay Friday morning because of storms that rolled through La Crosse prior to launch. Once Palaniuk hit the water, he had little difficulty getting some bites.
"The fish bit better for me today. I wouldn't mind if we had those same conditions, minus the rain and the wind, I will take the cloud cover any day."
"Conditions are changing and the fish are changing so I'm looking forward to getting out there and figuring it out."
Palaniuk says he's looking forward to the final two days of the event as the Rathdrum, Idaho native hopes to capture his second career 1st place finish.
"I lost some big ones this morning so I know those fish are still there. If I can go back and even catch the five that I lost first thing this morning we'll have a good day tomorrow."